music ensemble showcase

From socially distanced trombone players to UNC Charlotte’s very own masked singers, the musical ensemble showcase was a captivating and enjoyable experience even from behind a screen. Students who were interested in this event were able to join a live broadcast of the showcase on UNC Charlotte’s Livestream Channel. The showcase premiered at 7:30 p.m. last Wednesday. Hearing music in person will always be a different experience than recorded sound, but there were noticeable benefits to this taped performance. Watching this showcase was like being on Aladdin’s flying carpet. You didn’t have to worry about not being able to see everything because the cameras caught every angle for you. The various ensemble settings in the recording made the experience all the more intriguing as well. The showcase was filled with extremely talented musicians from start to finish, lasting about two hours in total. Here’s an inside look at a few of these great performances.

Joe Skillen, Music Department Chair, starts the evening off with a reassuring welcome to the viewers. After addressing the odd nature of holding this showcase virtually, Skillen encouraged viewers to pay attention to the students’ musical creativity for the performance. The jazz ensemble began shortly after this greeting. The saxophonist played dancing notes over a series of trombonists and other brass instruments. The drummer kept a steady upbeat tap on his hi-hat and crash cymbal. The band’s sound altogether was progressive and classy, a tune you’d hear at a fancy restaurant or while walking along the pier at the beach. 

Next was the orchestra. Director Kellen Gray waved his baton with intensity as a group of concentrated violin players went from soft glides to intensified streaks across their four-strings. The song was called “Overture to Don Giovanni (1787)” by Mozart. Its sound was the anticipating music of a twisted plot in a movie without the visual. It told a triumphant and wander-like story. 

It was now the symphonic band’s turn to perform. The camera panned to some trumpeters who wore masks with pre-cut holes near the mouth area. Some students wore two masks and some played by breathing into the instrument through their paper or cloth covering. The song was called “Havana Nights” by Randall D. Standridge. The various instrumental solos in this song followed by the rejoining of the rest of the band was musically satisfying. 

The percussion ensemble was one to remember. Students Evan Corey and Daniel Ferreira did a marimba duo. The song was “Insomnia” by Cody Holmes. Their instruments were placed facing towards one another and the sound they made was jungle-like and playful. They tapped with gentleness and precision.

Later on in the night, six trombone players took the stage, standing six feet apart of course, along with one tuba player. They played a resounding anthem and when this concluded the percussion ensemble returned. This time the students formed a mallet quartet. The xylophone was struck with such rapidity that its vibration offered peculiar and beautiful sounds.

The Charlotteans Women’s Chorus sang “Thulele Mama Ya” which is inspired by the zulu phrase ‘thula mama’ which means ‘don’t worry mama.’ The group wasn’t performing in an auditorium, like the other singers before them. There were little pre-recorded videos all placed together on the screen where each member had recorded herself singing at home. These videos came together to give the message that even though the chorus couldn’t sing in the same place, a pandemic wouldn’t stop them from continuing to create art together. This was thrilling to watch and listen to. 

An intermission came after an energized gospel choir sang and danced to “Every Praise is to Our God” and a couple more impressive acts. Viewers were then given five minutes to take in the hour of brilliance and artistry they had just witnessed. 

The audience was welcomed back with a large diversified group of masked singers singing “Kumbaya.” One student pitter-pattered on a drum seated in the middle of these vocalists. The tempo slowly increased and the singers led staccato notes into long and melodious runs which created a very dramatic and temperate listening experience.

The jazz ensemble returned late in the showcase to perform Cedar Walton’s “Cedar Blues.” The vibe of the song was sultry and upbeat. Danielle Walcott was seated toward the left of the screen with a purple guitar in hand. Her flashy solo captivated viewers as the camera zoomed in on her fingers prancing down the guitar neck. The band altogether was evidently in sync. 

To close out this showcase, the women’s chorus sang “You Do Not Walk Alone” by Elaine Hagenberg. Videos of the students singing appeared on different parts of the screen as a slideshow of pictures played to the mystical and elegant tune. The pictures displayed the chorus practices, on zoom and in person with Covid-19 regulations along with other relevant events on campus that some of the group had attended. The singers’ impeccable range matched that of the notes played gracefully on the piano. The song led to a screen that said “Thank You For Watching.”

The dedication of these musicians was truly inspiring, especially with the absence of a physical audience. This goes to show that passion and determination has the power to make an empty room feel crowded. Music has the appeal to bring people together even in unfamiliar circumstances. To watch this recorded performance, click the link below.

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