Thursday, May 31, 2012

Elgin Chamber Players' Lively Debut

An innovative concert program and great performances marked the arrival of a new chamber music ensemble to the Elgin arts scene. The Elgin Chamber Players, led by bass trombonist Mark Fry, presented their first formal concert in Gail Borden Library's Community Room Thursday. The free event also featured flutists Scott Metlicka and Lily Floeter (substituting for Melissa Snoza), and percussionists Matthew Coley and Lia DeRoin, all from Elgin or the surrounding area. 

Recognizing the need for more local chamber music -- concert works performed by small groups of various instruments -- the Players developed a program of rarely heard compositions played by unusual combinations of instruments. 

The attention-grabbing "100 Bars for Tom Everett" by Romanian composer Andras Szollosy paired bass trombone with bongos in a 1981 piece named after the best known master of the instrument. Informative remarks by Fry set an engaging, informal tone for the remainder of the concert.

The combination of hammered dulcimer played by Coley, with Metlicka on flute, lent a baroque quality to four "2-part Inventions" by J.S. Bach, whose counterpoint, normally played solo on a keyboard, is perhaps even more beautifully rendered by the interplay of two expressive musicians.

Diversions was an early (1960) piece by modern American composer Philip Glass, scored for two flutes (Metlicka and Floeter) and bass trombone (Fry). Its fluid, pastel chord changes were deftly shaped and intoned by the trio, despite the late addition of Floeter to the ensemble.

Houston composer and scholar Aubrey Tucker's Four Cantigas (1992), a set of four movements inspired by an ancient Spanish song style, served as the memorable finale. Led alternately by flute/piccolo (Metlicka) and bass trombone (Fry), each cantiga began in poetic free from, and evolved into metrical dance-like rhythms, showcasing the skills of percussionists DeRoin and Coley. 

The surprisingly lively sound of the room brought out every nuance of technique of the artists, whose impressive range of dynamics and tone sounded full, balanced and fresh. We welcome this superb addition to the Elgin area music scene, and look forward to more concerts of such good design and quality.