Saturday, May 02, 2015

Percussion Ensemble & Calypso Band: Director's Notes

Notes by Eugene Novotney:

The featured work on the program is Ku-Ka-Ilimoku, composed in 1978 by Christopher Rouse on commission from the Syracuse Symphony Percussion Ensemble.

The composer writes: "In Hawaiian mythology, Ku is perhaps the most fundamental and important of gods, occupying a place similar to that of Zeus in Greek mythology or Odin in Norse legend. Ku is manifested in several forms: as Ku-Ka-Ilimoku he represents the god of war. Thus this work for percussion ensemble is best viewed as a savage, propulsive war dance. Hawaiian chants are often based on as few as two pitches, and Hawaiian percussion emphasizes short, repetitive patterns. Underlying this surface simplicity is a wealth of subtle rhythmic inflection and variation. I incorporated this diversity to great effect, creating a tightly knit, exhilarating work. Although indigenous instruments are not employed, the timbre of their voices is evoked. The dynamic power of the Western instruments adds an intense level of ferocity to the proceedings."

 This performance of Ku-Ka-Ilimoku will be accompanied by dancers from the Humboldt State University Dance Program presenting an exciting contemporary dance inspired by the folkloric rhythms and dances of the “Hula Kahiko” tradition. The dance is choreographed by dance professor, Sharon Butcher, and entitled, Standing Here, With Red-Feathered Gods.

 Other featured pieces on the program will include the classic work, Toccata for Percussion, by Carlos Chavez and Marimba Spiritual by Minoru Miki.

The first half of the show will conclude with a suite of traditional Mandeng Drumming from West Africa, and a special presentation by the HSU World Percussion Group of authentic Afro-Cuban folkloric music based in the traditions of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

 The second half of the show will feature the festive dance music of the Humboldt State Calypso Band. For 29 years, the Calypso Band has been performing and entertaining local audiences, and has proven to be one of Humboldt County’s favorite and most enduring musical ensembles.

The Calypso Band is comprised of an orchestra of over 40 steelpans (or steeldrums) representing the full symphonic range. This spring, the Humboldt State Calypso Band toured Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Tomales, San Rafael, and Berkeley, California, entertaining hundreds of listeners, and sharing their authentic Caribbean sounds with their enthusiastic audiences throughout Northern California.

For their performance in the Van Duzer Theatre, the Calypso Band will feature several high-energy dance compositions from the Caribbean in their set, including two modern Panorama classics composed by steelband legend, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, from the island of Trinidad – Misbehave and Woman is Boss.

For 29 years, the Humboldt State Calypso Band has prided itself in maintaining an accurate and authentic connection to the roots of the steel band movement and the innovative musicians of Trinidad, the island on which this unique percussion phenomenon was born. The band remains dedicated to entertaining audiences with spirit, authenticity, and respect.

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