Marimbas, Drums in HSU Percussion Showcase

Three HSU ensembles bring the sounds of drums and marimbas to Fulkerson Recital Hall—along with gongs, tin cans and random radio music—in a Percussion Showcase on Sunday, Feb. 21.

The HSU Percussion Ensemble plays these unconventional instruments in “Credo in US”, a mind-expanding modern work by experimental composer John Cage. He wrote it in New York in 1942, shortly after his western sojourn during which he befriended North Coast artist Morris Graves.

This piece also calls for an electronic doorbell buzzer, pre-recorded music and a piano, prefiguring what came to be known as the Cage style. “This is a highly influential work,” notes Percussion Ensemble director Eugene Novotney, “both in its scope and its imaginative nature.”

The Showcase moves from the futuristic directly to the deeply traditional with the next two ensembles, the HSU Marimba Band and West African Drumming Ensemble. The Marimba Band performs two works inspired by traditional tribal music from Ghana, and a third piece adapted from a Zimbabwe melody.

A marimba quartet performs “Omphalo Centric Lecture” by Australian composer Nigel Westlake. “This virtuosic piece is both captivating and mesmerizing, and it explores the beauty of the sound of the marimba in its full range and capacity,” Notvotney said.

The West African Drumming Ensemble performs a suite of the complex and highly rhythmic traditional drumming from that region, using only indigenous instruments. Joe Bishop, an HSU alum who has studied this music in West Africa, is the main drummer and directs the group.

Proceeds from this concert benefit the Humboldt Stage Calypso Band steelpan renovation and tuning project, a fund dedicated to refurbishing equipment for the future.

“The Calypso Band’s steelpans are in desperate need of tuning, painting, repair and refinishing,” said director Eugene Nototney. To enable this work this fund was created in the band’s 25th anniversary year and has made “significant progress towards our goal. But in this, the 30th anniversary year, “there is still much work to be done.”

HSU Percussion Showcase is presented on Sunday February 21 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Eugene Novotney and Joe Bishop, produced by HSU Music Department.