Chamber concert series presents musical variety

Carson McGorry / Cluster Staff
Carson McGorry / Cluster Staff

The students of the Mercer University Wind Ensemble performed in a variety of small chamber ensembles for the second installment of their “Mad About Chamber Music” concert series.

The students formed eight ensembles ranging from clarinet and brass quintets to a percussion ensemble, bringing the audience a diverse chamber music experience.  Dr. Douglas Hill, director of the Mercer University Wind Ensemble, stated that the chamber concerts began in 2001, with the move into the McCorkle Music Building. This gave young musicians a chance to learn the skills of playing in a small chamber ensemble.  These skills and experiences are paramount in the development of young instrumental musicians.

The concert began with the Mercer University Percussion Ensemble. Members of this ensemble, as well as the Wind Ensemble, rehearse through the entire academic year.  It is a small ensemble, comprised of four percussionists, under the direction of Dr. Marcus Reddick.

Their piece, “Suite for Percussion,” by William Kraft, was entertaining and a crowd favorite of the night.  Reddick admitted to having changed the chosen musical selection on the students three days prior to the concert.  “To say they were shocked would be a huge understatement,” said Reddick.  Despite the quick change to their performance repertoire, the piece was wonderfully executed.

The first movement was loud, fast and its sudden accented ending received audible praises from some audience members.  The second movement, although softer, was a brilliant contrast to the first movement and featured the different effects percussionists can achieve in chamber music.

The concert continued with a performance of Mozart’s “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail” by the clarinet quintet. The light, airy tones of the instruments and Mozart’s beautiful melody provided an interesting contrast to the style of the percussion ensemble.

Following the clarinet quintet was a trumpet ensemble, of eight trumpeters, under the direction of Jonathan Swygert, an adjunct trumpet professor.

The piece, “Seven Come Eleven,” by Bill Holcombe, was an instant crowd pleaser with its jazz style, unified sound and lovely ornamented ending.

The trumpet ensemble was followed by a saxophone quartet providing a stark contrast in Bill Holcombe Jr.’s arrangement of Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze.”  The slow, melodic line of the piece portrayed a characteristic not often associated with saxophones.

The saxophone quartet was followed by the first of two brass quintets, performing “Chicago Tribune,” by William Paris Chambers.  The piece was an instant crowd pleaser with its big band sound.

The second saxophone quartet, including Dr. Monty Cole, followed the brass quintet with “Drastic Measures” by Russell Peck.  Its beautiful and slightly haunting melody provided a unique musical experience.  The players played with a clear, unified tone and were well-balanced, never overpowering the melody.

The second brass quintet, playing “Quintet No. 1” by Victor Ewald, was the next to perform.  The piece began with a solo bass trombone, creating a unique feeling from the very beginning.  The unison parts between the different instruments were powerful, however some instruments were hard to hear throughout the texture of the piece.

The last performance of the concert was a large brass choir, comprised of 18 brass musicians as well as two percussionists from the percussion ensemble, directed by graduate conductor Robert Jackson.

The piece, “Symphony for Brass,” by Eric Ewazen, was a powerful and beautiful piece with an adventurous melody line.  Although the beginning of the piece is mellow it feels much like a movie score with twists and turns, taking the audience on a musical journey.

Senior percussion performance majors Morgan Crews and Andrew Bennett added an extra element to the piece with the use of woodblocks, which allude to a horse’s trot.  The grand piece concluded the concert appropriately.