NIU School of Music Professor and Director of Percussion Studies Greg Beyer and retired School of Music faculty member Robert Fleisher are featured on “Long Roll: A Tribute to Composer-Percussionist Michael Manion” by Albany Records. The release features a solo malletKAT composition of Fleisher’s written specifically for Manion. The project is a collaboration between the NIU and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign music faculties. The tracks are taken from a pair of live performances recorded in Urbana in 2009.
Albany Records newly released “Long Roll:A Tribute to Composer-Percussionist Michael Manion” features a repertoire that includes Alexander Tcherepnin’s “Vivace from Symphony No. 1 in E Major;” Amadeo Roldán’s “Ritmica No. 5 and Ritmica No. 6;” Stephen Lett’s “Junta;” Henry Cowell’s “Ostinato Pianissimo;” Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Entr’acte from The Nose;” John Cage and Lou Harrison’s “Double Music;” Michael Manion’s “Long Roll II” and Robert Fleisher’s “Maniondala.” Gregory Beyer, malletKAT performs “Maniondala” and the remainder of the compositions are performed by the University of Illinois Percussion Ensemble with William Moersch, Adam Walton and Mark Eichenberger, conductors.
Michael Manion (1952-2012) composed solo, chamber and electroacoustic works that have been performed in Europe and the United States. Manion earned a B.Mus. degree from the Oberlin Conservatory (1977), where his composition teachers included Randolph Coleman, Dary John Mizelle and Gary Lee Nelson. He received his M.M. degree from the University of Illinois (1980), where he studied with Ben Johnston and Salvatore Martirano. He also attended seminars with Robert Ashley at the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music (1977-1978), studied with Mauricio Kagel at the Musikhochschule in Cologne (1980-1981) and with Jonathan Harvey at the University of Sussex (1985-1988). As a percussionist, Manion performed with orchestras, new music ensembles, jazz bands and rock groups. As a soloist, he appeared at venues in Ghent, Amsterdam, The Hague and Cologne. During his two decades (1980-2000) studying, composing and performing in Europe, Manion also served as an assistant to the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928- 2007). His music has been broadcast on National Public Radio, the NonPop International Network and the West German Radio. In 2013, Manion’s family entrusted his scores, recordings and related materials to the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois.
Fleisher writes in the notes accompanying the recording that, “Nearly 25 years after we were graduate students at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), Michael Manion asked me to compose a work for him to perform on the malletKAT, a MIDI controller well suited to the interests of this composer-percussionist specializing in electronic music. As the new work neared completion in 2008, Michael suffered a severe, disabling stroke. The following year, my NIU colleague Gregory Beyer premiered ‘Maniondala’ during a University of Illinois Percussion Ensemble concert in Manion’s honor, arranged by its director, William Moersch. This recording presents a broad spectrum of percussion music written between 1927 and 2009, including some of the earliest percussion ensemble compositions and the first commercially released recordings of three 21st-century works: my ‘Maniondala,’ Manion’s ‘Long Roll II’ and Stephen Lett’s ‘Junta.’”
Fleisher’s music is regularly performed in the United States and abroad. He is professor emeritus of music theory and composition at NIU.
The University of Illinois Percussion Ensemble was established in 1950 and specializes in the performance of traditional and contemporary repertoire for small and large groups. Commercially released (LP) recordings feature performances under the baton of previous directors Paul Price, Jack McKenzie and Thomas Siwe. Under the direction of Moersch, the Percussion Ensemble may also be heard on “Banana Trumpet Games” (CRI CD 849, 2000), featuring the music of P.Q. Phan.
Moersch is professor and chair of Percussion at the University of Illinois. Internationally renowned as a marimba virtuoso, chamber and symphonic percussionist, recording artist and educator, he has appeared as soloist with orchestras and in recital throughout North and South America, Europe, the Far East and Australia. A regularly featured artist at international percussion festivals, Moersch has performed on more than 70 recordings and is perhaps best known for commissioning much of the prominent modern repertoire for marimba.
Beyer, a Fulbright Scholar, composer, educator and “prodigiously talented percussionist” (Chicago Classical Review), is a contemporary music specialist who blends the disciplines of orchestral, jazz and world music into a singular artistic voice. He is the artistic director of Arcomusical, a resource dedicated to the Afro-Brazilian berimbau musical bow. Beyer is professor and head of Percussion Studies at NIU. He is a core member of the Chicago-based new music ensemble, Dal Niente.