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ISSUE 116 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2003

St. Olaf percussion plays distant drums

By Carl Schroeder
Contributing Writer


Friday, March 14, 2003

Drums and busses were among the prominent themes of a contemporary music concert at Macalester College in St. Paul on Saturday. The concert, part of an annual regional conference of the Society of Composers, Inc., included performances by members of the St. Olaf Percussion Ensemble under the direction of assistant music Professor Dave Hagedorn. Also included on the program was an orchestral work by former St. Olaf theory and composition Professor Christopher Gable.

Hosted by Macalester, the conference was a weekend-long event featuring seven concerts of new music by composers from throughout the Midwest. A concert on Saturday afternoon included a performance of a work by another former St. Olaf professor, Tom Schnauber.

The St. Olaf percussion ensemble performed two works during the program’s second half. The first, "metal … stone … being … cracked" by Alan Chan, draws on themes from ancient Chinese legend. According to Chan, the piece is intended to illustrate, through sound, the struggle between man’s will and the unruly force of nature. The piece called for experimental percussion techniques and required a precise sense of timing from the performers. "All of the players are working on the struggle," Chan, who was in attendance at the concert, said. "It’s very hard to coordinate."

The second piece, by native Minnesotan John White, was entitled "Introit, Illusions, Ritual and Dance." Scored for percussion and cello, the piece explored of a rich variety of percussive textures and lyrical string solos. St. Olaf Professor David Carter performed on the cello, and made imaginative use of the natural harmonics that called for improvisation during several segments. Carter and the Percussion Ensemble presented the four-movement work in a fine performance.

A highlight of the program’s first half was Christopher Gable’s "The Blue-Wheeled Bus," performed by the St. Paul Civic Symphony with Edouard Forner conducting. The piece, composed in 1995 while Gable was studying with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Dominick Argento, traces its lineage to the music of Igor Stravinski and George Gershwin, yet maintains a distinctly "Minnesotan" feel. Playful, jazzy and picturesque, "The Blue-Wheeled Bus" is a fitting tribute to mass transit.

Since his departure from St. Olaf at the end of last school year, Gable has served in such positions as the head of the University of Minnesota music library and as a theory and ear training teacher at Macalester this past fall.

"Introit, Illusions, Ritual and Dance" and "metal … stone … being … cracked" will be among works performed at the St. Olaf Percussion Ensemble’s spring recital at 8:15 p.m. in Urness Recital Hall on May 1.

– For more information about the Society of Composers, please visit their website at www.societyofcomposers.org.





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