The NIU Percussion Ensemble will take the stage in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall at 8 p.m. Monday, April 28, to showcase the beauty and versatility of the keyboard percussion instrument family.
The marimba, vibraphone and glockenspiel are central instruments in percussion solo and chamber repertoire.
NIU Percussion Ensemble directors Gregory Beyer and Michael Mixtacki have programmed an entire concert of works featuring these instruments and the many different kinds of compositions that explore their wonderful sounds. The concert will feature both solos and ensembles of various sizes.
The program kicks off with graduate student Nick Fox playing an intense vibraphone solo by Philippe Manoury called “Le Livre des Claviers.” This work features many virtuosic passages and dampening techniques for the instrument.
Dispersed throughout the program are a series of short pieces by composer Elliot Cole, titled “Postludes.” These pieces are for four players on one vibraphone, all using string bass bows to sustain pitches and create many unique textures.
Composer Akira Nishimura is known for several pieces based on Southeast Asian musical concepts, and especially their relation to gamelan. The NIU students will be performing his work, “Ektal” for three marimbas and two hand drummers. The piece explores rhythmic cycles called talas found in North Indian classical music, and is sure to enthrall the audience with its incredible textures and interlocking rhythmic material.
Many styles of music have been adapted for percussion ensemble, including contemporary jazz. Pianist and composer Chick Corea wrote a series of children’s songs for solo piano, which have been adapted for keyboard percussion quartet. This set of three songs, arranged by David Steinquest, features a mix of both marimba and vibraphone for a light and playful listening experience.
Ensemble members Noel Henniger and Nicole Chopp will then perform a duo by Rich O’Meara titled “Wooden Music” for two marimbas. This piece explores a variety of different musical styles, including minimalism, jazz and contemporary classical sounds.
The concert will also feature one of composer Kevin Bobo’s compositions titled “Insomnia.” The piece explores the lush textures of the marimba and vibraphone, and contrasts feelings of dreaming and floating with harsh and piercing sounds of brake drums, tom toms and cymbals.
Lastly, the ensemble will conclude the evening with Ivan Trevino’s “Six,” inspired by the Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós.