The Concordia Percussion Ensemble and Marimba Choir were invited to perform for the 2021 Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) Midwinter Convention, the 11th appearance by the ensembles.
“The special thing for me is that music ensembles usually have to wait at least three years between visits before being invited to perform again at MMEA, and we had the privilege to be selected for the 11th time,” said Dr. David P. Eyler, director of the ensembles. “There is no other percussion group I know of in the last 30+ years that has gone that often.”
By mid-September 2020, Eyler knew his ensembles had been accepted and that the convention would be virtual. Ensembles were given multiple performance options and Eyler chose to send a prerecorded program. Several recording sessions were already planned for the fall because music faculty knew there wouldn’t be any live performances this year.
Eyler had also sent a clip to Dr. Michael Culloton ’98, director of choral activities, of a University of Oklahoma performance from years ago where the percussion ensemble performed with a choir. Culloton liked it so the Percussion Ensemble and The Concordia Choir performed “Away in a Manger” for the 2020 Concordia Christmas Concert. The piece is one of the ensemble’s most popular selections performed every year at its holiday concert. Eyler was pleased with the collaborative performance and the reactions he received from those who watched the online concerts, so he included it in the recording for the MMEA. View “Away in a Manger.”
“The piece with the choir was totally unique because I don’t remember that I’ve recently seen a percussion ensemble and choir singing and playing at the same time,” Eyler said. “It was also a very rewarding experience for me as Michael had suggested I conduct it. I hope we can do something like that again in the near future.”
When it came to choosing a title for the program, “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue” was a natural fit because, in addition to “Away in the Manger,” selections included rudimental drumming pieces from America’s Revolutionary War era, “Yurikago” (a Japanese lullaby), Billy Joel’s “Root Beer Rag,” “Balkan Red,” a borrowed piece originally for orchestra, and one of the pieces from the ensembles’ last tour “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Eyler was pleased that students had the opportunity to record their performances since the pandemic upended everything, but it was also a very different experience for them to perform without an audience.
“I’m so proud of these young ladies and gentlemen; it’s been quite the year,” he added. “We’re all stressed. All the students are involved in so many things and trying to keep up, staying masked and physically distanced. Where we used to have two people on one marimba, now with social distancing you can only have one player on each instrument, which means instead of eight marimbas for 16 people, you’d now have to have 16 instruments and they take up a lot of space.”
Eyler said the virtual MMEA Convention turned out great and the 32-minute concert by Concordia’s ensembles was presented Feb. 12. There were three full days of activities with more than 900 registrants. Numerous Concordia alumni logged into the Percussion Ensemble’s performance to show their support.