Kelvin Underwood performs at one of Oregon Shakespeare Fesitval's Green Shows. - Photo courtesy of SOU

'Rolling Thunder' at SOU

Taiko drummer and percussionist Kelvin Underwood joins the Southern Oregon University Percussion Ensemble, directed by Terry Longshore, to lead a performance of Japanese composer Maki Ishii's "Monochrome." The show is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, in the Music Recital Hall on the SOU campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Ishii was born in 1936 in Tokyo. His contemporary "Monochrome" premiered in 1976 at the Metamusik Festival in Berlin, performed by taiko ensemble Za Ondekoza. Underwood became a member of Za Ondekoza when he was 19. He later studied at Berklee College of Music to pursue a career as a professional drummer. He is a member of a Los Angeles-based taiko quartet, On Ensemble, and another taiko project called Meidoko. The latter group explores the common ground of the energetic styles of taiko, jazz, alternative-rock and Brazilian drumming. Underwood lives in Ashland with his wife and son and offers drumming workshops.

Taiko, meaning "large drum" in Japanese, originated as a court style of music performed in castles and shrines. The large drums' "rolling thunder" could be heard by inhabitants of villages for miles around.

The SOU Percussion Ensemble will open the show with a piece called "Jabberwocky," a Zimbabwe-flavored marimba tune by composer Stan Stinik. "Jabberwocky" will be led by SOU alumnus Lindsay Campbell.

Up next will be "Catfish," a piece by composer Mark Applebaum of Stanford University, performed by SOU percussion group Compás, featuring percussionists Bryan Jeffs and Jacob Phelp-Ransom. "Catfish" offers each player in the ensemble a choice of three similar percussive instruments (wood, metal or skin) and uses polyrhythms and metric modulations while staying rooted in a strong sense of groove.

SOU's Reso-Nation Percussion Quartet, featuring Jordan Levell, Sean Muir and Sean Siders, will perform "Wart Hog No. 3" by Austin Wrinkle and a new composition, "Full Cycle," by one of the quartet's members, Daniel Freiberg. "Wart Hog" is rooted in the rhythms of India, and the quartet recites and performs its rhythmic language. "Full Cycle" is inspired by African music.

The percussion ensemble also will perform Anthony Cirone's "4/4 for Four" and Daniel Levitan's "Variations on a Ghanaian Theme." The concert closes with John Bergamo's Zappa-esque "Totally Hip," arranged for a 10-member ensemble playing keyboard percussion, drums, bass, junk percussion, Swiss cowbells and electronics.

Tickets cost $5, free for students, and are available by calling 541-552-6101 or at the music hall's box office before the performance.

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