Luke Helker gives stellar junior recital

Molly Carl
Assist. Arts & Culture Editor

On Saturday, March 29, 2014, Luke Helker, a junior Music Business and Technology major here at Millersville, performed his Junior Recital on percussion.

Helker began his performance with a piece by Mark Markovich called “Stamina,” to be performed on the snare drum. Markovich is known as an internationally acclaimed American composer. He is the only person to have ever been a National Champion three consecutive times, as well as being a five-time consecutive undefeated Illinois State snare champion. “Stamina” is one of Markovich’s seminal works, as well as a record-setting composition. It is a physically taxing piece that requires an extremely athletic player due to its notoriously difficult application of rudiments and long, repeated phrases. However, Helker performed this piece with precision and expertise captivating the audience through its entirety.

Luke Helker performing James Romig’s “Block” on multi-percussion during his junior recital on Saturday March 29.
Luke Helker performing James Romig’s “Block” on multi-percussion during his junior recital on Saturday March 29.

Helker next moved to the marimba to perform J.S. Bach’s “Prelude”, “Allemande”, and “Gigue”, from the 3rd Cello Suite in C major. This cello suite was transcribed for marimba by virtuoso Leigh Howard Stevens, yet retained Bach’s original pattern for “Prelude”, as well as the motif that both opens and closes the piece, distinguishing it from most other preludes. The “Allemande” is also unique in the way that it distances itself from the previous two Allemandes, with a much livelier sound as compared to the more patient sound of the other two allemandes. The liveliness carries into the “Gigue,” which is equally energetic.

Moving from the marimba to the vibraphone, Helker’s next piece by Mark Glentworth, was entitled, “Broken Silence.” The composer, Glentworth, became one of the youngest students attending Royal Northern College of Music at just age 16. Many of his compositions have become staples in percussion repertoires due to their wide spectrum incorporation of styles ranging from commercial music to orchestral. “Broken Silence” is a jazz-influenced piece that both begins and ends freely.
The next piece, James Romig’s “Block”, was performed by Helker on multi-percussion. This piece was scored for three toms with distinctive pitches; low, medium, and high, as well as three lead pipes, also low, medium, and high. Romig’s work strives to reflect the intricate complexity of nature, where fundamental structures exert influence on both small-scale iteration and large-scale design.
Helker’s performance ended in a duet with Matthew Woodson, with Helker on the vibraphone and Woodson on the marimba. The two performed a piece titled “Sunset Glow”, composed by David Friedman and David Samuels. Friedman is renowned internationally as a vibraphonist, marimbist, composer, and jazz educator. His experiences with recording and performance are incomparable by most other musicians. Samuels has been established as one of the top mallet players of his generation, and has gained recognition for his fresh and innovative approach to the vibraphone as well as the marimba. The two joined forces in 1977, forming the marimba/vibraphone duet known as “Double Image,” which emerged with a new sound that took this unique combination of instruments to a whole new level. “Sunset Glow” is part of their triptych, which also includes “Carousel” and “Nyak”, some of their most well-known songs to date.

Helker’s performance was captivating and, coming from someone who knows little about drums, nearly flawless. His execution of these compositions, as well as the ease with which he performed, portrayed an air of comfort and confidence to all those who had the pleasure of witnessing this recital.