Friday, June 12, 2009

Senegalese Drums and the Portland Symphony

Tuesday night's Portland Symphony concert was such a pleasure.  The first half was Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.  I think my tiredness from the three am drive down the mountain with Izzie kicked in.  I enjoyed the first and last movements, i.e., Introduzione and Finale.  Oh well, I'll have to get a recording to see what I missed.  The second half was a piece by James DeMars called "Sabar: Concerto for Senegalese Drums and Orchestra."  What a treat!  According to the notes it was first performed in 2001 under the direction of the current Portland Symphony conductor, Robert Moody.  Not only does it have drums, it had three dancers, two men and one woman; one of the men had the most infectious smile.  The four drummers (pictured above from last Sunday's Portland Press Herald: Sonja Branch, Abdou Kounta, Mark Sunkett and Medoune Guey) also spoke at times while drumming, starting with a blessing (I'm giving you the English translation), which is apparently traditional in Senegal: 
I (we) belong to you 
from the day of my birth
to the day of my death
I (we) belong to you
My (God).
Isn't that a wonderful thought.  Imagine starting every work with blessing.  The composer wrote the following about the Sabar:
The Sabar Concerto was initiated at the requrest of Maestro Hermann Michael and Dr. Mark Sunkett for the purpose of creating a work that would integrate the musicians of two cultures to celebrate a new millenium.
Mark Sunkett, an ethnomusicologist, was one of the drummers and teaches drumming.  All in all a very satisfying evening.  I was looking for a review of the concert, but I couldn't find one. The people I spoke with found it quite satisfying.

My only concern was, of course, my Izzie. She had very good care spending the night with one friend, and when I returned Wednesday morning, she was sound asleep on the floor of the room where the search committee was meeting at the foot of another friend.  She continues to react pretty well to the medicine and is sleeping lots.  She does not like the steps up to the bed.  We're working on it. 


alipso said...

Here's a review from Thursday's Press Herald. Who would ever have thought we'd hear African drumming on stage with the Portland Symphony? A really special end to the PSO season.

motheramelia said...

Thank you alipso. I liked the last sentence of the review. "It was hard to tell who deserved the standing ovation more – the orchestra, the drummers or the dancers." I couldn't agree more

Grandmère Mimi said...

There was a time when I was not a particular fan of Bartók, but one evening the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performed one of his concerti for piano and orchestra. I don't know which concerto, nor which pianist, but the performance was superb, and that turned me around in my opinion of Bartok. I remember telling my friend, "I never thought I'd say this, but I enjoyed the Bartók best of all."