The Triangle Wind Ensemble gave its first concert of the season, “A River Runs Through It,” featuring music inspired by or related to rain, rivers, and other water themes; the concert also introduced Dr. Evan Feldman as the group’s new Music Director. Dr. Feldman currently also serves as Assistant Professor of Music at UNC-Chapel Hill and director of the Greensboro Concert Band in Greensboro, NC. This concert was presented at the Cary Arts Center, which was recently renovated from being Cary Elementary and is now an up-and-coming performance space.

Members of the KinderVillage Music Studio were present at the beginning of the concert, providing a “sea soundscape” to set the mood; the children stood in the aisles shaking rain sticks and rattles to sound like waves and steering remote-controlled flying fish balloons above the audience. This, along with a slideshow of rivers, castles, and hunting scenes projected on the back wall of the stage helped carry over the water theme, especially during the wind ensemble’s performance of Smetana’s “Moldau.” Originally written for orchestra, the piece was transcribed a bit awkwardly for a wind ensemble, but TWE handled it well. A few moments where the music was set up to climax out of woodwind runs fell a little flat, but the brass section in the middle, depicting Czech hunting horns, made up for these in their enthusiasm and clarity.

Dr. Feldman gave the members of the audience their first taste of his personality at the beginning of the last work played before intermission, Howard Hanson’s Dies Natalis. He explained that this was going to be longer than the previous two numbers, and he went to great pains to explain its structure. He said that the piece came from an old Lutheran chorale and he had the brass instruments play it; the next section was a fully harmonized version of the chorale, which he also had the ensemble demonstrate. He went on in this way through five or six different demonstrations before he concluded, “so it’s a lot of music…, but really it’s just a little [chorale] bit.” The explanation was well-meant, catering to the KinderVillage students who were still present – younger and with shorter attention spans – but might have been a bit long-winded for the adults. The complete work was played quite skillfully, supported by the ensemble’s dramatic and spirited brass players.

The music that most exemplified the abilities of the ensemble was at the end of the program – Percy Grainger’s “Spoon River” tune and the Naval Academy’s classic “Anchors Aweigh.” Grainger, known for using a wide range of orchestration techniques, was highly knowledgeable in how to blend tones and colors of different instruments effectively, and this skill carries over into how his music sounds as a result. The Triangle Wind Ensemble played Grainger’s relatively unknown work in such a way that the rhythms were clear but the harmonies were also very deep. There were a few issues with the harpist and pianist, who had entered the stage only one number prior to “Spoon River” and might not have been totally focused yet; they didn’t quite rhythmically fit into the sound of the ensemble, but this might also have been caused by their placement to the extreme left of the stage.

“Anchors Aweigh” was also a great piece for the ensemble because it was originally written for this particular assortment of instruments and it is in a style with which most of the players were familiar. The woodwinds did an excellent job tackling the quick flourishes throughout, and the brass had another moment of excellence during the final strain when they gave their melody some much-needed edge to help the concert close with a bang.

Dr. Feldman showed his enthusiasm for conducting in the high quality and level of difficulty at this concert. The Triangle Wind Ensemble’s reputation for collaborating with area schools was also demonstrated through the participation of KinderVillage students and Wind Ensemble members working together to open the evening concert. The next performance will be on December 11 at 3:00, also at the Cary Arts Center, and based on this premiere, Dr. Feldman and TWE are sure to deliver. See our calendar for details, or click here.