Before he retires this year, NIU music professor Robert Chappell will put together one more recital that promises to be funny, sentimental and, as usual, unforgettably entertaining.
All of his past recitals have been special, but this one will be over the top without being over the top. He wants it to reflect his work, his collaboration with NIU colleagues and friends and all the music they made during the last 30 years.
“This recital will give the audience an idea of what my musical colleagues and I have created since 1983,” Chappell says. “I’ve invited many dear friends who I have worked with in previous recitals.”
Make no mistake; this will not be a rerun of previous performances.
Nor does Chappell plan to try to capture the magic of previous performances. Every musician knows he or she can never recreate the sights, sounds and moods of past concerts.
But when he and his friends take the stage in the NIU School of Music’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, the audience will remember why they attended the recital year after year after year.
Those who have attended just one previous recital learned after taking their seats that before the last note is struck, their emotions are stirred and their imaginations are stretched with traditional and international sounds of steelpan, piano and percussion.
Their melodies and combinations have never been heard before or since.
Those sounds could come from xylophones, pianos, steelpans, drums or an orchestra pit full of other instruments played by Rich Holly, dean of NIU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, or NIU music professor and steelpannist Liam Teague.
Teague is head of NIU’s steelpan studies and co-director of the famed NIU Steel Band.
They will share the stage with NIU faculty Greg Beyer, Rodrigo Villanueva, Cheng-Hou Lee, former NIU faculty members Al O’Connor and Steve Squires, and at least 20 alumni of the NIU Percussion Studio. All have performed with Chappell before and all would not miss this recital.
“It’s always a lot of fun performing with Robert” Holly says. “He and I are as close as brothers. We think alike. Neither of us takes ourselves seriously, but we take the music seriously.”
But not too seriously because NIU Distinguished Teaching Professor Chappell is a master of blending comedy with serious music, Holly says.
For example, one year Chappell and Holly created a recital that included a “Dueling Xylophones” performance that enticed the audience to tap their feet, bob their heads and talk about it for days after.
“In fact, they talk about all his recitals for days,” Holly says. “He has a knack for whetting the audiences’ musical appetites with smiles and grins before he tugs at their other emotions while plucking serious jazz tunes on the piano.”
With 29 years of experience in planning recitals, Chappell has built a reputation for blending musical mastery with experimental audio imagery.
Even though this might be his last official recital at NIU, it will not be the end of his teaching career at the university. He will continue teaching part-time at NIU and performing with Teague and their group, Panoramic.
“I enjoy teaching, and I enjoy the music,” Chappell says. “Working here and having such talented and creative students and colleagues has been a pleasure. This recital will reflect that pleasure and bring back many memories from the past three decades.”
by Gerard Dziuba