Jumping, shouting, even slamming trashcans on the Wadsworth Auditorium stage—the Geneseo Percussion Ensemble is rehearsing for a concert that promises to be anything but traditional.
Cirque Du Percussion is set to take place on April 30 at 8 p.m. in the Wadsworth Auditorium.
Adjunct lecturer in percussion and full-time principal percussionist of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Jim Tiller is the director of the Percussion Ensemble. This ensemble is made up of students registered for percussion, and most of them take private lessons with Tiller.
“It’s open to anybody who can come to an information meeting at the beginning of each semester,” Tiller said. “I talk about the group, I tell them what we do and then the new students will play for me, like an audition, and that’s how they get in.”
Because of the many instruments that fall under the category of percussion, biology major sophomore Andrew Consler is excited about the group’s upcoming performance.
“During this concert, we use everything: drums, cymbals, all sorts of odd little bits, sometimes just sheets of metal strung across the stands, even our own bodies,” Consler said. “That’s the thing that I like most about this percussion ensemble, the huge variety of instruments that are at our disposal to use.”
Applied mathematics major senior Steven Sicari has been part of the ensemble for all four years of his college career. He enjoys playing in the group because it focuses on an instrument that isn’t often recognized in music.
“A lot of the time percussion is really an embellishment instrument in orchestra or popular music, so to be able to really show the range of just percussion alone and put a spotlight on that is awesome for me,” Sicari said. “And it’s some of the most challenging music that I play, because a lot of percussion in orchestra music doesn’t have the melodies and stuff like that, so it’s not as challenging.”
For this upcoming concert, Tiller takes a thrilling twist on typical percussion performances.
“We do one concert every semester, and usually they’re a little more formal, although percussion music is never like a symphony orchestra concert,” he said. “This concert I just decided I wanted to try something a little different, turn it into a circus.”
The group will perform a piece called “Sizzle!,” by composer Nathan Daughtrey, which involves cymbals, drums and vocal percussion to mimic the sounds of cymbals, according to Tiller.
Another piece that the group will play is “What Goes Around Comes Around,” by composer Chris Carmean. This piece focuses on the marimba—a cousin of the xylophone—which is typically played by only one musician, according to Tiller. This piece will be played by four people at the same time and the marimba players will rotate around the instrument at various times, Tiller said.
“It’s very visual,” Tiller said. “Every piece has some sort of theatrical component, like acting or speaking or costumes. In one of the pieces, the ladies are wearing Mardi Gras masks. Hopefully we get a lot of students in here to make it appealing and different.”
The concert is free and everyone is welcome to attend for an energetic and wildly surprising performance, according to Tiller.