Thursday, May 04, 2006

Review: neoPhonia Concert @ GSU - "Composers Among Us!"

On Friday, April 28, 2006, I attended a suberb concert of new music at Georgia State University. The theme of the evening was "Composers Among Us!" and featured the music of four local Atlanta composers--Mark Gresham, Jim Stallings, Nickitas J. Demos, and Chris Arrell. The neoPhonia New Music Ensemble, consisting of faculty and student musicians, performed an hour long program under the artistic direction of Nickitas J. Demos. A reception followed, sponsored by the GSU Student Chapter of the Society of Composers, Inc., where audience members mingled with the composers and performers...

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1 comment:

Darren Nelsen said...

Georgia State University School of Music
Friday, April 28, 2006
7:30pm Florence Kopleff Recital Hall

On Friday, I attended a suberb concert of new music at Georgia State University. The theme of the evening was "Composers Among Us!" and featured the music of four local Atlanta composers--Mark Gresham, Jim Stallings, Nickitas J. Demos, and Chris Arrell. The neoPhonia New Music Ensemble, consisting of faculty and student musicians, performed an hour long program under the artistic direction of Nickitas J. Demos. A reception followed, sponsored by the GSU Student Chapter of the Society of Composers, Inc., where audience members mingled with the composers and performers.

The first piece of the evening was Mark Gresham's "Rainbow Round a Cresent Moon". Written for clarinet, marimba, and bongos, the piece was light and rich with toe-tapping rhythms and delightful interplay between the instruments. The intricate melodies were playful and catchy.

The second piece was Jim Stalling's "Music for a Winter Wedding", a string quartet in three movements written for his son's wedding. The first movement was slow and poignant in a slightly minor mood. The second exhibited a beautiful melody in the first violin over an alternating bass in the cello and chord voicings in the other instruments. The third movement was lively, vibrant, and celebratory in triple meter.

Nickitas J. Demos' piece Tonoi III followed, a virtuosic work for solo clarinet, masterfully played by faculty clarinetist Kenneth Long. The work showcased the rich timbre of the instrument through cascading flurries of notes from high to low and everywhere in between. Tempestuous melodies in the beginning and ending sections surrounded a slower passage in the middle allowing the instrument's resonance (and its performer) to breathe.

Chris Arrell's all fall down, perhaps the most "entertaining" of the program, ended the concert with visual elements, humor, and profundity. Written for mezzo-soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, the piece was a setting of nine nursery rhymes in five movements. Mezzo-soprano Maya Hoover appeared in a court jester's outfit with face paint with a toy drum, singing and acting tales of war, class, and politics. Dramatization was not only in the costuming and body movement, but in the visual quality of the music itself. Sections of ordered chaos sounded like Saturday morning cartoon chase scenes, but better and more musically complex.

This concert was fabulous. The compositional quality of all the pieces was high. All works were very 'approachable' and enjoyable, without sacrificing musical sophistication. The performances displayed fine musicianship and direction throughout. Nickitas Demos has done a terrific job of presenting new music, with this concert ending eleven seasons of contemporary music in the neoPhonia series.

It was also nice to see many composers' faces among the audience. Many of them I met for the first time at the reception. It was nice to "get to know" the local community and to connect, which of course is also the mission of this blog.

It was a great evening, and I look forward to the next one! See you there.

Darren Nelsen