Remember Clair de Lune? Debussys impressionistic evocation of moonlight? Every piano student Ive ever known has had to memorize it. Some tire of it, and there have been musical jokes made about its ubiquity. But once the delicacy of Debussys incandescent night air seeps into your bones, Clair de Lune never leaves you.
Well, you can hear an unusual rendering of Debussys gem Wednesday night at the Fort Lewis College Concert Hall. The FLC Percussion Ensemble will give its spring concert at 7 p.m. In the middle of a dazzling program of modern music written for percussion instruments, Debussys lyrical incantation will cast its spell. How did this happen?
Weve programmed it for contrast, said Jonathan Latta, director of percussion studies at FLC. Its been arranged by Michael Boo for marimba quartet. All the swells and colors are present. Its beautiful.
Indeed it is. Marimbists Michael Morris and TaSheena Calvillo will play the upper parts; Sarah Terrill and Neil Hemphill will anchor the lower register. Last week, the quartet rehearsed in the FLC Band Room and filled the air with the rounded tones and pulsating rhythms only a marimba can create. The students are members of the FLC Mallet Keyboard Ensemble. If they didnt play a variety of other instruments, the FLC Marimba Quartet would be a better moniker.
Before and after Clair de Lune, you will hear some of the most interesting new music written today and arrangements of other familiar works. The concert opens with a very short overture: Philip Fainis Prelude from his Suite for Percussion. It lasts only three minutes and delivers an instant burst of energy and a spectrum of colors. Youll hear the shimmering sounds of differently pitched triangles, bells, glockenspiel and cymbals working in canon to a brisk 6/8 tempo. Drums enter and build toward an astonishing climax, then the piece concludes with some sparkle reminiscent of the opening bars.
Clair de Lune follows, and just when you have been lulled into dreamland, Duke Ellingtons It Dont Mean a Thing will splash through the full ensemble in an arrangement by Robert Greenberg featuring Japanese Taiko drumming. In yet another contrast, a marimba trio will play Akadinda, an African-inspired piece by Emanuel Séjourné. The contemporary French composer seems to be a favorite of the FLC Music Department as both John Pennington and Linda Mack Berven went to lengths to perform his Book of Gemmes, a work for percussion ensemble and chorus commissioned by Pennington and independent Durango musician Gary Cook.
More world music enters the program with variations on a Parang Chant by Kjell Samkopf. Inspired by Indonesian music, the work opens with a rather free form section and a simple marimba tune. In the middle, the drums, concert toms, bass and timpani, take over, and toward the end, the initial statement returns with its free form and marimba melody.
Those who like to latch onto something familiar amid the new will welcome an unusual transcription of Antonín Dvoráks gorgeous Largo from his New World Symphony for percussion instruments. Youll have to be there to hear and believe it.
And finally, Cross Current, by Lynn Glassock, will close the program. Its a big work for nine percussionists. Musical lines and rhythmic patterns travel up and down and cross each other every which way. It all creates an unbelievably energetic musical world. Glassocks work lasts a mere six minutes and incorporates just about every instrument in a percussionists quiver chimes, cymbals, xylophones, marimbas, drums, a tambourine shaken for its glitter and tapped as a drum, castanets, wood blocks and, my favorite, sand block. It takes great concentration and verve to play it well.
At rehearsal last week, the FLC players were ready for the concert hall.
Reach Judith Reynolds at email@example.com.