As part of their Serenade Series, the Salisbury Symphony is featuring sections of the orchestra with their own recital performances. For an orchestra’s percussionists, this performance setting is a great way to show off the hidden talents of the section hidden furthest back on stage. Principal percussionist Amanda Sycamore, Isaac Pyatt, Peter Zlotnick, and Gilson Fearnow brought nothing short of a horde of instruments and equipment for a complete percussion ensemble performance.

True to the repertoire, the program pulled from a variety of influences and showcased the ever-evolving dynamics of the percussion ensemble. Opening with a commissioned work from contemporary percussion ensemble Third Coast Percussion, The Hero, Fearnow was situated on cajón, circled by Sycamore, Zlotnick, and Pyatt on keyboards. Like an unorthodox drum set player, Fearnow kept a semi-melodic groove going on cajón while also juggling China cymbal, shake, and glockenspiel. Enterprising and spirited, the piece started the concert with an energetic tone. Thankfully, everyone in the ensemble had their moment in the spotlight. In the “sorbet” of the evening, Sycamore dazzled the audience with her acrobatic xylophone playing in the foxtrot-inspired Triplets. Pyatt’s athletic 4-mallet marimba playing on The Last Game was just as visually engaging as it was musically, and Zlotnick’s ensemble leadership in the trio piece, Halo by Joel W. Moore III, gave a clear indication of the music’s deliberate variance from player to player. Considering that the group likely only had a few rehearsals to put this music together, I was impressed by their coherent ensemble playing and sense of communication. I’m sure this isn’t a common complaint when it comes to percussion music, but I wish it had been louder! This is my second time listening to a recital-style performance in Hedrick Theater and I don’t think the space is doing any favors for performers. Every member of the ensemble was impeccably prepared and so thankfully the hall didn’t reveal any misalignments, but I did feel that it sapped energy from their otherwise very exciting performance.

One thing that is always special about a Salisbury Symphony event is how endearing the audience is throughout. Before the show, I typically hear friends and family catching up with one another. I get the sense that for regular attendees, the Salisbury Symphony is a space that actively brings community members together. And as audience members, the Salisbury crowd is eager to interact with the performers. In between pieces and set changes, the audience was quick to interact with the performers as they spoke about the works on the program. As a performer, it always feels lucky to have an audience that isn’t afraid to vocalize and express their enthusiasm for the music. Salisbury’s percussionists should come with an encore ready to go for their next concert because the audience was insistent for more!

Salisbury has a lot of talent and I’m glad to see them showing it off. This concert was a testament to the demands of professional percussion playing and demonstrated just how skilled and knowledgeable percussionists need to be to hit things for a living! As the symphony wraps up their season with a final Woodwind Serenade Series concert in June, they also begin a search for a new head conductor. Hopefully this year of recital concerts with the Serenade Series will help them ease them into a year of guest conductor candidates.