This hour’s Lagniappe Recital featured a diverse group of performers playing modern repertoire. First, the United States Army Band Clarinet Ensemble performed three pieces for clarinet quintet. Two of the pieces, written by popular contemporary composer Scott McAllister, showcased the modern capabilities of the instrument. In Devil Sticks the ensemble exhibited excellent dynamic contrast and notable control when playing softer dynamics, especially in a dry-sounding hall. Ketchak III featured the classic Scott McAllister sound of echoing falls (downward glissandos) passed around the ensemble. (McAllister utilized this effect frequently in his duo concerto FreeBirds; imagine that sound multiplied times five in Ketchak III.) The Army Clarinet Ensemble had a chance in this piece to showcase their lightning-fast technique. In contrast, a slow second theme played in unison (spread out over 3+ octaves) provided tricky challenges of intonation. This piece truly demands everything of the individual player as well as the ensemble, packaged into a single movement work extremely accessible and entertaining to the listener.
Next, Scot Humes (clarinet) and Mel Mobley (percussion) performed two pieces for an unusual duo, clarinet and marimba. Humes exhibited an impressive display of extended tecniques, including a lengthy section of the sonic mysteries that are multiphonics in Philip Bradbury’s Impromptu for Clarinet and Marimba.
Last on the program, clarinetist Keith Lemmons performed a trio for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet and alto sax by Charles Ruggiero. While this piece did not showcase the clarinet as much as I would have liked, Lemmons demonstrated capable versatility in his performance on both B-flat and bass clarinet while switching comfortably between classical and jazz styles. The ensemble balanced very nicely considering the inherent differences in the volume of the instruments, playing with acute dynamic sensitivity.
–Notes by Melissa Bowles Snavely
Melissa Bowles Snavely holds degrees in performance and music education from The Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins, Shenandoah Conservatory, and James Madison University. She currently teaches and performs in the Washington DC area.