Diverse Instrumental Concert Showcases Musical Traditions From Around the World

The Performing Arts Council hosted its first-ever Instrumental Concert Thursday night in Heritage Hall. The event started at 8 p.m. and featured a combination of diverse instrumental musical groups that performed everything from funky brass ballads to traditional Indian percussion.

The night began with a solo performance by Maeve Berry, a sophomore music major, who performed a stunning rendition of Sonata in D Major. Berry’s piano piece represented part of the classical selections performed last night.

Following her turn on stage, the genre shifted with a performance by the Society for Indian Music and Arts. Two members of the club sat on the floor wearing kurtas, a traditional North Indian garment for men. The musicians described the instruments they would be playing: the tabla, a pair of drums played by hand, and a harmonium, a type of pump organ.

Kishan Patel, who would later perform an original tabla solo, explained the intricacies of his craft. “In Indian percussion, you have to be able to say everything you play,” explained Patel. “Every syllable has a particular manner of being played and has a specific name.” He demonstrated the syllable sounds he was creating by occasionally saying their names as he played them. Patel was accompanied by Janak Jethva on the harmonium.

After Patel and Jethva finished, the auditorium lights dimmed as Cello Club took the stage. The eight cellists proceeded to perform a haunting arrangement of the tango “Oblivion”, by Astor Piazzolla. The club then put on an impressive rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”. The combination of classical and contemporary made for an impressive performance overall.

The next group to take the stage was Penn State Taiko. The three club members performed the traditional Japanese art of taiko, barefoot and dressed in traditional Japanese attire. The trio performed a dramatic arrangement of a song by the popular taiko group Kodo, as well as an original composition with a heart-stopping finish.

They were followed by the Penn State Flute Choir, made up of alto flutes, tenor flutes, bass flutes, and even a contrabass flute, which was taller than the performer playing it. The choir performed “Soaring Horizon”, a piece composed by Philadelphia-based composer Joseph Hallman. They were conducted by Penn State’s own flute professor, Naomi Seidman.

The final solo performance of the night was violinist Michael Divino, a graduate student at Penn State, who performed Bach’s Sarabande from Partita No. 2. He explained the origins of the sarabande as a risqué Spanish dance in the 1700s. This particular sarabande was particularly slow and somber.

Divino, who has played the violin for 14 years, admitted that he still gets nervous before a performance. “The nerves never go away,” Divino said in an interview. “But once you get into the groove of it, you get comfortable.”

The night ended with a bang with a performance from the ROAR! Brass Ensemble, who played jazzy melodies over a funky tuba bassline. The group was comprised of trombones, tubas, and a handful of trumpets. By the end of their performance, the entire audience was snapping along.

“My favorite part was that there was music outside of the Western classical tradition,” Divino said after the performance. “With the Indian music and the taiko drumming… you don’t get to see that every day. That’s something that [is] very unique to this program.”

Photo Credit: Mariesa Beneventano | The Underground