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Spectacular pan line up for Indy recital

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On November 24, the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Steelband returns to Boutell Concert Hall with its fall concert and there is a recital two days later by NIU pan graduate student Mike Schwebke. Both concerts will be Webcast and are free to pan fans around the world. The concert will be celebrating the recent induction of co-director Cliff Alexis in the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame which occurred on November 14. For the fall 2013 concert, the NIU Steelband will feature the incredibly talented Andre White as their special guest artist. White is an accomplished pan performer and arranger who has led the ADLIB Steel Orchestra to an unprecedented number of victories at the Brooklyn Carnival. In addition to club gigs in and around the East Coast, White performed this spring at the Virginia Beach Pan Festival with Adlib and arranged for the Mangrove steelband in London as he has several years. In Trinidad, he has arranged for Desperadoes and Tamana Pioneeers. A graduate of the Berklee School of Music, White’s recent activity has been focused on recording and working on his career as a solo artist. White will be featured on pan solos with the NIU Steelband and with a small jazz combo comprised of NIU faculty and students. 


As usual, the NIU steelband fall concert will feature progressive steelband arrangements in a wide variety of musical styles. The program includes Chick Corea’s jazz classic Spain arranged by NIU graduate student and Antiguan Khan Cordice who this summer won his sixth Antigua Panorama as leader and arranger of the Brute Force steelband. Two American pan composers are featured as well. The band will perform In The Groove of Things by professional pannist and co-creator of Pan Rocks!, Tracy Thornton. In The Groove of Things is one of Thornton’s most popular compositions from his band Sons of Steel. Chris Tanner’s The Flip Side pairs a quartet of brass players with steelband. Tanner is the director of the steelband programme at Miami University of Ohio and was, along with his entire steelband, a guest at the NIU Spring concert in 2010. The fall 2013 NIU steelband concert will included longtime classical favorites such as Rimsky Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumble Bee and the a well-known light classical piece Fiddle Faddle by American composer Leroy Anderson. Fiddle Faddle was a mainstay with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra and, as the title suggests, the listener may be used to hearing the violins but instead will hear pan in this arrangement by NIU graduate student Yuki Nakano who is also a featured soloist. 


Yuko Asada has arranged the Japanese folk song, Sakura for the NIU steelband. Sukara in Japanese means cherry blossom and as Asada notes, “When I think of spring time in Japan, I picture sakura. ..I miss seeing rows of sakura trees.” This piece was originally written for the small group Pastiche which featured Asada and several other NIU steelband members. This version is an arrangement for a larger steelband. The concert will end with Milap (Meeting) by the legendary Jit Samaroo. The piece has an up-tempo folk feel and was popularised by the Samaroo Jets. The NIU steelband will be joined in its performance of Milap (Meeting) by guest artists TnT Sweet Tassa led by Lenny Kumar. Associate Professor of Steelpan and co-director of the NIU steelband Liam Teague was familiar with TnT Sweet Tassa from their work together at PASIC 2011. TnT Sweet Tassa band ( will be performing with Dr Chris Ballengee, a member of the band, ethnomusicologist, and professor of music at Anne Arundel Community College near Washington, DC. Ballengee and Sweet Tassa will give lectures/workshops on November 21 and 22 at NIU in addition to performing with the NIU steelband at the fall concert on November 24. On November 26, NIU pan graduate student Mike Schwebke will perform a recital that offers a number of new works for pan. Schwebke is exploring all of pan’s possibilities. The recital reflects this ambition and the programme will feature an impressive array of works including two classical compositions by Bach and Bartok that Schwebke has arranged for pan. Neither is a typical piece for pan. The Bach Crab Canon has a fascinating melodic theme structure, a reversal and then both the theme and reversal played simultaneously. Schwebke further notes, “The Bartok is a piano etude, adapted for lead pan and double seconds, based loosely on some gamelan music.”



Amazingly, Schwebke has himself commissioned other music students at NIU to create new pieces for pan and his recital will feature three new works. One is by Todd Jelinek who is a member of the NIU steelband and a percussionist with a strong Mideastern music focus. Schwebke commissioned Jelinek to write a quartet for steelpan quartet and notes, the work is “very heavily influenced by Steve Reich, repeated patterns, very focused sense of tonality, stays in one key area, with little pitch changes here and there. I really like it.” The other two new commissions are by NIU composition student Kyle Krause whose work has been featured by the NIU New Music Ensemble among others. The first is a portion of a suite for solo pan that Krause wrote after he and Schewbke discussed the nature of the pan and its inherent ranges for compositions. The recital will close with the other Krause composition which is a major 15 minute suite for a small steelband called “Airbender”. It includes a section where Schwebke pours water in the lead pan to do pitch bending. Each of the four movements is based on totemistic magical powers associated with earth, wind, fire and water, clearly taking pan into galaxies it has never gone before.



• Ray Funk is a retired Alaskan judge who is passionately devoted to calypso, pan and mas. Andrew Martin is an ethnomusicologist, percussionist, pannist, and Associate Professor of Music at Inver Hills College in St Paul, Minnesota.


Listen Free: Both of these programs will be live webcast on the NIU music network at The NIU steelband concerts will be at 5 pm Trinidad time on November 24 and Schwebke’s recital at 10 pm on November 26.


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