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Imani Winds brings Afro-Cuban flair to concert

Observer Scene | Monday, November 7, 2005

Though the Imani Winds were the marquee guest performers on the set-list, the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra demonstrated its own considerable musicality over the course of a 90-minute concert.

The performance, which took place on Friday in the Leighton Concert Hall in the DPAC, was highlighted by the Imani Winds, who were well-received by both the audience and the Symphony Orchestra musicians.

“The Imani Winds were a wonderful group to perform with,” said Steve Nuanes, a junior who has played both viola and percussion with the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra the past three years. “Their musicianship was pretty evident in both the concert and their rehearsals with us.”

The Winds appeared on the centerpiece of the show, the Valerie Coleman-penned “Afro-Cuban Concerto for Woodwind Quartet.” The composition had a loose, free-flowing style that was matched – rather than overshadowed by – the accompanying orchestra.

“The music composed by Valerie Coleman was a style that was new to many of us in the orchestra. It was a good challenge for us as musicians,” said Nuanes.

While a student-musician orchestra might initially seem unsuited to the hemiola-filled polyrhythmic Afro-Cuban music of the Imani Winds, the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra showed off its adroit ability to handle a wide range of musical styles throughout the concert.

They opened with Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances” before shifting gears to George Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture.” Owing far more to the composer’s penchant for large-scale orchestral pieces than his tightly woven songbook compositions, “Cuban Overture” sprawled through a rhythmically challenging 10-minutes, which lead to the Imani Winds’ concerto. “Afro-Cuban Concerto for Woodwind Quartet” came in three distinct movements: Afro, Vocalise and Dance. The Winds played through several solo and soli cadenzas that highlighted their energetic musicality.

The Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra finished out the concert by playing Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” and Weber’s “Oberan Overture.” Following their performance, the Orchestra received a standing-ovation from the Hall’s audience.

The Imani Winds rehearsed with the Orchestra, providing education on how to improve their musicianship. Rather than take on the role of demanding professionals, the Imani Winds proved to be helpful and insightful teachers.

“They showed their love of educating students by taking time to help us develop our sound and technique for their demanding music,” said Nuanes.

The Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra will continue to rehearse and prepare for upcoming concerts, including a performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall with The Chieftains on St. Patrick’s Day. Nuanes said he appreciated how the Orchestra was received and looks forward to future performances.

“This concert allowed symphony to show how much we have developed over the last few years. It was a good step in helping us prepare to play at Carnegie Hall.”