Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Valentine's Day Bingo
February 24, 2024

Percussion ensemble concert brings new rhythm to Bergendoff

On April 23 I ventured into Bergendoff’s Ensemble Room to experience a concert from Augustana’s Percussion Ensemble.
Directed by Tony Oliver, the Percussion Ensemble consisted of pieces both old and new. The members are Erik Anderberg, Maxwell Bestvina, Barrie Chileen, Victoria Frank, Sean Harty, Ian Martin, Katie Morton, Kjersten Nelson, Daniel Skelton, Kendall Smith, and Jessica Zak.
The performance began with Peter O’Gorman’s piece “Fire”. It consisted of basic percussion instruments: drums and cymbals. Though it only included around four members of the ensemble, the piece gave a full sound and interesting rhythms.
The next piece changed tones rather quickly since it included no instruments at all.  “Clapping Music”  by Steve Reich was an interesting choice to add to the performance since the only instrument used was hands.  It was constantly shifting ideas and rhythms, to paraphrase Tony Oliver when introducing the piece, and he mentioned how there usually was a “loud silence” that followed. He was correct in that statement.
“October Mountain” by Alan Hovhaness followed. Written in 1942 and revised in 1953, Hovhaness wrote a percussion ensemble piece which was nearly unheard of in the 1940’s. It included simplistic melodies within its five sections.
Tony Oliver then introduced an original piece labelled “The Art Museum Trilogy, Part V: Floors”. He was inspired to write this five part trilogy when visiting the Art Institute of Chicago and when glancing upon different pieces of art. However, this final section was inspired by the different floors in each gallery. He wrote the piece to be performed live, because it included audience interactions. We were the tour groups that shuffled by the different galleries. And while we “walked” by each gallery, the percussionists played with different surfaces and shoes.  By bringing in different types of flooring, we could hear the clicks of heels on tile and the scuffles of tennis shoes on hardwood and laminate.
Arranged by Mathiesen, the Chorale “Jesus bleibet meine Freude” by J.S. Bach was performed.  Although Bach did not write for percussion instruments like marimbas and vibraphones, the piece seemed to redefine what “classical” music could be.  Although the classics are beautiful in their original form, as time transcends, more and more original pieces seem to be arranged to create something new and just as beautiful.
Being loud is something percussionists generally cannot do, however, the last piece performed provided the opposite.  “Mas Fuerte” by Stephen Rush allowed the ensemble to create highs and lows of sound produced. My favorite part about this final piece was to seeing how each percussionist got into the music wholeheartedly. They moved with the rhythms and nodded their heads with the music.  The piece was indeed very loud, but it allowed room to crescendo and sforzandos. Written in the score was a few syncopations that seemed to throw off the natural groove, but soon after Rush would include a consistent bass drum to bring the whole group back together in synchronization.
This music performance was unlike any other I have experienced here at Augustana.  If you would like to see the Percussion Ensemble’s next performance, keep an eye on the music department events calendar.

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Percussion ensemble concert brings new rhythm to Bergendoff