Published February 25, 2016

Irish spring

Monmouth College Wind Ensemble to perform in Ireland, home concert is March 20
  • The Monmouth College Wind Ensemble
It will be an Irish spring for members of the Monmouth College Wind Ensemble, as they depart March 5 for a musical tour of Ireland, led by Matthew Wanken, the college’s director of instrumental studies.
  Performances will be given at the Curtis Auditorium at the Cork School of Music, St. Mary’s Church in Killarney and Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, which is just a few years short of being 1,000 years old.   “In addition to our performances, we will be participating in two musical exchanges, one with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann – a traditional Irish musical ensemble – and the other with the Kerry School of Music in Tralee,” said Wanken. “I think the biggest benefit of our trip to Ireland will be the two exchange performances we will play. In both, we get a chance to meet, interact and make music with local musicians. It speaks to the universality of music when two groups can come together in such a significant way.”   In between the performances, the group will enjoy the scenic Irish countryside and visit historic sites, such as Blarney Castle, the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher and Trinity College in Dublin, which hosts the Book of Kells.   The Wind Ensemble will return to campus on March 13 and will perform a home concert in the Kasch Performance Hall of the college’s Dahl Chapel and Auditorium on March 20 at 2 p.m.   “We will be presenting some standards of the wind band – ‘Toccata for Band and Masque’ – as well as newer works, such as ‘Dusk’ by Steven Bryant,” said Wanken. “Also on the program, there will be works inspired by traditional Celtic music – ‘Fantasy on a Gaelic Hymnsong’ by David Holsinger and the setting of ‘Irish Tune from County Derry’ by Percy Grainger.”   In addition to American band works, the ensemble will also perform “Blackwater” by Fergal Carroll, who serves as the staff conductor of the Army No. 1 Band of the Irish Defence Forces.   “The ability of an ensemble to tour is one of the greatest learning experiences we can give to our students,” said Wanken. “Normally, we rehearse for months and present one concert. On a tour, you have the opportunity to perform the same music several times and in acoustically different spaces. With each performance, students gain the opportunity to connect more with the music and their fellow musicians, as well as grow in their overall musicianship.”   A highly selective ensemble for wind and percussion musicians, the Wind Ensemble is the cornerstone of the college’s comprehensive band program, performing the finest available repertoire, including both traditional literature and new compositions in the expanding wind band medium. The group serves as a musical ambassador to alumni, prospective students and the general public. Members major in nearly every program on campus, offering well-rounded musical experiences.   Active throughout Western Illinois as a guest conductor and adjudicator, Wanken also conducts the Fighting Scots Marching Band, provides lessons to all woodwind students and teaches courses in music education and music appreciation.   A native of Illinois, he received his bachelor’s degree in music education from St. Olaf College and a master’s degree from the University of Iowa. Prior to his appointment at Monmouth, Wanken was a faculty member at Bradley University and Carl Sandburg College.
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