Percussion ensemble delivers smashing concert

By Julia Duggan and Joey Gibbs
Staff Writer and Correspondent

Claiming the stage at Mayo Concert Hall on Nov. 22, the College’s percussion ensemble showcased a wide range of student talent that captivated the audience with a variety of instruments, themes and emotions.

As eager listeners took their seats, their eyes were met with an array of many different percussion instruments on the stage, which left everyone curious as to what each of them might sound like. 

The ensemble plays a variety of captivating pieces ( Julia Meehan / Photo Editor ).

The night showcased a rather special performance, as there were several world premiers of pieces for percussion ensembles. Led by adjunct music professor William Trigg, the ensemble performed songs that were composed by either College alumni or students.

To start off the night, the ensemble performed “Autumn Thoughts” by former College professor Antonio Denicola, who had died in 2006. The piece blended keyboard percussion, which can play several different notes like marimbas and xylophones with various kinds of drums. Even 13 years after his death, Denicola’s love for music still shone through his composed pieces.

Next on the list was “Caccia as Caccia Can,” which was written in 2008 by music professor Robert Young McMahan. This quirky and vivacious piece featured a rabbit chase melody between one side of the ensemble and the other. 

A Caccia is a Renaissance style of composing that intends to depict the hunt. To capture the musical story, the piece called for two flutes, unexpectedly, as the ensemble’s pieces usually only have percussion instruments.

Sophia Isnardi, a senior music education major, then premiered her piece, “At Sea,” which is a work in three movements that depict different memories Isnardi had with her family at the beach. 

The first two movements, “Winds and Waves” and “Solstice,” were atmospheric and incorporated the full lush range of the ensemble. The third movement, “Groove,” took the audience on a bike tour of an island and used even more natural sounding percussion instruments, such as a rainstick to create the wildlife surrounding the ride. 

“Writing for percussion provided an exciting challenge for me and opened many doors to both experiencing percussion music and developing compositional methods for percussion ensemble in a new and creative way,” Isnardi said. “I wanted the audience to understand that percussion music can offer an endless amount of sound colors and sonorities.” 

Daniel Galow (’18) composed “Moonlight is all that’s out there,” which was an intimate duet for percussion and saxophone that sounded like a dialogue between the different instruments. The work’s title comes from Don DeLilo’s “White Noise,” a book he read recently that inspired him.

Daniel Beer, a senior computer science major, played to audience members’ emotions with his piece, “Time,” which tells the story of a man on his deathbed reliving the ups and downs of his life and ends with the sounds of a heart monitor. The audience was haunted at the one repeated note that Beer himself played on the vibraphone, which represented the man’s heartbeat that inevitably flatlined at the end of the piece.

“Lucky Seven” by Trigg focused on the number “seven” itself — from its chords, rhythms and solos, the number was laced throughout this work, focused on talent of Trigg’s seven percussion students, as each student had a solo. 

“Put my rhythmic knowledge to the test, and also have a bonding moment with all the percussionists when a sweet groove is being played mid-song,” said Antonio Morra, a sophomore music education major. “It’s loads of fun while keeping me as focused as I could be on the music provided.”

“Overture” by Benjamin Reim (’18) closed the show. This piece, like its title, represents beginnings. Reim ran up to the stage before the piece and spoke with the audience about how he wrote “Overture” during his freshman year as the College, where he wanted to be expressive and experiment with melodic material and rhythm. 

“It was really inspirational with this concert because it was all TCNJ alumni,” said Maxwell Milles, a senior music education major. “Most of them were people that I knew and they wrote such great beautiful pieces there was such intensity in every which one of them. But it was really inspirational to hear my peers and people who have gone through the same institution that I have to be able to create such beautiful music.”

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