Last Sunday, April 7, University of Richmond students, faculty and members of the greater Richmond community gathered on the Westhampton Green for food, games and culturally diverse live music during the music department's annual Global Sounds concert.
The outdoor concert is held every year, but this year it was part of a new, larger showcase called Day of Play. Global Sounds was expanded to include lawn games, an empanada truck and a kid-friendly ‘instrument petting zoo,’ where visitors could test out instruments that were used in the concert.
The second half of the Day of Play program featured a performance by Eighth Blackbird, the Grammy-winning ensemble-in-residence at UR, and Richmond students. The whole event was part of the Tucker-Boatwright Festival of Literature and the Arts.
Some UR classes -- West African Drumming, Japanese Taiko, Brazilian Music and Global Drums -- participated in the concert. Sophomore Liu Zixuan also played a traditional Chinese composition on the guqin, a revered Chinese instrument.
The River City Taiko and Gamelan Raga Kusuma ensembles from the city of Richmond played alongside students, embodying the feeling of camaraderie and community that the event director, Andy McGraw, wanted to foster.
“These musics that we’re performing all have historical roots in community-based ceremony, or collective activity, or a kind of engagement with the kind of people you find in a community,” said McGraw, an associate professor of music, who directed and performed with the Global Repertoires and Gamelan Raga Kusuma ensembles.
Global Sounds' casual, welcoming setting and ambiance were intended to match the music itself, and McGraw emphasized the importance of forming a community while learning the instruments and the music. Creating a space for students to appreciate the music without the pressures of a formal venue was an integral part of planning the event.
Alasdair Denvil, the instructor of Japanese Taiko, highlighted how beneficial it was for his students to work alongside the seasoned musicians from the off-campus ensembles.
“The students in the UR ensemble are performing taiko for the first time, sometimes performing music for the first time — or dance, since taiko has a lot of dance choreography,” Denvil said. “So I assume they're a bit relieved to have an experienced dance partner. But there's actually a mutual excitement. The UR ensemble is eager to play with River City Taiko, and vice versa.”
Senior Benjamin Pomerantz has taken Roderick Davis’s West African Drumming class five times; four times to fulfill his Visual and Performing Arts general education credit, and once more just for fun. He also took Japanese Taiko for the first time this semester and performed with both ensembles during Global Sounds.
“It’s cool to see all the different traditions come together when everyone plays together, because they're different,” Pomerantz said. “African drumming is polyrhythmic, so you've got people doing different stuff at the same time, but with taiko, everyone has to be doing the same stuff at the same time.”
Pomerantz said that the spring Global Sounds concert is always a fun event for the classes that participate in the performance, and he enjoyed how it was expanded to include games and food this year as part of the Day of Play.
Denvil said he appreciated how the history of taiko fit into this year’s Tucker-Boatwright Festival theme: Beyond Exoticism. Taiko, though it originated in Japan, has gone through several cultural transformations and now defies being labeled as any one genre of music, taking it ‘beyond exoticism.’
Denvil, like many others who attended and participated in the concert, had only positive things to say about the day of music, community and culture.
“The weather played along, and us taiko folks got to hear the other ensembles do their thing, which is always a pleasure,” Denvil said. “Kevin's ensemble played ‘Canto de Xango’ which is one of my favorites. And we had an audience that applauded us and chatted with us afterwards, and who got to listen to music they otherwise might not have encountered. All in all, a good day.”
Contact lifestyle writer Lauren Guzman at email@example.com.