Purdue percussionists stage “The Great Marimba Race”
Whether it's marimba players making their mallets race up and down long keyboards, or drummers performing with lightning quickness, speed dominates “The Great Marimba Race” percussion concert set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 30, in Loeb Playhouse of the Purdue Stewart Center .
Admission is free. No tickets needed.
The annual percussion showcase puts everything on the racetrack from offbeat, innovative works in the style of Stomp to classical pieces by Mozart and Stravinsky. It features the “All-American” Marching Band drumline and percussionists from Purdue University Bands performing in ensembles and solos.
The marimba earned the pole position in this year's show, a fact that director Pamela J. Nave is proud of. “When I started here six years ago, no one played marimba,” says Nave. Instead, Purdue approached percussion in more of a meat and potatoes, drum and cymbal, way. Nave, who is an award-winning marimba performer, was determined to change things.
Marimbas are an important part of the percussion family because they narrow the wide gulf separating traditional percussion instruments and the strings and woodwinds. “The marimba builds a bridge between those two groups because it's melodic, and audiences respond to that too,” says Nave.
Six different marimba solos are planned, including Ned Rosauro's “Suite Popular Brasileira” and Minoru Miki's “Marimba Spiritual.” Tenor drummer Matt Bowers also earns a race day spotlight with “Green Lightning.” “Matt is amazing. He's a member of the best competition drum line in the world, the Cadets of Bergen County who won the DCI percussion caption award last year.”
Over the years, Nave's show has become known for its splashy openings and this year will be no exception with Queen's “Bicycle Race” being the tune of choice. Expect tricycles and rollerblades and lots of sound. “It's like a rock concert piece and it's loud. Every mallet instrument that we own is going to be used,” says Nave.
Among the other fun-loving pieces is “Blue Plate Special” which features the senior percussionists. Set in a restaurant, the waiter and guests use their feet, their plates, their table and everything else available to create percussive rhythms.
“ ‘Cymbalectomy' is kind of serious but kind of not because the musicians come out in scrubs. It's actually a very intricate piece that requires lots of counting,” Nave says. "Then there's “Rockin' Rick i Rocket' which is just bizarre. It's basically mouth percussion. I don't want to give away exactly what they're doing but it's not easy.”
The program hits more serious notes in pieces like Mozart's “Alla Turca,” a xylophone solo performed by South Bend senior Craig Ziolkowski, and Stravinsky's “Devil's Dance.”
Written in the early 1900s, “‘Devil's Dance' was a milestone for multiple percussionists because it was the first piece written for them,” says Nave. “Today it's no big deal for one person to play four or five percussion instruments in one piece but you didn't do it back then, so it's significant historically.”
"The Great Marimba Race" is the final concert event of Purdue University Bands 2005-06 season.