The semester is winding down: we’ve got snow on the ground, there’s a nip in the air, and students are stocking up on cans of Red Bull and 5-Hour energy shots. (Not something we recommend, but we acknowledge.) But before we say farewell to the fall concert season, we’d like to suggest a couple more that might be a nice alternative to usual holiday fare. Both are bold, brassy, sometimes even cacophonous, and altogether exciting.
The first is the School of Music’s resident percussion ensemble, Clocks in Motion, which concludes its fall season this Friday, December 13 with two world premieres at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 N. Orchard St. (7:30 pm, tickets $15/$10 students). On the program: the Percussion Duo, a brand-new work composed by UW SOM alumnus Tom Lang (who now lives in Minneapolis as a professional composer), written for piano and one percussionist playing a stacked keyboard setup of marimba with vibraphone. “The music really treats the piano as a percussion instrument,” says percussionist Sean Kleve, a founder of Clocks in Motion. “Piercing attacked notes in extreme registers of the piano punctuate silence throughout the music. The first and last movement of this three movement piece are quite rhythmically complex and it challenges the two performers to line up unison attacks exactly together.”
The second premiere will be Allhallows, a major work in three movements for five performers composed by John Jeffrey Gibbens. According to Gibbens, the title “is an archaic synonym for the feast of All Saints on November 1, and evokes associations with the onset of winter in Wisconsin, including the commercial holiday of Halloween, the beginning of the new year in the Celtic calendar, the liturgical function of All Saints, elections, and Armistice, now Veterans’ Day. These occasions address our sense of the closeness of uncanny events to everyday life.” Clocks in Motion premiered the first movement of Allhallows in September 2012 and will now premiere the rest of the piece on this upcoming concert.
Their closer will be Iannis Xenakis’ surround sound percussion sextet, Persephassa (1969). “This is an unbelievable experience for audience and performers alike. As one of the foundational pieces in the percussion repertoire, Persephassa is just as shocking now as it was the day it was written,” says Kleve.
Next on our Christmas list is Isthmus Brass, an ensemble formed in 2009 under the direction of renowned tuba professor John Stevens (who retires in May but will continue to conduct this ensemble). The group, comprised of a who’s who from the UW brass faculty and alumni, includes professors of trumpet and trombone John Aley and Mark Hetzler, plus Dave Cooper (DMA), trumpet, Jon Schipper (BM), trumpet, Ricardo Ameida (BM), horn, Dylan Chmura-Moore (DMA), trombone, Mike Forbes (MM), tuba, Keith Lienert (DMA in progress), percussion, as well as Doug Lindsey (trumpet), Mike Dugan and Mark Hoelscher (trombone).
Next Tuesday, Dec. 17, the group will perform a benefit of holiday tunes for Porchlight, a charity for the homeless, at the First United Methodist Church, 203 West Wisconsin Ave., at 7:30 pm. The concert is free but donations to support the Porchlight mission are appreciated.
Hear the Brass on their newly released CD, “An Isthmus Brass Christmas,” now available at Amazon and other music outlets.