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Monday, Nov. 21, 2011

All Elements Present

Present Music's Annual Thanksgiving Concert

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Present Music's Thanksgiving concert was like alphabet soup, a little bit of avant-garde chanting, some classical strings and a hint of dance. It was all about the experience of being thankful, to anything and everything; thankful to God, thankful for Leonardo da Vinci, thankful for freedom, and above all thankful for music.

Bucks Native American Singing and Drumming Group opened with heavy drumming and unique singing and chanting. The quick opening was distinct from the other segments, and really brought an unconventional sound. 


Exsultet,
a piece by James MacMillan, set the tone for the rest of the concert. It takes inspiration from Eastern Vigil and Gregorian melody. The piece began with low register instruments, and then gave way to piercing trumpet. It sounded like a ship docking port, with the low moans of the brass.

The longest and most experimental segment of the concert was Henry Brant's Wind, Water, Clouds, & Fire. Da Vinci studied these four elements, and at the concert, youths sang actual text from his notes. However, the segment was not taken to seriously. The high school girls in the choir were encouraged to wear bright primary colors and patters. Text included phrases like "Fire gets bigger and bigger if fuel keeps piling on." Space at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist was used to give everyone a great view, and also to help the sound flow. Trumpets were dispersed, and there were at least four different bunches of girls. There was little chorus or melody, instead Brant's piece allowed for juxtaposed and sequenced instrumental movements. There was a very interesting organ solo, which registered high and low notes, while occasionally unexpectedly stopping mid- note to change rhythm.

The evening ended with a "Friendship Dance." The audience was encouraged to join in with the choir, and then all the dancers circled the church. There was no set of instructions on how to dance, people just went with it.

A distinct smell of patchouli was noticeable upon entering the cathedral. It helped set the mood of positive community and collaboration. The Milwaukee Choral Artists, Vocal Arts Academy of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Pius XI High School Advanced Treble Choir, Arrowhead High School Choir, Homestead High School Treble Choir, and the Bucks Native American Singing and Drumming Group all collaborated for the evening.

Photo by CJ Foeckler
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