Posts Tagged ‘percussion’

Worth Getting up for Sat. AM Drum Concert

August 6, 2010

(at R) Guest soloist Naoko Takada Sharp plays the marimba with enthusiasm

By Marcia E. Gawecki

If tonight’s concert was any indication, it would be worth getting up  early this Saturday morning, August 7, to hear the the Symphonic Percussion Ensemble at Idyllwild Arts. Although they are teenage musicians, their eight short songs sound, at times, like Buddy Rich on caffeine, the Blue Man Group, and various African drum circles. The fast-paced concert will wow your socks off and leave you panting for more. It’s worth staying for the last song that features guest soloist Naoko Takada Sharp, a world-class marimba player.

Throughout the concert Thursday night, these young players showcased the various instruments that make up the percussion part of an orchestra, including the marimba, xylophone, timpani, snare drums, bass drums,  chimes, cymbals, and even a gong. Some songs were kinetic, moody, upbeat and frenzied, while others were soothing and classical. But one thing’s for certain, drummers are the hardest working members of an orchestra or wind ensemble, and it was nice to see them singled out to “strut their stuff.”

The hour-long concert included six group songs and two short solo pieces. The songs included: “A la Strata” by M. Peter; “Debussy Day at the Fair,” by C. Debussy; “Triplets” by G.H. Green; “4 1/4 for Four” by A. Cirone; “Matrix” by S. Grimo and “Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble” by Ney Rosauro.

The second song, “Debussy Day at the Fair,” was classical and enjoyable, showcasing the talents of the senior percussionists on marimbas and xylophones. The next song, a modern one, “Triplets,” showcased six music students, two sets of playing on a xylophone and marimba at the same time, while a soloist lead them in the lively, upbeat song.

The group plays "4 1/4 for Four"

The next song, “4 1/4 for Four” is as complex as its title suggests. It featured four students playing the snare drums, the timpani (kettle drums), a bass drum set and the bongos with sticks. This song sounded  like the Blue Man Group, playing loudly, boldly and in unison. It brought out one of the Idyllwild Arts drum directors, Robin Sharp, who lead the group to a splashy, and perfectly-timed ending.

My favorite was “Matrix,” for its frenzied, frenetic complexity, and ability of the players to showcase about 15 different percussion instruments, sometimes all at once, that I couldn’t even begin to name. Chimes, cymbals, a gourd rattle, a triangle, snare drums, a marimba, a xylophone, a large gong and other instruments made horse clomping sounds, popcorn popping sounds, church bells chimes, and melded them all together into a truly enjoyable song. It also brought out the other modest, but talented drum director from Idyllwild Arts, Bill Schlitt.

Dylan playing marimba showed that he learned from the Master class

Dylan and Lauren, two students who participated in a Master Class with Naoko Takada Sharp, from last Thursday night, got to show off what they learned in two short solos, including “Etude in C Major” by C. Musser, and “Mexican Dance No. 2” by G. Stout.

Yet, it was the last song that made the show definitely worth seeing because the Master Class teacher was also the featured soloist. “Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble” by Ney Rosauro, a brilliant Brazilian composer, may have a boring title, but it leaves you on the edge of your seat. Mostly because it’s played with the unbridled energy of Ms. Takada Sharp, who, with double mallets in each hand, moved across the marimba keyboard with the intensity of a hummingbird in flight. Both arms were a blur throughout the entire song. It was even difficult to even get a photo of her because she didn’t stop moving for a second!

Una (at R) was in awe of Ms. Takada's playing on the marimba (L)

Her passion for the marimba showed in her facial and body expressions. She was the hardest working marimba player during that song.  Afterwards, the young students playing alongside her, congratulated her, took pictures, and stood smiling and in awe.

“She plays simply amazing,” said Una, a percussionist from Taiwan, who also attended Idyllwild Arts Academy for two years.

“I sounded good because you were my backup,” Ms. Takada Sharp answered.

“I hit one wrong note,” Una confessed, but the Master teacher said that it didn’t matter.

The 15 student percussionists take the stage for a final bow

The next Symphonic Percussion Ensemble Concert, with Ms. Takada as soloist, will be held at 9 a.m. this Saturday, August 7, at Ataloa (next to the Parks Exhibition Center) on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright Idyllwild Me 2010. All rights reserved.

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Drum & Piano Recital ‘Pure Entertainment’

May 29, 2010

Una played the marimba, while Keri accompanied her on piano

It was like having a recital the same night as the Academy Awards. That’s what happened to Idyllwild Arts music students, Una and Meiling, two juniors. Last night, Friday, May 29, was the same night of the student film screenings where they rolled out the red carpet, and the audience line went clear down the parking lot.

However, those friends, family members and faculty who came to Una and Meiling’s recital, got to witness “pure entertainment.”

You knew it the moment you walked into Stephens Recital Hall. Set up before us was a marimba, four kettledrums, and a snare-bass-drum-cymbals combo set. These large percussion instruments dwarfed everything around them, including Una, who weighs about 90 pounds.

Stephanie (L) on violin with Una on marimba

Yet, she obviously knew how to command these instruments. For Una’s first piece, “Furioso and Valse in D Minor,” by Hatch, she performed solo, hitting the large wooden marimba keys with her mallets.

For those of us who didn’t know until tonight, a marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. Keys or bars (usually made of wood) are struck with mallets and are arranged like those on a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys.

Marimbas originated in Africa hundreds of years ago and were imported to Central America in the sixteenth century. Needless to say, it’s a very large instrument, but it produces a soft, wooden and metal sound.

For her next piece, “Sonata for Marimba and Piano,” by Tanner, Una was accompanied by her classmate, Keri. Like many instruments that are generally the “backbone” of the orchestra, and never out in front, this was a nice piece. Keri’s piano didn’t drown out the marimba, in which Una played with two mallets in each hand. And Una had many moments in which the piano wasn’t playing.

Una's teacher talks to Una's father, as she looks on

Next, Una came out and stood behind the four large timpani drums. They looked like oversized copper metal pots covered with soft leather tops. You knew immediately that the sound coming from them would be commanding–and it was. It sounded like a jungle movie in which something was going to happen soon.

In a rare moment at Idyllwild Arts, brother and sister got to play together at the same recital. For this piece “Solo Impression for Four Timpani,” by Firth, Una was accompanied by her older brother, Rich, on piano. His piano part was frenetic sounding and sporadic, while Una’s drumming built up to a crescendo.

Although the timpani piece was a short one, two people in the audience couldn’t have enjoyed it more: their parents.

That night, Una wasn’t without accompanists. For her next piece, “Three Oranges,” by Hoffman, she was joined by Stephanie, a violinist, who is also Rich’s girlfriend. Una played the marimba, while Stephanie “plucked” at her violin. The overall effect sounded like harp music. Naturally, the song lead to larger sounds by both instruments. At times, Una used double mallets to get a larger sound.

For her final piece, “The Love of L’Histoire,” by DeLancey, Una changed instruments again. This time, she played the snare-bass-drum combo. In addition to the drums, there was also a wooden piece that sounded like horse clomping, a cowbell, and cymbals. The title, “The Love of L’Histoire,” suggested a French patriotic sound, but it was more “New Age,” space-type music with irregular rhythms.

But when Una got going, her arms were outstretched, and she was pounding on the snare and bass drums at the same time. It looked difficult, but she pulled it off.

“You should have seen her at the ‘New Music’ orchestra concert,” said Andrew Leeson, a teacher in the Creative Writing Department. “It looked like her arms were stretched eight feet wide. It was amazing!”

Afterwards, Una took two bows and received a standing ovation. She also got flowers from her brother and his girlfriend.

Una is looking forward to returning to Idyllwild Arts this summer. She’s received a scholarship, and will have a chance to work with new teachers and percussion instruments.

After a brief intermission, it was Meiling’s turn. Many of her fellow piano students moved closer so they could see her fingerings on the piano.

Meiling at the piano

For her first piece, she chose “Sonata K280 in F Major,” by Mozart. It started out fast, and Meiling played it loud and confidently. For the middle or “adagio” part, she played the piano more melancholy and quiet.

Her next piece included three preludes by Chopin, including “No. 1 in C Major,” “No. 3 in G Major,” and “No. 16 in B-Flat Minor.” The “No. 3 in G Major,” was the best of the three, because it was loud, intense, and I envisioned a flight of bumblebees.

For Meiling’s last piece, she was accompanied by Yifan, another pianist, on a grand piano set up next to hers. “Scenas Infantis,” or Memories of Childhood, by Pinto, included many familiar lullabies, including, “Ring Around the Rosy,” and “Sleeping Time.”

Although it sounded simple at first, it soon built into a nice, complex arrangement. And the dueling pianos gave it a commanding sound.

“She’s a good player,” said Ie-Seul, a senior pianist, who had played her Mozart and Chopin pieces, but didn’t know her final one.

After her second bow, Meiling received a hug from her boyfriend, Felix.

All in all, the instruments, the arrangements, were unexpected, and the musicians played with skill and confidence. It wasn’t the Academy Awards, but pure entertainment.

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