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NIU Percussion Ensemble opens inaugural days with concert of modern, international sounds

November 6, 2013
Students Lane Parsons (left) and Nick Fox rehearse School of Music professor Gregory Beyer’s composition “Five Ponds” on antique bronze drums from Burma.

Students Lane Parsons (left) and Nick Fox rehearse School of Music professor Gregory Beyer’s composition “Five Ponds” on antique bronze drums from Burma.

Under the direction of professors Greg Beyer and Mike Mixtacki, the NIU Percussion Ensemble will perform its first of three concerts this year at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

The concert, which kicks off several days of events on campus surrounding the inauguration of NIU President Doug Baker, will present five musical works with influences from all over world, starting with Australian composer Nigel Westlake’s “The Invisible Men.”

Westlake set the score of this piece to a French silent movie called “Les Invisibles.” The piece (and the movie) explore a scientist’s creation of a magic potion that turns humans invisible, which is a fantastic creation – until it gets stolen by thieves. Watch and listen to this unique modern work for percussion and silent movie!

Next on the program is Payton MacDonald’s “Rudra,” a Western percussion ensemble piece based on Hindustani musical traditions. The name Rudra is the name of the Vedic god of the roaring storm, and a fierce entity of destruction – not to mention the name of the composer’s favorite heavy metal band.

Beyer was commissioned by the NIU Center for Burma Studies to write a work titled “Five Ponds” for Karen bronze drum quintet. These ancient drums are works of art – each one’s surface has a beautiful image of an idyllic aquatic environment with pools of water, leaves and tree frogs.

Gregory Beyer

Gregory Beyer

The piece explores the wonderful sounds of these large instruments, using many different implements and development of thematic material. The performers were chosen to play Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis and are excited to share this piece at NIU and a few days later for an international audience.

Composer John Bergamo was an extremely innovative performer and composer who died last month. His “out-of-the-box” compositions and explorations pushed the boundaries of traditional percussion repertoire, and focused on percussion as a way to blur musical and cultural boundaries. The performers will dedicating their performance of the piece “Shradhanjali” (a Sanskrit phrase that means “paying homage to your teachers”) to Bergamo’s memory.

The concert will close with Christopher Adler’s multiple percussion work, “Signals Intelligence.”

Adler’s piece explores the experience of hearing an electronic transmission that is clearly audible, but the information is too dense for the human ear to comprehend. Be prepared for a thrilling performance that will move listeners to the edge of their seats.

For more information, email [email protected] or [email protected].