Share Tweet Share Email

Gordon Sumner’s Tales: NIU Percussion Ensemble to play music of Sting

November 17, 2015

Album cover of “Ten Summoner’s Tales”Members of the NIU Percussion Ensemble will present a spectacular concert featuring the entire “Ten Summoner’s Tales” album by well-known singer and songwriter Sting.

The performance at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23, will combine modern percussion ensemble sounds with musical traditions from around the world to highlight Sting’s musical depth and artistry.

Sure to prove entertaining and complex, with many twists, turns and surprises along the way, the concert is free and open to the public. The Boutell Memorial Concert Hall in the NIU Music Building is accessible to all.

“Ten Summoner’s Tales” was best known for two hits, “Fields of Gold” and “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” which climbed the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the early 1990s. These popular songs contain both clever and beautiful lyrics, along with some very intricate instrumental writing.

However, songs such as “Love Is Stronger Than Justice” and “St. Augustine In Hell” are written in odd time signatures, atypical of most pop music of that time. Meanwhile, because of Sting’s previous life as an English teacher, his lyrics are poetic and playful, and his songs on this album touch on issues of lust, murder, fear, love, jealousy, passion, faith, wisdom and joy.

“I have been listening to this album for years now, and have imagined every track of this album to be a rich outlet for percussion ensemble,” says visiting professor of percussion Ben Wahlund, principal arranger of this project and co-director of the NIU Percussion Ensemble for the 2015-16 school year. “Sting’s instrumental writing is an extraordinary display of texture, harmony and meter – all the perfect elements to explore with the vast possibilities of today’s modern percussion ensemble.”

During the performance, the audience will hear many arrangements written for a “percussion orchestra” sound, which involves multiple marimbas, vibraphone, xylophone, drum set, auxiliary percussion and timpani. Percussion studies at NIU involve studying all of these instruments plus a multitude of global percussion styles.

drumsProfessor Michael Mixtacki, acting head of Percussion Studies at the NIU School of Music, as included arrangements of rumba from Cuba, and Maracatu and Samba Reggae from northeastern Brazil, into the show to compliment the more traditional, Western percussion sound. Mixtacki has incorporated Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music traditions into the percussion curriculum since 2012.

Percussion students Alexis Lamb and Danny Jack have contributed arrangements to this project as well.

Monday night’s concert will prominently feature members of the NIU Steel Band.

The steel pan is also a member of the percussion family, which holds a long history and development in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. The pan section of the ensemble is used delicately as another percussive color, and when combined with pieces utilizing the large percussion ensemble, there are moments where up to 30 musicians are playing at once.

For more information, call (815) 753-0871 or email [email protected].