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April 3, 2014

OU Percussion Ensembles Concert to be thumping extravaganza

NORMAN — “Some very nice things are happening here,” Dr. Lance Drege, the director of University of Oklahoma School of Music’s percussion program, said about the program.

Drege spoke to 10 students meticulously rehearsing “The Palace of Nine Perfections,” a composition for chimes, vibraphone, marimbas, timpani and snare drum written by Eric Ewazen on commission from OU’s Percussion Orchestra.

The music was inspired by 17th century Chinese hanging scrolls painted by Yuan Chiang. It’s just one of the pieces that will be performed during the Percussion Ensembles Concert at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Sharp Concert Hall at the Catlett Music Center, 500 W. Boyd St.

During rehearsal, Drege’s educated ear occasionally heard too much accent, a few dropped notes, marimba mallets released with the wrong hand and a piccolo snare drum not called for by the prescribed instrumentation.

They are details most listeners would never hear, but he has been teaching for nearly three decades and also is the principal timpanist for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra. He pointed out these changes to his students in a precise and patiently admirable manner. Listening to the rehearsal was a tantalizing glimpse and listen into what the full concert will be like.

Three of Drege’s graduate level percussion scholars will conduct a composition each at the concert. Gary Shuda, of Grand Island, Neb., will conduct Raymond Helble’s “Diabolic Variations.” It features four complex marimba parts, with different voices for each player.

“Connecting phrasings across the ensemble is one of the biggest challenges,” he said.

Shuda digs the melting pot of genres being played around Catlett at any given hour. OU’s hotbed of beats resounds with music nearly 24/7.

“I get inspired by my peers when I see them play something awesome and by the great instruction here,” he said.

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