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Percussion Ensemble Showcase at the VPAC

Molly Carl
Assoc. Arts & Culture Editor

It was a meeting of the percussive minds this Saturday at the Biemsderfer Concert Hall in the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center. The Millersville University Department of Music presented the Percussion Ensemble Showcase which featured performances by Millersville University Percussion Ensemble, Portal Percussion, Lancaster All Star High School Percussion Ensemble, and Phillip O’Banion as the marimba soloist. 

The showcase began with a piece called “Panama M’Tombe” performed by the Lancaster All Star High School Percussion Ensemble. It is an audition only ensemble that features the most talented high school percussionists in the five school districts that comprise the greater Lancaster Pennsylvania area. It was founded in 2011 by James Armstrong and Stephen Goss and meets twice a week for rehearsals. The students featured this year are Grace Asuncion (Lancaster Catholic HS), Chris Chapman (Donegal HS), Ian Goss (Lampeter-Strasburg HS), Karlee Kurtz (Lampeter-Strasburg HS), Molly McDyer (Ephrata HS), Kevin Ward (Penn Manor HS), and Sam Welk (Lampeter-Strasburg HS). This group allows the selected students to meet and perform with artists who are internationally acclaimed. The students have had the chance to perform with artists including John Riley, Billy Ward, Jorge Sacramento, Tony Miceli, Marassa Duo, and the Overdekte Brüg PercussieTrio. The ensemble will have the opportunity to perform in Pennsylvania Percussive Arts Society Day of Percussion, the Central New York Day of Percussion, and the Millersville University Percussion Ensemble Showcase this spring. The students opened the show by marching down the aisle as they began to perform “Panama M’Tombe,” a traditional AfroCaribbean piece. 

 

International Education Week
The Lancaster All Star High School Percussion Ensemble opened the showcase with their rendition of “Panama M’Tombe”.
The Lancaster All Star High School Percussion Ensemble opened the showcase with their rendition of “Panama M’Tombe”.

Luke Helker and Matt Woodson performed “Sunset Glow” next, a piece that the two had presented at Helker’s Junior Recital at the end of last month. Helker, a Millersville junior, was on vibraphone and Woodson, a Millersville sophomore, was on marimba as the duo performed the piece composed by David Friedman and David Samuels. Friedman and Samuels, both composers, joined forces in 1977 creating “Double Image,” a marimba and vibraphone duo. Their song “Sunset Glow” is part of their triptych which also includes “Carousel” and “Nyak”, some of their most well-known songs to date. 

Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic’s piece “Uneven Souls” was the third number of the showcase, and was performed by Portal Percussion. The Portal Percussion Group was established in the fall of 2011 and is comprised of Matt Bracciante, Brian Doherty, and Rich Klimowicz, all percussion students at Millersville University. The group was established as a subset of the Millersville University Percussion Ensemble, and has a repertoire that ranges from contemporary to traditional works for all genres of percussion and is under the musical guidance of James Armstrong, Millersville University Instructor of Percussion. 

 

Chris Norton (left) and Luke Helker (right) perform Angels of the Apocalypse during the Percussion Showcase.
Chris Norton (left) and Luke Helker (right) perform Angels of the Apocalypse during the Percussion Showcase.

Lancaster All Star High School Percussion Ensemble performed “Carbon Paper and Nitrogen Ink” next, which featured Philip O’Banion on the marimba for his premier performance. O’Banion is Assistant Professor and Director of Percussion Studies in the Boyer College of Music at Temple University, and often performs with the Philadelphia Orchestra and other regional symphonies. The composer, Adam Silverman, has created pieces that feature a broad spectrum of instrumental and vocal settings, with his most popular works being for opera, percussion ensemble, and cello. In addition to composing, Silverman and teaches music composition, theory, orchestraion, and songwriting at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. 

Matt Bracciante conducted the next piece, “Suite No. 1” by Fred Emory Smith. It was performed by select members of the ensemble. 

The final piece, “Angels of the Apocalypse”, was composed by David Gillingham. Rich Kilmowicz conducted the piece as the Millersville University Percussion Ensemble performed. The ensemble is composed of Demetrius Archer, Danielle Bertucci, Conner Blythe, Lisa Borghi, Jason Goshert, Luke Helker, Chris Norton, Andrew Schwartz, Nate Stevens, and Matthew Woodson. 

For an opportunity to see many of these ensembles perform again, be sure to attend the Penna P.A.S. Day of Percussion at the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center all day on April 26th.