The UNC Charlotte Percussion Ensemble paired with the Central Piedmont Community College Dance Theatre to present a five-piece concert of music and dance on April 8 in Robinson Hall. The evening began with four compositions performed solely by the percussion ensemble (with one featuring a quartet of CPCC dancers), directed by Professor Rick Dior. The headlining event was a production of Igor Stravinsky’s “Les Noces (The Wedding)” with music directed by CPCC’s Alan Yamamoto and with original choreography by Director of CPCC Dance Theatre, Clay Daniel.
The percussion ensemble performed the first three pieces on their own with energy and precision. Each piece featured a soloist; the first, “Jubilee Concerto for Timpani and Percussion Ensemble” by David Mancini, featured Chris Merida on timpani and the last, “Cloud Forest” by Blake Tyson, featured Jacob Bohan on marimba. Each soloist showed dexterity and dynamic contrast and was fully supported by the well-balanced and expressive ensemble.
The second piece on the program was an original by Dior entitled “Equinox for Percussion Ensemble and Theremin.” The piece featured Raven Pfeiffer on the titled instrument, the theremin — an electronic instrument that is played without physical contact, almost as if by using magic. The theremin sounds about like what we assume an alien-driven UFO would sound like: weeoooweeooo (you get the picture). It is a curious instrument and, according to Dior, takes years to master. Pfeiffer just started playing the instrument two months ago; nevertheless, she was able to command the theremin with what literally seemed like the magic touch.
After a brief intermission came “Les Noces,” a depiction of Russian wedding preparations for a bride and groom. CPCC Dance Director Daniel created original choreography for six CPCC dancers (two male and four female) while Yamamoto conducted a twelve-member chorus, four pianists and the percussion ensemble who all played onstage behind the dancers. The piece was composed by Stravinsky for ballet and was originally paired with choreography by Bronislava Nijinska. It was premiered by the esteemed Ballet Russes in 1923.
“Les Noces” is intense. The music is full of dissonance and jolting accents from the piano and percussion. The movement is similarly disconcerting. Though it is a wedding, there are no happy faces. The movement is almost like a sacrifice (of the bride to the groom or vice versa) with sharp group jumps and bounces, physical adornment of the bride to what seems like her dismay and blank looks by all toward the audience. The piece ends with a preparation of a table for “The Wedding Feast.” The table could double as an altar (church or sacrificial) as both bride and groom seem reluctant to sit down at it and are then decorated almost like relics by the others. Dancers and musicians were successful in creating an eerie and mysterious mood, though occasionally lacked a necessary intensity and precision in music as well as in movement.
The piece is considered a master-work for both Stravinsky and Nijinska and, for its weirdness alone, is worth seeing.
“Les Noces” was performed at CPCC on April 10 at 7:30 p.m. as well as part of their Sensoria festival, which ran through April 14. Though this was the final performance of the percussion ensemble for this academic year, the Department of Music also has several more upcoming events throughout the month.