NC State's Wind Ensemble brought holiday spirit to a full audience as the ensemble played traditional as well as contemporary renditions of well-known carols, The concert, presented by Arts NC State in Titmus Theatre, included performances by both the full ensemble and smaller instrumental sections, all led by Dr. Paul Garcia,
The members of the percussion section were the first to perform. They played the only non-seasonal piece on the program, "The Highway," by Daniel Montoya, Jr. Although it was abstract and not necessarily as festive as the performances that followed, listening to "The Highway" was an enjoyable experience. Following the steady beats of the timpani and bass drum, two xylophones and a glockenspiel played flowing melodic motives. The volume ebbed and flowed organically with the addition of small instruments such as the tambourine or triangle. Consistent with its contemporary nature, the piece ended abruptly.
Beginning a series of Christmas carols, a quartet of clarinets performed a beautifully lilting "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," followed by a saxophone quintet. The five saxophonists played a fascinating arrangement of "Carol of the Bells" inspired by the version performed by Pentatonix, a five-member a cappella group. Each saxophone seemed to stick to a corresponding vocal part, intertwining with several melodic lines at once. Together, the five players covered a full range of pitch that would be present in an a cappella performance.
The full wind ensemble came together, with Dr. Garcia conducting, to play a series of Christmas and Hanukkah carols. As stated by Dr. Garcia, the joy of the holiday season is expressed with the "gift of music," no matter what the holiday. Several of the Christmas carols were based on the versions by the group Mannheim Steamroller, which records contemporary electronic versions of Christmas songs. Because Mannheim Steamroller's versions are so popular, these pieces became highlights of the program. Of these, "Stille Nacht" was particularly memorable. For the introduction, many of the instrumentalists sang the melody quietly, a change unanticipated by the audience; several instruments played peaceful sustained chords, accompanying the singers. Even when all the instruments were added together, the piece maintained the calming tone that was present at the beginning.
"Stille Nacht" ended with the quiet rise and fall of sleigh bells, which led perfectly into the final song of the evening, "Sleigh Ride." A staple of the ensemble's holiday curriculum, "Sleigh Ride" was performed joyously. A few of the percussionists wore Santa hats or reindeer antlers, and Dr. Garcia jokingly remarked that the costume items were a measure of the group's "creativity." In particular, the expert phrasing of the bass section was very noticeable and contributed greatly to the piece overall, especially during one verse that was played in a jazz style. The traditional added instruments of "Sleigh Ride" were all present (slapstick, woodblocks, and bells), in addition to a trumpet glissando that mimicked the whinny of a horse.
NC State's Wind Ensemble fully captured the holiday sparkle with their energetic performances. Dr. Garcia's introductions to each piece gave the evening a lighthearted feeling, making it abundantly clear that the concert was meant to celebrate the holiday season.