There is a joke that “it is 90 percent panic and 10 percent playing” for percussionists at orchestra concerts.
“The percussion in the orchestra concerts is fascinating, but very often, you are waiting to play more than you are playing,” said Michael Burritt, guest percussion faculty member at Chautauqua and internationally renowned percussionist.
At 3:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3, at Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, there will be an exclusively percussion recital. Percussion students Matthew Flanders, Makana Medeiros, Connor Nixdorf, Ajay Wadhwani and Burritt will perform six percussion ensemble pieces. There will be no solo pieces in the concert, but rather duos, trios and quartets between and among the performers.
For Burritt, this recital is an important opportunity for percussion students to perform at a more engaging and intense level in an ensemble setting.
The five percussionists will be “playing more” today compared with an orchestra concert, Burritt said, “(and they will be) integrated all the time.”
Both aurally and visually, percussion is a unique instrument, according to Burritt.
“Percussion can be as musically engaging as any instrument,” Burritt said, “not just because it’s unique as an instrument, (with the) uniqueness of the sounds that you are not used to hearing, or the visual aspect (of) watching the percussionists do what they have to do, … moving quickly between instruments.”
At the same time, Burritt said percussion is not as different from other instruments, like strings.
“Our concert, as a musical entity, could be just (as) satisfying and musically appreciated as a string quartet performance,” Burritt said. “… For me, it’s more about connecting with people and having them really enjoy the experience and find as much enrichment as they do (from) other art forms.”
Today’s concert will open with “Springs” written by Paul Lansky in 2016, a piece originally written for Sō Percussion, according to Burritt.
Flanders said Sō Percussion made the piece famous over time.
“Sō Percussion is probably the quartet that really pioneered this piece. (If) you look at their video, they are playing on flower pot bowls, flower pot plates, wine bottles and stuff,” Flanders said. “It’s a lot of really cool sounds, (which) I don’t think people have really heard before in a classical music setting.”
The second piece is “Rain Tree,” a trio by Toru Takemitsu, which will be played on marimbas, vibraphone and crotales. The crotales are representing the rain drops from a “Japanese mythological tree,” according to Flanders and Medeiros.
The third piece is “Hocket Sandbox” by Victor LaBozzetta, a “very close friend” of Medeiros’ at Eastman School of Music, where both study with Burritt during school year. The fourth piece and fifth pieces, “Sweet Dreams and Time Machines” and “Rounders,” respectively, are works written by Burritt. The final piece is the second movement from John Cage’s quartet “Living Room Music” — “Story” — with spoken words from a Gertrude Stein poem.
Flanders said it is a fun piece.
“I want (the audience) to have an experience that they weren’t expecting because a lot of percussion ensemble is very new and very avant-garde,” Medeiros said. “Most people are very familiar with things in the orchestra and (other music in classical music settings), but when it comes to percussion ensemble, it is very different.”