NIU Percussion Ensemble to perform Nov. 10

Photo of a xylophone with malletsThe NIU Percussion Ensemble will take the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall stage at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10, performing a wide variety of exciting modern works for percussion.

Under the direction of NIU School of Music professors Greg Beyer and Michael Mixtacki, the concert will feature Western percussion compositions influenced from musical traditions around the world.

The program will begin with a brand new piece by NIU alumnus Ben Wahlund, whose works are getting recognition and performance by percussion ensembles across the country. “Sextet,” for six players on three marimbas, takes listeners on a journey that derives influence from composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and George Crumb.

Many percussion pieces are influenced by a compositional style called minimalism, which is how composer Steve Reich made his signature stamp on the music world. His work, “Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ” explores very minimal musical material, using driving rhythmic energy and insistency as his compositional “process” unfolds.

Percussionist, vocalist and composer Payton MacDonald was a recent guest artist in the NIU percussion studio; his extensive knowledge and study of Indian classical music led him to compose a series of Tabla concerti with percussion accompaniment. His “1st Concerto for Tabla and Percussion Ensemble” will feature graduate student Ethan Fox in a wonderful fusion of North Indian rhythms and sounds with traditional Western percussion instruments.

Composer Daniel Levitan is also known for some use of minimalism in his works, but draws much of his influence from African and African Diasporic musics. The ensemble’s performance of his “Septet” will bring ideas from Cuba and West Africa together for a very groovy, danceable experience.

Alexis Lamb and Greg Beyer
Alexis Lamb and Greg Beyer

Projecto Arcomusical has been the long-term project of Beyer and Alexis Lamb to create new music and an awareness of the ancient Afro-Brazilian instrument called the berimbau. This musical bow has now made its way into the realm of Western percussion music, taking it out of its traditional context by utilizing its unique sounds with modern compositional techniques.

Beyer’s “Berimbau Quintet No. 1” and Lamb’s “Mudança de Onda” will explore the incredible versatility of such a simple instrument and show the audience a taste of traditional Afro-Brazilian culture in a modern setting.

The mathematical, yet beautiful, piece “Pines Long Slept in Sunshine” by Christopher Adler will close the program, displaying virtuosity of technique, rhythm and sound. Adler was a recent guest composer for the NIU New Music Festival, and worked with this ensemble on his musical and compositional concepts in preparation for multiple performances of this piece. His music also draws upon extensive research into traditional musics from Thailand and Laos.

The concert is free and open to the public, and the auditorium is accessible to all. For more information, email gbeyer@niu.edu or mmixtacki@niu.edu.

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