IWU Wind Ensemble ushers “End of World”

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Schelle, who recently visited IWU, poses for a picture with his cat.

By Eric Novak, Staff Writer

For those of you who are not in on the musical activities occurring around campus, the Illinois Wesleyan University Wind Ensemble has just recently premiered a piece for the first time in Illinois. “End of the World”, written by Pulitzer Prize in Music nominee Michael Schelle, is a tri-movement work just recently written.

Schelle is no novice composer, holding multiple degrees in composition, theatre and philosophy. He has even studied with composer Aaron Copland, who is often referred to as the “Dean of American Composition,” creating a style that was distinctly American. Before Copland, most music had a strong European influence.

The piece was premiered at the Wind Ensemble Concert last Thursday, Feb. 2. It performed last in the program, as if to invoke tension from the audience as they wondered how the end of the world might sound in music form. The ensemble was performing a piece a lot of people could relate to, as the end of the world phenomenon is likely not far from people’s thoughts, whether they believe it or not.

But, even though the concert was on a Thursday, I was still disappointed to see the dismal attendance, especially for such an important concert. Most of the seats were empty with only small groups of people scattered about.

Regardless of the attendance, the concert went on as planned. From the first note, the Wind Ensemble sounded in top form and played their best concert of the year so far. The concert went smoothly, full of engaging pieces that were either energized or lyrical and beautiful. Inspired by professor of music and band director Steven Eggleston’s top notch musical direction, all the musicians in the band played in top form, and the soloists didn’t miss a note.

After intermission, the ensemble found itself at the final and most important song, “End of the World.” This was the first time the piece would ever be heard in Illinois, so the pressure was on. Not to mention, the composer and his wife were also in the audience waiting to hear the premiere.

“End of the World” is somewhat of a cacophony of sound. At first listen, one might dismiss it as just that, noise. But the more you listen, the more you can discern small bits of a choppy melody. Then again, who expects the end of the world to be melodic anyway?

But the Wind Ensemble made sure to play the piece with a lot of nuance and attention to the small details, so it could avoid being dismissed as just a bunch of noise.

But this wasn’t the end. This piece has one more trick up its sleeve: a bagpiper. Lieutenant Steve Riesenberg was asked to play bagpipe with the ensemble at the end of the piece. The addition of this unusual instrument added an element of interest to the ensemble. Overall, listening to the “End of the World” was a very dreamlike experience.

The composer came onstage at the end of the concert and exchanged an endearing hug with Professor Eggleston and Lieutenant Riesenberg. The concert was a huge success.

Lieutenant Riesenberg left the Wind Ensemble with an inspiring, thoughtful quote. “The music you make certainly makes the world a more elegant place to live,” Riesenberg said.