WATCH LIVE: Heartland Marimba Percussionists Host IPR's Virtual Steinway Cafe Concert Series
Three musicians who are a part of the Heartland Marimba will perform live on IPR’s Virtual Steinway Café on Tuesday, November 17 at noon, including music from "The Legend of Zelda."
The Heartland Marimba (HM) was the 2014 brainchild of the internationally acclaimed percussionist Dr. Matthew Coley, and the ensemble has done a masterful job of adapting their performances to pandemic times.
HM annually hosts over 50 performance and educational events and has inspired over 20 composers to write new works that showcase percussion in new and unusual ways.
Ever innovative, Coley has crafted a Pandemic Video Series and an Online Composition Festival. This year New Music USA also presented HM with a grant to commission four new marimba quartets by female composers. Because of their work with the Online Composition Festival and the Pandemic Video Series, HM has already released 18 remotely-produced videos of ensemble works in 2020.
Joining the Heartland Marimba Artists for this concert is freelance and multifaceted St. Paul percussionist Eri Isomura.
Isomura excels also as a pianist and serves as a musician and an orchestral librarian for the Wayzata Symphony Orchestra and as a library assistant for the Minnesota Orchestra. In addition to teaching and performing, Isomura has completed a duo recording project transcribing the works of Beethoven, Chopin, and others for marimba and cello duo.
The final performer in the Heartland Marimba Artists trio line-up is freelance percussionist, composer, educator, and video game devotee, Matt Silverberg.
Silverberg received his Bachelor’s magna cum laude in percussion performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and hr graduated with his masters in percussion performance from the University of Minnesota. His percussion quintet, “Hypnotic Crystals,” won the 2017 Wisconsin Alliance for Composers New Music Festival Award, and his numerous commissions include an orchestral piece for the Milwaukee Philharmonic.
Silverberg’s marimba- video-game-fervor recently translated into over 48,000 views on Facebook with his arrangement of the Dragon Roost Island from “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.” One of his unique EP Electro Pop Rock for Marimba pieces is called Marimbtronics. Silverberg has performed internationally, and currently performs, teaches, and gives clinics in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
About the concert
The Heartland Marimba Artists concert opens with the trio performing the third movement, Con veloce, in a rapid manner, from Dr. Gregory Jackson’s “Marimba Quartet No. 1, Op. 111.” Jackson has composed over 100 works, has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in composition, has been dubbed “the Bach of our Time. He was born in Des Moines and is also known as a versatile percussionist, violinist, conductor, educator, and author. His “Marimba Quartet No. 1” was published in 2015. Since this is a quartet for four players, Coley plans to tape one of the four parts, so that the trio can perform the work as written.
Originally composed in 1889 as a suite for piano four-hands, the first movement from Debussy’s popular “Petite Suite” has been transcribed for marimba trio by Eri Isomura. Debussy drew inspiration for the opening movement from the sensual poetry of Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes. The Heartland Marimba Artists will perform Debussy’s En bateau, (In a Boat). En bateau, with its serene melody floating above rocking sixteenth notes and rolled chords, conjures a barcarolle-inspired reflective and peaceful water outing.
The Heartland Marimba Artists turn next to the Waltz and Samba movements from Takayoshi Yoshioka’s “Divertimento for Three Marimbas.” Japanese performer and prolific composer Takayoshi Yoshioka graduated from the Toho Gakuen University Faculty of Music. He also studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and has performed around the globe. He wrote his “Divertimento for Three Marimbas” in 1994, with all three movements correlated to each other, organized with the option to perform collectively or individually. The second movement “Waltz” resembles the character of Tchaikovsky and Strauss, Jr. The intricate third movement “Samba” challenges the performers with unusual harmonies and rhythmic patterns.
While Ellington is usually credited as the composer of the jazz classic, “Morning Glory,” not all music historians have confirmed it. Some believe it was originally penned by jazz cornetist and composer Rex Stewart, Jr. and that Ellington actually won rights to the work in a poker game with Stewart. Isomura takes the stage to solo on an adaptation of “Morning Glory” by marimba performer and teacher Nancy Zeltsman.
Composer, performer, and educator, Robert Sanderl got hooked early on percussion. His 6th-grade snare sessions with the drumline from the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps eventually morphed into a Madison Scout staff post when he was older and Caption Head for the Empire Statesmen Drum and Bugle Corp. Since then Sanderl has performed across the US and Europe and his compositions are concertized in America and abroad. He received his Performer’s Certificate and Bachelor’s from The Crane School of Music. Along with his MM and DMA from Eastman School of Music, he also holds his Performer’s Certificate from there as well. The Heartland Marimba Artists will return to present Sanderl’s intricate yet animated and witty “The World in Your Hands.”
In 2017, Nintendo’s Switch won Game of the Year, Best Action-Adventure Game, and Best Studio-Game Direction for their fantasy action and adventure game “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” The game is set in the mythological province of Hyrule and revolves around the warrior Link and his quest to save Princess Zelda from the evil Ganondorf. The popular game is known for its soundtrack which also includes musical leitmotifs like Zelda’s Lullaby from previous games and gameplay. Silverberg solos on his own setting of Manaka Kataoka’s “Hyrule Castle” from “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”
African-American composer, organist, and pianist, Florence Price, entered the New England Conservatory of Music at the age of 14. She became the first Black woman to have a work presented by a major orchestra. Her Symphony in e minor was premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1932. Her major piano work, Concerto in One Movement was premiered at the 1933 Chicago World Fair. During her lifetime, she composed over 300 works. Coley, Isomura, and Silverberg present their arrangement of Price’s delicate “Adoration” for organ.
Holiday fun enters the mix with Coley’s adaptations of Rollins and Nelson’s Frosty the Snowman along with Beal and Bothe’s Jingle Bell Rock.
The Heartland Marimba Artists turn the tables with Terry Baldridge’s arrangement of “The Airs of Cohatan” from his work called The Mexican Marimba. In his setting of this Mexican folk song, Baldridge reconstructed the character of Mexico’s street musicians. All three players divide musical elements to present the bass line, harmony, and melody but perform it all on one marimba. It’s a feat of marimba camaraderie.
To wrap up the concert the trio will jump into the upcoming holidays, performing Coley and Silverberg’s arrangement of “The Christmas Fantasy” by William Thomas Best.