The third annual Family Days extravaganza features more than a hundred student musicians in seven ensembles including Brass Ensemble, Concert and Chamber Choirs, Jazz Ensemble, Opus Zero Band, Percussion Ensemble, Zambezi Marimba Band, and Symphonic Winds.
No concert can completely tell the story of all the efforts, dreams and aspirations of the people involved in the event. Performers, producers, composers and audience all conspire in their own way to make magic. The annual Eph-Palooza concert, however, does an excellent job of laying bare the bones of music at Williams and the people who make it happen. Coinciding with the third annual Family Days, Eph-Palooza III is a celebration of vital and progressive programming, involving over one hundred student musicians, who touch hearts and tease brains in pleasingly unexpected ways. In many regards, the concert is an aural amuse-bouche — each of the ensembles will provide a taste of what they are preparing, and you will certainly want to return to future concerts to sample all of the entrées.
Chapin Hall is, spatially and acoustically, part of the performance, setting the stage and making possible musical enjoyment at many different levels. The Brass Ensemble, led by Tom Bergeron, will perform the antiphonal canzona Providebam Dominum by the late Renaissance master Orlande De Lassus. With the ensemble scattered to the corners of the hall, the very walls of Chapin will reverberate with the sounds of glorious brass sounds.
Williams College has long had a fine tradition of music performance in its choral ensembles, and under the leadership of director Bradley Wells — who just celebrated his tenth year at Williams — that tradition has continued to flourish. These student groups present works sure to move the audience and offer food for deeper contemplation. The Chamber Choir will present a neo-Renaissance gem, Lay a Garland, by Robert Pearsall (1795-1856), while the Concert Choir will perform Bogoroditse Devo or Virgin Mother of God, from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s extraordinary large-scale a cappella work the All-Night Vigil, op. 37 (1915).
Symphonic Winds is led by Steven Dennis Bodner, whose bold programming blows the dust off of the traditional symphonic-style wind ensemble. They present an interesting recontextualization of a brass canzone by Gabrieli titled Cathedrals by Kathryn Salfelder — while the brass in the balconies perform Gabrieli, the woodwinds and percussion on stage perform something else entirely! Anyone familiar with Gabrieli and the way he used performance space will appreciate Chapin Hall all the more. The Opus Zero Band is the chamber ensemble extension of the Symphonic Winds and for Eph-palooza will be featuring clarinetist Alex Taylor ’10 in a performance of the first movement (“The Perilous Shore”) of John Adams’s Gnarly Buttons, a concerto for clarinet with chamber orchestra.
The always fresh and surprising Percussion Ensemble possesses an instrumentation and repertoire unknown to many — making it all the more delightful for new initiates. Led by Matthew Gold and employing a nearly limitless battery of percussion instruments, the Percussion Ensemble performs cutting edge new music. For Eph-palooza, the group performs The Frame Problem (2003) by James Romig who specifies the materials of the instruments — metal, wood, and skin — but not the instruments themselves, which include things like 2x4s, a lead pipe, a circular saw blade, and a few drums as well.
But there will be more drumming! For the first time, the amazing Zambezi Marimba Band, directed by Ernest Brown, will be joining the Eph-palooza roster this year, playing Ne Wa Seb (Come and Dance), a traditional piece for the gyil (Ghanian xylophone) arranged by Bernard Woma.
The entire second half of the concert is performed by the Jazz Ensemble, under the tutelage of their renowned director and arranger, Andy Jaffe, demonstrates why ensemble jazz is still a popular and enduring American art form. Classics by Ellington, Strayhorn, and Oliver Nelson share the program with new charts by students such as Rob Pasternak ’11 — definitely something for all jazz lovers!
This concert is a chance to hear what is going on at Williams in one glorious sitting. The wonderful mix of performers, groups, styles and great music inspires listeners to further explore the work of these groups during their regularly scheduled season concerts, and become familiar with the team of talented people who create this positive energy.