Percussion Ensemble performs with special guests

By Marissa Wetterau, Sports Editor

On Saturday, April 17th, The West Liberty University Percussion Ensemble, directed by Brian Baldauff, performed their concert ‘Plus’ One’. The was concert was titled such, as it featured special guests Dr. Neerja Mehta and Dr. Linda Cowan, in addition to student soloists. The performance was streamed live in it’s entirety which is a first for the music department.

It has been at least a year or since I’ve seen any sort of performance given by the music department, so I was excited to go. The concert, set to start at 3 p.m., started a couple minutes late but the crowd of maybe about 60, including myself, did not mind at all.

The afternoon’s proceedings began with an introduction from Professor Baldauff, who explained the title of the concert and thanked everyone for coming. The first piece played was Concerto for Vibraphone movement I. Recitativo-Allegro, which was composed by Ney Rosauro, born 1952. WLU Percussion Ensemble member Brandon Collins, vibraphone, was featured as a soloist in the piece. Each audience member seemed very involved and Brandon and the rest of the ensemble delivered a fantastic performance.

The second piece performed featured Mikayla Schultz, piano, as the soloist in the piece. Spirits movement I. The Succubus was written and composed by David J. Long born 1950 and was an eerie piece, intended to invoke the mythical succubus creature.

Dr. Linda Cowan was the featured soloist on the following piece, Song to the Moon from Rusalka. Dr. Cowan teaches private and class voice, diction and musical theater/opera workshop classes. She also maintains a small private voice studio consisting of some of the area’s top high school voice students.

When speaking to Dr. Cowan, she said “This was my first time performing the song. I had to learn Czech language”. Despite this being her first performance of this particular song, she delivered it with amazing confidence.

There was a brief intermission after Dr. Cowan’s performance, but not long after, the ensemble took the stage to give the world premier of Dr. Matthew Harder’s The Brain Abhors the New. The piece was particularly special, as it involved the electronic manipulation of acoustic sounds, fed through two monitors in the back of college hall.

The final performances of the afternoon featured Dr. Neerja Mehta, congas. Dr. Neerja Mehta is a close friend of West Liberty’s Brian Baldauff and Dr. Mehta is also an active performer and educator, having presented concerts, clinics, and master classes in North America and Europe. Dr. Mehta currently teaches at City University of New York, Queensborough Community College as an assistant professor of Music. Dr. Mehta performed Three Movements: I. Ritual II. Prayer and III. Celebration by Jonathan Ovalle with three of West Liberty’s percussion ensemble students.

Dr. Mehta joined the ensemble once again for the final piece on the program, a traditional Cuban piece entitled Los Dandys. Here they were joined Ryan Wolf on Trumpet to give a New Orleans, Mardi Gras party dance feel. Dr. Mehta encouraged the audience to participate in the piece, giving a much needed relief after a program consisting of mostly modern works. By the conclusion, most of the audience was on it’s feet, clapping along.

If you missed this performance, I highly encourage you to check out some of the upcoming performances by various ensembles in the music department. These include the Electronic Music Ensemble Concert on Sunday April 24th at 7 p.m. at the Blue Church in Wheeling, the Wind Ensemble Concert Wednesday, April 27th at College Hall and Kelly Theatre, Honors Recital Saturday, April 30th at 3 p.m. in College Hall, the College Community Chorus Concert Sunday, May 1st at 3 p.m. at Vance Church in Wheeling, and the Gerald Lee Faculty Piano Recital Wendesday, May 4th at 7 p.m. in College Hall. All of these performances are free and open to the public.

Overall, I had a wonderful time at the Percussion Ensemble Concert and wish I hadn’t waited so long to see the talents of West Liberty students in action. If you need something to do on the evenings or weekends, I encourage you to attend one of the performances above. You will not be disappointed.

Photo by Matthew Harder