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Percussion studies plus: Recital series concludes with unusual chamber program

John O’Neal, seated, percussion, with Joe Nibley, trumpet, left, and Justin Hubbard, alto saxophone, will perform in the final program in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango Recital Series on Friday (May 20). (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

“Very listenable.” “Audience friendly.”

Percussionist John O’Neal used these phrases to describe the final program in the Unitarian Recital Series on Friday (May 20). Rescheduled from February, the musical offering has been a long time coming, and O’Neal added some wedding music and another soloist to his original mix. he will perform with two of his colleagues from the Fort Lewis College Music Department, trumpeter Joe Nibley and saxophonist Justin Hubbard.

“We’ve put together a program of 20th century music that mixes in a bit of jazz,” O’Neal said. “It’s a light, enjoyable program.”

Expect to hear “In Your Quiet Place,” by Keith Jarrett, which the famous jazz pianist recorded with Gary Burton on vibraphone in 1971. O’Neal will do the honors in a solo vibraphone arrangement later developed by Burton.

“Sleight of and Evil Hand,” another unusual piece, will find O’Neal working his magic on solo snare drum. Composer Casey Cangelosi created the piece to be performed with a second instrument of a different breed: a metronome. The soloist will play in, around, and with a 6-count pendulum bell metronome. It will be one of the most unusual musical duets heard in Durango in a long time.

O’Neal will open the program with “Raghavan,” a mesmerizing work with continuous layered rhythms inspired by South Indian mridangam music and the composer whose name the work carries. O’Neal will perform on a variety of drums including bass plus high-hat and tom-toms.

If you go

WHAT: Final UU Recital: Percussionist John O’Neal; Joe Nibley, trumpet; Justin Hubbard, saxophone; with pianist Marilyn Garst.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday (May 20).

WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 419 San Juan Drive.

ADMISSION: $20 adults, $8 students with ID and children, tickets available at the door.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit durangouu.org/events/recital-series, call Marilyn Garst: 385-8668 or email mmgarst1940@gmail.com.

Alto saxophonist Hubbard will join O’Neal on vibraphone for Josh Spaulding’s “To Build a Bond So Strong.” The duet was written to celebrate the wedding of the composer’s good friends and blends two sonorities that may well symbolize intertwining lives.

Trumpet professor Nibley will join O’Neal for four sections of James Stephenson’s “Vignettes for Trumpet and Percussion.” Inspired by a student friend who lived on a lower floor at the New England Conservatory, the work expresses composer Stephenson’s experience hearing his colleague’s trumpet soliloquies.

Percussionist John O’Neal poses with his duet partner, a pendulum bell metronome, before a performance of “Sleight of and Evil Hand,” by Casey Cangelosi. (Courtesy of Judith Reynolds)

The third movement of Emmanuel Séjourné’s “Concerto for Marimba and Strings” will close the program. Originally written in 2005 with two movements, the composer added a section in 2015, to create a standard three-movement concerto. Marilyn Garst will accompany O’Neal in a piano reduction of the string parts.

As the UUFD Recital series closes its 14th season, O’Neal’s creative programming continues Garst’s always innovative vision of chamber music in Durango.

Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.