Wind quintet tries to stretch classical limits

Group presents fusion of European, African musical traditions

Posted: Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Imani Winds, an African-American and Latin wind quintet that combines European and African musical traditions, formed in 1996 knowing there was a narrow repertoire for wind quintet.

That hasn't limited them.

"We formed with the real intention of doing some new and interesting things to classical music," said bassoon player Monica Ellis from a tour stop in Kodiak. "The music that we play kind of represents the need for the quintet repertoire to be expanded, and I think it represents the people that we are as well."

Imani Winds - clarinet, flute, bassoon, french horn and oboe - plays at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, at Northern Light United Church.

Tickets are $18 for general admission, $14 for students and seniors, $60 for families and available at Hearthside and Rainy Day Books. For more information, call the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council at 586-ARTS.

"Being musicians of color, we come from similar cultural backgrounds, and that manifests itself in the music that we play as classical musicians and the instruments that we've devoted our lives to," Ellis said. "We don't want to be limited to what the classical music world often times says it the only things these instruments can play."

Flute player Valerie Coleman and French horn player Jeff Scott are composers. Every Imani Winds concert includes at least one of their pieces.

"Umoja," the group's 2002 debut release, included percussion and elements of jazz.

"We really wanted to show that classical instruments can play music from around the world, and percussion and rhythm is a big part of that music," Ellis said.

Imani Winds shows normally include introductions and explanations before each song. That's just part of the responsibility of a classical music performer, Ellis said.

"All across the country people are realizing that there audiences are there children," Ellis said. "Audiences are dwindling in classical music circles, so they really have to make the audience a big part of their presentation."

Thursday's show is co-sponsored by Cellular One, the Goldbelt Hotel and Grey Line of Alaska.

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