The flutes were pretty, the pianos were lovely, and the saxophones stirred my soul.
The fall music concert, put on by the Dixie State College Music department and held at the Eccles Concert Hall on Nov. 20 was entertaining and fun.
The Flutes were mostly in tune
The first piece, “Serendipity,” by Ann Cameron Pearce, featured boomwhackers. Boomwhackers are essentially tubes of a certain length that make a certain note when you hit them. The boomwhackers accompanied the flutes but were less than perfect in keeping time. Also, either the notes were being fumbled or the flutes were out of key.
Luckily for the flute ensemble, the second piece changed my mind. The much more engaging “Zig Zag Zoo,” by Ian Clarke, was fun and interesting. The extended techniques and audience participation were performed as promised. Not only was the piece better, but the performance was as well. Any tune or timing issues were solved in this piece, and it was a fun piece performed with personality.
The “Arabesques,” by Claude Debussy, were beautiful and subdued, displaying readily the beauty that is meant to be found in the flute. Unfortunately, it was also very long and lacking in diversity. I imagined an insipid blonde whose passivity and lack of spirit grows wearying to the beholder.
Beside the boring but beautiful blonde, ”Echoes in the Wind: A Native American Soliloquy,” by Phyllis Louke, was Pocahontas. It was beautiful and arresting in a way that the “Arabesques” were not. It was but was brief, skillfully played and an intriguing piece overall.
The ever-familiar ”Rondo alla Turca,” by Mozart, was brief and sweet. The 16th notes were a bit fudged, but everything else was well-played.
The final flute choir piece, “Russian Sailors Dance,” by Reinhold Gliere, began quietly in a subtly appealing way. It brought to mind frozen seas and frozen mustaches. It began slowly and ascended to a dizzy frenzy of sound and motion.
The flute choir should have cut out ”Serendipity” and the ”Arabesques” and focused on the pieces that displayed them to perfection.
Piano duets were pretty and passionate
The piano duets were rich with sound as only piano duets can be. Any dynamics-related issues that flutes struggle with are nonexistent, especially on the performance-worthy grand pianos. It was wonderful.
The first piece, “The Merry Go Round”, from George Bizet, was reminiscent of its title. Like the merry horses galloping round the ride, the hands of the musicians danced and spun with reckless pleasure down the keys. It was brief and bright.
”Hungarian Dance No. 5,” by Brahms, was more stately and imposing. At times one could see heavily gowned aristocrats peering imperiously down their noses at one another while moving in slow dance. Then it sped up and got louder. Though the tempo and volume changed, often delightfully, the performance was always in control and beautiful to listen to.
”Delly”s Garden,” by Faure, was more measured and idyllic. It barely escaped being boring.
The last piano piece, ”Brasileira,” by Darius Milhaud, was a feast after tasty appetizers. I reveled in the rich melodies and strong chords. It was lovely, dynamic and magnificent. It was so passionate and beautiful that I wished it was longer.
Sound of saxophone both sexy and hypnotic
The saxophone group was what I had been waiting for, and it was worth it.
The first piece, ”Quartet Op 19, No. 1,” by Bach, was full of good timing and togetherness but was altogether forgettable. Other than reveling in the sexy sax—especially the deep, full baritone saxophone—I had no thoughts during this piece except the realization that if it had been flutes playing, I would have been bored. Saxophones are beautiful to listen to even when they play boring music.
Any doubts I had about the saxophone group’s performance were banished by the second piece. Rhonda Rhodes, the director of the sax ensemble, explained the scene for the second piece: it depicts a troubadour singing up to a medieval castle window.
“The Old Castle,” by Modest Mussorgsky, was outstanding. It was mournful. It was tragic. It was beautiful. It was lovely and melancholic. The full, moving harmonies were blended together like storm clouds on the horizon. It was dense with sound. It was low. It was rhythmic. It was hypnotic. I nearly wept.
“The Royal Tomatoes,” by Gordon Goodwin, broke the spell that Mussorgsky’s piece had woven. It was funky and busy, a nonchalantly good arrangement played well. It felt less together than the other pieces. It seemed like the song was casually and confidently looking around at the world. While I liked the song, it was hardly the promised jazz.
“Three Preludes,” by George Gershwin, were more examples of excellent sax-work. The first was light and funky. The 16th or 32nd notes, or whatever those scale-traveling notes might have been, were handled well by both the fingers and the mouth, which is impressive. The second prelude is a much slower, smoother piece. It is a little blue and a little reflective. It had that rhythmic “mmmmm” feeling that makes you want to stop taking notes and just listen. Oh my, but saxes can be hypnotic.
The third prelude is played in the same style as the first. With beautifully executed harmonies, the saxes blended deliciously together.
The ensembles had some memorable pieces that I savored and other pieces that merely distracted from the other works of art that were presented. In any case, music concerts are an excellent way to improve and entertain oneself.