Friday evening the well-known and admired wind quintet “Imani Winds” performed at Doudna Fine Arts Center at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
“Imani Winds” were on stage in the reflective mirrored Recital Hall where the quintet artists, their music of modern classical, and the skill of the lighting crew created an atmosphere of beauty, sound, and light.
The Grammy nominated “Imani Winds” quintet consists of Valerie Coleman, flute; Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe; Mariam Adam, clarinet; Jeff Scott, French horn; and Monica Ellis, bassoon. They are based in New York and currently touring the United States.
The first number, composed by Valerie Coleman, was “Tzigane,” which brought images to my mind of colorfully dressed Hungarian gypsies dancing around a bonfire at night. The musicians were also dressed in vibrant colors or shades of black and silver. The lighting changed the clothing into many hues of color as well as set the mood for the illusion of nighttime, flamboyant gypsies, and bewitching classical music.
“Sechs Bagatellen ( i Allegro con spirito; ii Rubato Lamentoso; iii Allegro grazioso; iv Presto ruvido; v Adagio Mesto; vi Molto vivace, Capriccioso)” by Hungarian Gygorgi Ligeti (1923-2006) was next. This piece was written specifically for wind quintet and was taken from an original 11 pieces that Ligeti wrote while living in Hungary. There was some Soviet censorship of part of this composition in the early 1950s Cold War era as the composition was considered too different or too radical from their custom at that time. When under Soviet rule artists were to conform to the norm of Soviet art. Anthropology describes artists as historians of their culture. If there is forced conformity or destruction of the cultural work of artists there is control or loss of a conquered culture. Today, Ligeti’s movements are accepted and considered beautiful and creative compositions by all.
“Five Poems (Walking Birds, Happy Bird, interlude: Lamenting Bird with a Dead Bird, Fighting Birds, and Bird Flying High Above)” was next.
This one was written for a wind quintet in 1994 by Czech Karel Husa (1921- ) who was born in Prague and became a US citizen in 1959. This music got right into the psyche of a bird — or created awareness by the audience of the spirit of a bird. One could imagine hearing birds in this composition. In “Walking Birds” one can hear the bird claws hip hopping across the ground. In “Bird Flying High Above” one hears the wind born wings and the swooping of a flying bird. The wind instruments brought out the chirpiness of happiness, the quarreling of birds, the vicious strikes of fighting fowls, and the flight into the depths of death.
After intermission we were treated with “Rubisphere,” another piece composed by Valerie Coleman, which was performed by a trio of flute (Valerie Coleman), clarinet (Mariam Adam), and bassoon (Monica Ellis). This composition was written in remembrance of a trip to downtown New York City by Valerie where she heard the music of jazz, rock and roll, and get-down- New-York sounds coming from some of the clubs on the lower east side.
[10 parodies of Trump's 'Make America Great Again' hat] Next was “The Rite of Spring” by Russian-French-American Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) and arranged by Jonathan Russell. Igor wrote this for stage ballet and is a tragic story about a young ballet dancer who danced herself to death in a rite of spring.” This creation was also controversial at the time it was first performed because of the horrible tragedy of the young ballet dancer. It also became a well-known and much appreciated composition and ballet. This arrangement by Russell performed by the “Imani Winds” was made more visual with the help from lighting artists Dennis Malak and Will Richardson of Eastern Illinois University who were creating the lighting spontaneously. At the beginning of “The Rite of Spring” a simulated image of an early morning sun rising from stage left bottom to slowly rising up and over the mirrored walls of the stage back, and finally setting slowly at lower stage right as an evening setting sun. This computerized creation of a rising to falling sun and stage lighting for “The Rite of Spring” created the background for imagining a young ballerina dancing so enthusiastically at first, peaking at the noon sun, and then slowly dancing herself to death at sunset.
“Dance Mediterranea” by Palestinian-American Simon Shaheen (1955 — ) arranged by Jeff Scott ended the evening with a blend of Arabic and Western music by the wind musicians of “Imani Winds.” This performance was the creative handiwork of artists who entertained an appreciative audience.
Thank you Doudna Fine Arts Center for hosting this beautiful concert. Many thanks also to EIU Classical Music Series Endowment Fund for your generous support which helped bring “Imani Winds” to Central Illinois.