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NIU Percussion Ensemble concert will cover ‘World Percussion A-Z, America to Zimbabwe’

March 22, 2012
Michael Spiro

Michael Spiro

The NIU Percussion Ensemble, directed by Robert Chappell and Greg Beyer, with graduate conductors Amanda Duncan and Angela Kepley, will present its spring concert at 8 p.m. Monday, April 2, in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

The concert is free and open to the public, the the auditorium is accessible to all. The concert will also be webcast live in high-definition.

It will also mark the last Percussion Ensemble concert co-directed by Chappell, who is retiring from full-time teaching after 29 years in the School of Music.

Two outstanding world percussion guest artists will be featured on this concert: African mbira (thumb piano) and hand drum artist B. Michael Williams, and world-renowned author, educator and Afro-Cuban percussionist Michael Spiro. The theme of the concert is world-based percussion as the NIU Percussion Ensemble and guests will perform music from Africa, Central America, Bulgaria, Brazil and North America.

Opening the program is “Ondas” by Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos.

Highlighting the first-half of the program will be “Gankino Choro,” a traditional Bulgarian piece featuring Williams as frame drum soloist, and “Song for Chano,” which will feature Spiro combining multiple Afro-Cuban drumming parts into an incredible solo feat.

From North America, two compositions by noted New York composer Steve Reich include “Drumming pt. 1” and the recently composed “Mallet Quartet.”

Beyer has commissioned many works for the Brazilian ground bow called the Berimbau. This year will feature a new work for Berimbau quintet: “Quociente” by Jeremy Muller.

Closing the program is Chappell’s “Unidos en Ritmo,” composed as the closing piece of the 2011 Costa Rican International Percussion Ensemble Festival. The piece is based on two traditional Costa Rican marimba compositions and combines these with jazz, African xylophone and solos by Williams and Spiro.

B. Michael Williams

B. Michael Williams

Williams is professor of music and director of percussion studies at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. He holds the B.M. degree from Furman University, M.M. from Northwestern University and Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

Active as a performer and clinician in both symphonic and world music, he performed with the Charlotte Symphony, Lansing Symphony, Brevard Music Center Festival Orchestra, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and has appeared at several percussive Arts Society International Conventions.

He has written articles for Accent Magazine, South Carolina Musician and Percussive Notes, and has made scholarly presentations on the music of John Cage and on African music at meetings of the College Music Society and Percussive Arts Society.

In 2004, Williams received the Winthrop University Distinguished Professor Award, the highest honor given to a Winthrop faculty member.

Known specifically for his work in the Latin music field, Spiro is an internationally recognized percussionist, recording artist and educator whose career is remarkably multi-faceted.

Sprio currently is in his third year as professor of world percussion at the esteemed Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, where he has developed the curriculum for teaching both Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian music and culture in both the percussion and jazz Departments.

He is a five-time Grammy nominee, and has performed on literally thousands of recordings, many of which he also produced.

His performing credits include such diverse international artists as David Byrne, Cachao, The Caribbean Jazz Project, Dori Caymmi, Changuito, Richard Egues, Frank Emilio Flynn, Ella Fitzgerald, David Garibaldi, Gilberto Gil, Giovanni Hidalgo, Ray Holman, Toninho Horta, Bobby Hutcherson, Dr. John, Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge, The Machete Ensemble, Bobby McFerrin, Andy Narell, Ray Obiedo, Chico O’Farrill, Eddie Palmieri, Lazaro Ros, David Rudder, Carlos Santana, Grace Slick, Omar Sosa, Talking Drums, Clark Terry, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Wallace and Charlie Watts.

For more information, contact Chappell at (815) 753-7973 or [email protected] or Beyer at (815) 753-7981 or [email protected].