Mercyhurst University Institute for Arts & Culture

Monday @ 8:00 pm

Erie, PA

Gig Details


Venue Details

Walker Recital Hall, Mercyhurst University 501 E 38th St
Erie, PA 16546


Marc Mellits, Splinter (2014)
Natalie Draper, Music of Foghorns an Seabirds (2018)
Becky TurroThaw (2018)


Rob Deemer, Gallimaufry (2015)
George Gershwin, An American in Paris (1928) arr. Hekkema

Program Notes

The 7-time national prize-winning Akropolis Reed Quintet presents “Under the Influence,” a program all about music’s ability to absorb and transmit images, emotions, and experiences. Each piece of music is inspired by an image or experience, including frozen lakes, rocking boats, exotic Dr. Seuss-inspired objects, and more. Featuring an epic arrangement of George Gershwin’s An American in Paris, the program also includes Marc Mellits’ Splinter as well as works by Rob Deemer, Natalie Draper, and Becky Turro, each commissioned by Akropolis, whose music the San Francisco Chronicle dubs, “Pure Gold.”

Composer Marc Mellits’ music contains driving rhythms, soaring lyricism, and colorful orchestrations, which might seem difficult to capture all at once. In the case of his first work for reed quintet–formed in short miniatures like most of Mellits’ music–the listener experiences repetitious motives which, through subtle changes, create elongated phrases and broader musical structures. Even among the identical openings of movements 1 and 6 (as well as a few bars of directly transplanted content in movements 5 and 8), the listener gets a broader sense of the greater architecture in the work, even as motives continue to drive, repeat, and subtlety evolve. Mellits’ musical upbringing was varied, including rock and electronic music influences, which became a part of his musical instincts early on and make a thrilling contribution to his classical compositions today.

Music of Foghorns and Seabirds
From composer Natalie Draper: “Music of Foghorns and Seabirds was written in 2018 for Akropolis Reed Quintet and was premiered in East Haddam, CT and New York City in August, 2018. Much of my recent music has reflected visual landscapes and nature. This piece evokes a scene from the ocean—undulating foghorns, shifting boats, and murmurations and chirping of seabirds. In this sense it is a soundscape, very much influenced by impressionism and experimentalism. Each movement presents a unique scene: I. In the Distance, II. Murmuration, and III. Into the Haze.

From composer Becky Turro: “Thaw was inspired by a trip with my girlfriend to Acadia National Park, Maine in early March. The first movement, “Hyperborea,” was inspired by Cadillac Mountain, seen in the aftermath of a snowstorm that arrived our first day there. “Echo Lake” is also a place within Acadia. This movement begins with a smooth, frozen texture that slowly melts away as the sun comes out. The third movement, “Kaleidoscope Cove,” is the most flowing and bright, and characterizes the ocean dancing and crashing against the orange cliffs. Chronologically, the movements move from frozen to melted, thawing into the arrival of spring.” 


In GallimaufryDeemer uses each instrument as a different, unique material, considering its sound, volume envelope, and articulations. He combines them to allow the listener to hear both each instruments’ singular colors as well as the reed quintet’s combined palette. When conceiving this work and beginning to compose it, Deemer announced to Akropolis his vision of the piece and of the reed quintet as an object: a giant Dr. Seuss-inspired instrument that could break apart into smaller pieces, morph and evolve, then return to its original form. “Gallimaufry” is a word which means “hodgepodge” or a gumbo or stew.

An American in Paris
In conclusion, Akropolis presents a work inspired not only by the popular music of the early 20th century, but marked by a special moment in music composition in which the concept of “acceptable” art music was beginning to rapidly evolve. In An American in Paris, Gershwin aimed to create one of his more serious works despite his natural affinity for frivolity. He consulted Ravel about this conundrum, who wisely instructed that if Gershwin was making more money than Ravel (which he was), he shouldn’t change how he writes his music. He sought advice from Nadia Boulanger, the great teacher of Aaron Copland and others. She also wisely suggested to Gershwin try to be no one but Gershwin. And so, using complex motivic development which is constantly modulating and changing form, Gershwin manages to create his most accessible, but simultaneously most complex piece of music. Among the challenges Dutch saxophonist Raaf Hekkema faced in arranging the work were how to convey these ideas with only 5 instruments. The listener might find Gershwin’s ideas even easier to deduce in the chamber music format, and Hekkema brilliantly manages to maintain Gershwin’s lush orchestrations by having all 5 members performing for nearly all of the arrangement. The continually repeating and evolving motives make for a challenging but thrilling performance which Akropolis is delighted to bring to the stage.