ClarinetFest® 2016, Day 5: University of Texas Rio Grande – Brownsville Clarinet Ensemble

Report by Lisa Kachouee

Dr. Jonathan Guist, Associate Professor of Clarinet, led the University of Texas Rio Grande, Brownsville Clarinet Ensemble at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, August 7, in Crafton-Preyer Theatre. Reflecting his commitment to new music and expanding the clarinet choir repertoire, Guist programmed two works by young composers. The first piece, new(er) counterpoint, was composed by UTRGB student Mathew Campbell. Profoundly affected and inspired by the music of Steve Reich, Campbell originally composed new counterpoint for flute choir in 2012. Versions for strings and marimba quartet (2014) and saxophone choir (2015) followed. The clarinet choir version was composed for UTRGB alum Iris Gracia and premiered at the 2016 TMEA Conference. Scored for 8 B-flat clarinets, 2 bass clarinets and contrabass clarinet, Campbell’s work highlighted the sensitivity and independence of the performers. Creating dream-like soundscapes with layered entrances, Campbell’s work showed minimalist influence without the rigid repetition of composers like Reich. The performers also demonstrated their musical maturity by pacing the dynamics and phrasing effectively over the duration of the ten-minute work.

Guist’s second work on the program, Eleven, was originally written for the clarinet choir at the San Francisco Conservatory as a companion piece to Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint (both are scored for 9 B-flat and 2 bass clarinets). Eleven was written by Jonathan Russell, who is known as a composer and performer touring frequently as a member of the bass clarinet duo Sqwonk. Again, UTRGB’s clarinet choir tackled the minimalist-inspired work with great independence, committed phrasing, clear articulations, and robust individual and ensemble sound. The two bass clarinet parts were performed with great verve to create ideal depth to the ensemble’s overall sound. Especially impressive and notable was that Guist’s ensemble was comprised of nine undergraduate students and two recent alumni preparing for graduate school.

Dr. Lisa Kachouee is on faculty at Oklahoma City University, teaches with El Sistema Oklahoma, and is a member of the clarinet and percussion ensemble Duo Rodinia. In addition to recent solo and duo concert tours, she made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2014 and has performed with orchestras throughout the United States.

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