Percussionist and faculty of Central Michigan University’s school of music, Andrew Spencer, comes to Muskegon for two consecutive evenings of performances. Friday Nov. 10, he performs in West Michigan Symphony’s (WMS) “Enigma Variations” at the Frauenthal Theater and the following evening, Sat. Nov. 11, Spencer performs a percussion concert at the symphony’s small performance space, The Block.
Nov. 10, Andrew Spencer joins guest conductor Bohuslav Rattay and the orchestra to play the 12-minute timpani concerto, Raise the Roof, composed by Michael Daugherty. This is not the first time he will play this piece on the Frauenthal stage. As a former timpanist for the WMS, he was featured on the work over 10 years ago. At that time, WMS Music Director Scott Speck conducted and Daugherty was the symphony’s composer-in-residence. Since then Spencer has played the piece six times with orchestras in Midland, El Paso and with the CMU Wind Ensemble in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Raise the Roof incorporates styles such as a Cuban rumba called Guaguancó and a rock and roll section, while showcasing the timpani and highlighting what sounds are possible from it. The work opens lyrically and requires lots of tuning with the timpanist’s feet (using foot pedals) in what Spencer describes as an “athletic piece for a soloist.”
Also featured at this concert is Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36, popularly known as the “Enigma Variations.” Elgar dedicated the work “to my friends pictured within,” each variation being a musical sketch of one of his circle of close acquaintances. Those portrayed include Elgar’s wife Alice, his friend and publisher Augustus J. Jaeger and Elgar himself. Saturday evening, Spencer returns to The Block, having performed “Dangerous Music” concert in its first season. The 2014 concert featured instruments made of non-traditional items such as flower pots, cardboard boxes and even his own body. Since it was so well received, he will once again bring this type of music back to The Block on Nov. 11; opening with a minimalist piece by composer Steve Reich called Clapping Music. Spencer says the piece highlights “how sounds can create a melodic shape.” Also included in the Saturday evening concert will be a work called All the Broken Instruments written by Jay Batzner, a fellow composer at CMU. The work incorporates car coils, cymbals, clay flower pots and a sacred Zimbabwean instrument called an imbira. The work also combines interactive computer and the poetry of Robert Fanning, coupling it with the sounds played on the non-traditional instruments.
Another interesting work that will be performed that evening is a performance art piece written by Rolf Wallin called Scratch, which incorporates a big red balloon and all the sounds that can be made with it. Spencer says the work showcases the performer’s “love/hate relationship with the balloon.”
The second half of the concert will bring three of Spencer’s students from the CMU music department to join him for a cantata for percussion quartet written by composer Paul Lansky called Threads. Also featuring traditional and non-traditional instruments students Michael Hamilton, Colin Mudie, and Mikayla Bertelsen will join Spencer for the half-hour long “cantata” for percussion quartet. Highlighting the wide range of qualities that percussion instruments are capable of, the work ranges from lyrical and tender to forceful and aggressive, weaving the sounds into one continuous “thread”.
Andrew Spencer holds the position of Professor of Percussion at Central Michigan University. An active recitalist and clinician, he has performed as a soloist in the United States, Poland, Japan, Canada, and Costa Rica. In 1999, he released Slender Beams, a recording that features works by composer Dave Hollinden.
The Friday, Nov. 10 concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Frauenthal Theater in downtown Muskegon. Ticket prices are $22 to $54; student tickets are $10 and can be purchased by calling the WMS ticket office at 231.726.3231 ext. 223, in person at 360 W. Western Avenue or online at www.westmichigansymphony.org
Tickets to the Nov. 11 concert at The Block are $20 to $30. $10 student tickets can be purchased with student ID. The Block is located at 360 W. Western Ave. 2nd floor, in Muskegon. Doors and bar open at 7:00 and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets for both the Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 concerts can be purchased by calling the WMS ticket office at 231.726.3231 x223, in person at 360 W. Western Avenue or online at www.westmichigansymphony.org and www.theblockwestmichigan.org.