On Monday night, the Rowan Percussion Ensemble hosted their spring concert at Pfleeger Hall. The ensemble, consisting of 12 students, performed five songs for mallet ensemble under the direction of Matthew Witten.
Their first song, “Omphalo Centric Lecture,” was composed by Nigel Westlake and utilized the talents of four members of the group. The piece had swelling melodies that showcased the solo abilities of the students.
“It’s become a standard piece in percussion ensemble repertoire, particularly for mallet ensemble,” Witten said. “Tonight’s concert will not only focus on the mallet ensemble, but music of the new cannon of mallet ensemble.”
Next came a performance of James Ieraci’s “Meditation.” With four different percussionists, the ensemble utilized new instruments such as the gong and the djembe, a small bongo-like instrument. “Meditation” incorporated a minimalist style and a consistent and driving rhythm.
“This piece was written by an old friend of mine who started off as one of my teachers,” Witten said about the piece. “He was the drumline instructor at Vineland High School.”
Following “Meditation” was Rüdiger Pawassar’s “Sculptures in Wood.” This piece, with a lively, upbeat feel, utilized a more classical composition style by creating recognizable melodies and allowing them to intertwine and build upon one another before finally resolving back into their original forms.
“I was in the studio before this and wanted to come see what was going on,” said Stan Miller, a Rowan alumnus who graduated with a degree in music performance. “’Sculptures in Wood’ was my favorite of the night.”
Before a brief pause to reset the stage for the final tune, the ensemble performed “Spun” by Nathan Daughtrey. The ensemble utilized unique methods, such as using bows, normally reserved for string instruments, on the marimba blocks. The now eight percussionists created a mysterious air in the concert hall. The song gathered itself together with its underlying melodies and building intensity.
“In ‘Spun,’ the short musical idea forms the primary theme and serves as the pitch set for much of the composition,” Witten said. “As the piece spins forward, the rules set forth are quickly broken and the theme expands.”
The final song of the evening was “Six Marimbas” by Steve Reich, which contained, unsurprisingly, six performers. The 20-minute-long tune created a constant driving rhythm with a single melody that evolved and changed gradually throughout the life of the piece. The song ended on a well tied together, light note, rousing applause from the audience.
The next music department concert will be held Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. featuring the Rowan University Orchestra.
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