Rossini, a Little Bling and Some Led Zep

The clarinet is a versatile instrument—but can it really sound like an electric guitar? Blake McGee, visiting clarinetist from the University of Wyoming, will put it to the test in a solo concert 8 p.m. May 2 and an HSU Symphonic Band performance 8 p.m. May 3 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

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University of Wyoming clarinetist Blake McGee.

His solo concert on Thursday features works by Rossini and Leonard Bernstein, but it also includes a composition based on hip-hop called “Bling Bling,” and “Pleistocene Epoch,” in which his solo bass clarinet suggests the gurgles and ooze of the La Brea Tar Pits as well as several extinct animals.

Then on Friday he is featured in a symphonic band version of Led Zepplin’s “Black Dog” by Scott McAllister. “The composer calls for the clarinet to take the part of the lead singer, and also perform solos in Jimi Hendrix fashion,” said HSU Symphonic Band conductor Paul Cummings. “It’s pretty clear from the first measures that the clarinet is imitating a rock and roll guitar.”

This piece is also a reunion. Cummings and McGee have known each other since graduate school at the University of Oregon. “I conducted one of the works he played for his doctorate,” Cummings said. “It was by the same composer who wrote ‘Black Dog.’”

McGee is a West Coast product, a former member of the Portland Opera and Vancouver Symphony. He is known for pushing the envelope, as well as for performing classics and recording world music. North Coast pianist Jennifer Heidmann will accompany him for his Thursday recital.

In addition to performing “Black Dog” with McGee on Friday, the Symphonic Band plays another work by a young composer— John Mackey’s “Hymn to a Blue Hour”—as well as a piece by Virgil Thompson, and Luigi Zaninelli’s “Three Dances of Enchantment.”

While at HSU, Dr. McGee will also conduct a clarinet master class and workshop.

Get tickets by calling 826-3928 or at the door. For more information, visit hsumusic.blogspot.com. Both concerts produced by the HSU Music Department.