Ruth Gowitzke Staff Writer
On Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018, the Performing Arts Department hosted the Eastern Percussion Ensembles in the Fine Arts Instruction Center (FAIC). The Eastern Percussion Ensemble performed a broad spectrum of musical styles from the original and transcribed works of the percussion and marimba ensemble repertoire.
Each group, the Eastern Percussion Ensemble (large ensemble works), Eastern Percussion Group (chamber repertoire), and World Percussion Ensemble, showcased the hard work it takes to prepare for a concert of this type. Jeff Calissi, an Associate Professor at the university and one of the directors of the Percussion Ensemble, took a minute to discuss what it took to prepare for this performance.
“For sixteen players, that means each of those people have to have at least one percussion instrument and for that to sound good. It’s generally melodic in context, and we don’t have that many mallet instruments to go around. What I usually do is break it up and we find pieces that are for, let’s say, six and then ten, or eight and eight, then we try to figure out when those people would be available,” Dr. Calissi said during the concert.
He also discussed how each piece and ensemble have different instruments that are associated with them. This way, the performers who are playing will switch from one song to the next, while also switching to a different instrument. There is also a time limit to prepare for this concert, so Calissi tries to make the most of it.
Dr. Calissi noted the student’s favorite song, also included in the performance, was “Big Country,” a beautiful folksy tune by American banjoist Béla Fleck. Erick Smith, who played the marimba as well as the saxophone during the concert, spoke about how rehearsal was a big part of the process for preparing for the concert. “It’s supposed to be about everyone coming together and fine-tuning things rather than learning your actual parts. The learning part is more when you are in the practice room.” He also noted that “Big Country,” was indeed his favorite song to perform.
In addition to several concerts each semester, the Eastern Percussion Ensemble, Eastern Percussion Group, and the World Percussion Ensemble perform at the Percussive Arts Society Connecticut Chapter Day of Percussion and for various campus functions such as recruitment concerts at area public schools and the Open House for Prospective Students.
If you were unable to come to this performance, there are multiple YouTube videos from past years that showcase the talent of these players. You can also donate to this ensemble here. All proceeds will go toward a new steel drum ensemble.