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Saturday, February 17, 2024

From classical to jazz, early spring semester concerts highlight works of underrepresented composers

Concert kick-off on Feb. 25

by Samantha Melia

The University of Rhode Island Department of Music kicks off the spring semester with a series of performances in the coming weeks that showcase the hard work and dedication of URI’s student-musicians.

On Sunday, Feb. 25, the Wind Ensemble and Concert Band will perform in the Concert Hall of the Fine Arts Center. The theme for the joint performance will be “inspired by literature,” and the set will include musical compositions that owe their creation to a literary classic.

The Concert Band will play music based on The Divine Comedy by Dante, and the musical selection provided for the Wind Ensemble references three very different thematic literature-based pieces. 

These include Vanity Fair by composer Percy Fletcher, inspired by a short story of the same name, and Illyrian Dances by composer Guy Woolfenden, a song that references the utopic peninsula described by William Shakespeare. 

Additionally, the Wind Ensemble will perform Suite from Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide, named for Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire’s satirical book of the same name.

According to URI Director of Bands Brian Cardany, who conducts both ensembles, the set will be about 90 minutes long, with a brief intermission in between performances. The concert starts at 3:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased here.

On March 7 at 8 p.m., the Jazz Big Band will perform in the Concert Hall. The 18 student-musicians who make up the band range from first-year undergraduates to graduate students within the Department of Music.

The theme of the annual concert is “Voices in Jazz,” and this year the department will feature the compositions of jazz pianist Ayn Inserto, in addition to a rendition of “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell, as a part of an  effort to put the spotlight on female influences in the genre.

Inserto, who will also conduct the band at the concert, is the assistant chair of Berklee College of Music. She won the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Award two years in a row. 

“Normally at a concert like this, I would be the person in front of the band leading the ensemble,” says Emmett Goods, director of jazz studies and the Big Band at URI. 

In the case of this concert, says Goods, “I try to step back and have the guest artists come and work with the students,” in order to “give the students the perspective of a woman in jazz, and have [her] take the reins and lead the space.”

Tickets for the Big Band concert are $10 and $15.

On March 20, URI’s Symphony Orchestra will hold its first spring performance at 8 p.m. in the Concert Hall. Luis Viquez, director of orchestral studies and assistant professor of music, hopes the concert will help to recognize underrepresented musical selections. 

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 will be included in the performance, a stunning piece of music in its own right that is often overlooked in favor of Beethoven’s substantially more famous 5th and 9th symphonies, Viquez said.

Viquez hopes to shed light on Costa Rican composers, like himself, with several pieces, Ostinato by William Parras, and the 3rd Symphony by late composer Mariano Herrera. Herrera’s 3rd Symphony was written 61 years ago and never debuted, said Viquez, who obtained permission from the Herrera family to include the symphony in the concert. 

“We’re going to bring in a composition that was written 61 years ago, and we’re going to play it for the first time here in the United States,” says Viquez. “This is really cool.”

The orchestra has about 55 musicians, the majority of whom are students. Others include emeritus faculty and community members. The hour-long event will include a short intermission. Tickets for the symphony orchestra concert are $10 and $15. 

On March 28, Viquez returns to the Concert Hall stage as part of the Viquez-Wadley Trio, with father and son duo Darin and Logan Wadley. The free concert starts at 8 p.m.

Darin Wadley is associate professor of percussion at the University of South Dakota, specializing in marimba. His son, Logan, is a graduate teaching assistant at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and plays the tuba. 

The trio’s performance will feature several selections that are being premiered for the first time, including the work of composers Ian Kocher, Charles Dibbley, and Paul Lombardi. A composition by Logan Wadley will also be featured. 

Viquez says the individuality of the trio lies in the uncommon combination of instruments–clarinet, tuba and drums. These instruments are often reserved for different types of music, and so the repertoire was determined in an intentional manner to highlight the experimental nature of the trio. 

“It’s going to be a very unique and different sound than what people are used to hearing in a combination of three instruments,” says Viquez. 

Several of this semester’s upcoming performances will weave into their repertoires a theme of recognition — debuting several never-before-heard compositions, and emphasizing the unrecognized contributions of women to the history of jazz. 

In line with this theme, Viquez wants to ensure that URI students, regardless of major, take advantage of the music program if making music is something that they are passionate about. Around 30% of the students in the orchestra are not music majors, he says.

“Any student can have the opportunity to make music at the highest level, and be a part of an amazing music community, like the one that we have,” he said.

This story was written by Samantha Melia, a senior journalism and political science major at the University of Rhode Island and an intern in the Department of Marketing and Communications.