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Little pieces, big music fills the Weidner

Cyndi Revolinsky , Entertainment Writer
November 14, 2013
Filed under Entertainment

In this day and age, there are a million things a person can do in a minute: order an outfit online, deposit a check, tell friends and family exactly what they’re doing and even get a full meal if their favorite fast food restaurant is moving smoothly.

UW-Green Bay faculty and friends added one more activity to the list of one-minute accomplishments Nov. 8 at the Weidner Center for Performing Art’s Fort Howard Hall. The 15-member ensemble presented UWGB’s fourth annual “A Very Small Consortium,” organized and directed by associate professor of music Michelle McQuade-Dewhirst. She also plays horn in the ensemble.

The event consisted of more than 30 compositions, each one completed in either 60 notes or less than 60 seconds.

The free concert commenced at 7:30 p.m. with a composition lasting about 20 seconds.

“Nobody Expects the Tiny Cheesehead Music” is composed by David Dexter and was performed by associate professor John Salerno and special guest Lada Gaines on the alto saxophones.

“The original idea of a miniature piece came from an ensemble in New York City called the New York Miniaturists Ensemble and I really liked the idea,” McQuade-Dewhirst said. “I asked the guy who ran it if I could franchise it and he said yes.”

After asking the faculty if they were interested and seeing who was on board, McQuade-Dewhirst implanted the idea on campus.

“We’ve been doing it ever since,” McQuade-Dewhirst said. “It’s really become a tradition.”

The event program summed up the night’s compositions by saying “We do more with less. We get to the point. We do small music, but we have big plans.”

Throughout the recital, a slideshow ran in the background, offering insight to the composers, images relating to the piece being performed or humorous comments about what was being played. The audience laughed out loud due to the content of numerous slides. The backdrop for McQuade-Dewhirst’s recital of Michael Mikulka’s “Are They Ill-Tempered?” was a picture of a man with his hands up. The caption read “Get at me, bro!”

“I came last year for this concert and really enjoyed it,” Courtney Ingraham, sophomore music major, said. “What stuck out to me was how they presented each piece by using the projector and the way they expressed the music.”

During Daniel Crawford’s “A Song for Our Warming Planet,” which was performed by special guest Michael Dewhirst on the cello, the audience was informed that the composer took climate data from 1880 to 2012 and then applied it to the chromatic scale.

Dewhirst then played “Denial” composed by his wife, McQuade-Dewhirst. The screen displayed a picture of three monkeys: one seeing no evil, one speaking no evil, and one hearing no evil.

“I believe that the note Global Warming ended on is the same note ‘Denial’ began,” Melissa Tschamler, special guest violist, said. “I just thought the connection was hilarious.”

This was Tschamler’s first time participating in “A Very Small Consortium” and she said she will be back next year.

Compositions were selected by McQuade-Dewhirst, who invited submissions from faculty and other composers. After reviewing each piece, the final set list included works by Timothy Melbinger, UWGB alumnus Tim Kiefer, Salerno, and Murray Gross to name a few.

Additional special guests were violinist Ross Ipson, tenor saxophonist Michael Lund-Ziegler, alto saxophonist Jennifer Johnson and baritone saxophonist Steven Johnson.

Faculty members Eric Hansen on clarinet, Sarah Meredith Livingston singing mezzo-soprano, pianist Abigail Mace, Courtney Sherman singing soprano, Adam Gaines on trumpet and Kevin Collins on trombone filled out the rest of the ensemble.

“We are lucky that we have a really nice community for great musicians who are interested in new music and experimentation,” McQuade-Dewhirst said. “You get people who want to do cool stuff and cool stuff happens.”

The recital ended with a pop as each performer placed themselves in a semi-circle around a vintage popcorn maker. In a piece titled “Fliegenmaismusik,” there was no reading of music, but rather each musician reacted to what the popcorn machine did. As popcorn flew, different notes exploded, creating an unconventional melody.  Translated, fliegenmaismusik means flying corn music.

“I really enjoyed seeing all of the different pieces the composers came up with, with a lot of limitations,” Lund-Ziegler said. “It was really clever music, and the popcorn machine was just great.”

“A Very Small Consortium” is open to the public and occurs every fall. For more information on upcoming events hosted by the Weidner Center, visit or like their page on Facebook.