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REF NO.: 109

SUBJECT: School of Music concert to usher in a new era in the province's percussion scene

DATE: March 17

On March 29, the drums will beat and a new era in the province's percussion scene will be ushered in during a concert at Memorial University's School of Music. The concert will feature three well-known percussionists, John Wyre, Bill Brennan and Rob Power. All three have been extremely influential in their musical field locally and internationally. Their concert is titled The Beaten Path and the performance will be the first time that the three notable musicians have played a full concert publicly. The concert will also include well-known musician Paul Bendzsa of Memorial's School of Music.

The Beaten Path is happening, in part, because John Wyre and Bill Brennan have recently re-located from Toronto to St. John's. While St. John's has always had a dynamic percussion scene, their recent moves to the city means that the provincial music scene -- already well-known throughout the world for events like the Sound Symposium and the Festival 500 -- will have a new constellation of talent, significantly broadening the scope of possibilities in the percussive arts.

Mr. Wyre, whose resume includes performance with the Toronto Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, among other things, says that that he moved to Newfoundland to devote more time to composing and because he found a rich cultural community here. "There is a vitality to the music and arts scene," he said. "For an artist it's inspiring. This is a culture I fell in love with and one I want to be a part of, and I look forward to making music with Bill and Rob here."

Mr. Wyre was a founding member of the ensemble Nexus in which he played for over 30 years. He is also the author of a book, Touched By Sound, A Drummer's Journey. His compositions have been performed by the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Japan Philharmonic, Nexus, and other orchestras in North America and Europe. The creator and artistic director of World Drums, the distinguished percussionist has organized and directed international drum festivals since 1984.

Dr. Tom Gordon, director of Memorial's School of Music, is excited by the recent arrival of this musical talent to his city. "For more than 20 years St. John's danced to the beat of a different drummer -- the remarkable Don Wherry," Dr. Gordon noted. "With Don's passing in the summer of 2001 the shape of his legacy hung in the air as a question mark. But a year-and-a-half later, we can see that the wildly creative environment he fostered is attracting more remarkable musicians here and who are opening new adventures in music to us."

Bill Brennan, a St. John's native, recently moved back to his hometown, after 20 years of artistic success in Canada and around the world. Mr. Brennan is a percussionist, pianist and composer. He has played with such groups as the National Ballet Orchestra, Canadian Opera Company, and Nexus, and has backed up Cab Calloway, Eartha Kitt, Placido Domingo and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. He has also done extensive work as a studio musician and his work can be heard on some 50 CDs.

He has composed music for dance, the concert stage, and TV, including music for the CBC's The Nature of Things. Mr. Brennan has also been musical director for CBC's Vinyl Café with Stuart McLean and for the Michael Redhill play Building Jerusalem, which won the Dora Award for best new production in 2002.

"I found that much of my work was not even located in Toronto and I could travel to my work destinations from St. John's," Mr. Brennan said of his decision to return home. "St. John's is a smaller, quieter place and it's a less stressful environment. It's also home. I think that I will have more time to write and compose and I am confident that the things I am able to do musically I will still be able to do here."

Though not forming officially as a new group, the three expect that geographic proximity will lead to musical collaboration. "We are going to take it one step at a time," Mr. Brennan explained. "We are excited about this concert because we really like each other, we like one another's playing, we respect one another's musical integrity. I am sure there will be lots of possibilities for us to play again in the future."

Rob Power, an assistant professor in Memorial's School of Music and principal percussionist in the Newfoundland Symphony, is in some ways picking up where Don Wherry left off. He is currently the director of The Scruncheons, the group that Mr. Wherry founded. He is the first tenure track faculty member at the School of Music with a specialty in percussion. Mr. Power returned to Newfoundland in 2001 after spending seven years performing in Montreal and Toronto.

"The energy and vitality of the music scene in Newfoundland has been tremendously influenced by the pioneering ideas of Don Wherry," Mr. Power noted. "It seems only natural that it should continue with a renewed strength. I feel very fortunate to be a percussionist in this place, and am especially delighted to be able to make music with Bill and John. It's a very exciting time to be here."

Mr. Power has played with such artists as Rivka Golani, Trichy Sankaran and Bobby McKudo. In addition, he has played with the new music ensembles Continuum, Timeworks, and Attacca, the Celtic group Picket Line, and the orchestras of Windsor, London, and Kitchener-Waterloo. As a chamber musician, Mr. Power has appeared in world premieres by R. Murray Schafer, James Harley, Osvaldo Budon, Clark Ross, Bill Brennan, John Wyre, and Anthony Craig Hall.

Proceeds from the concert will go toward a percussion instrument fund at Memorial's School of Music. The concert will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, in the D. F. Cook Recital Hall, located in the Music Building on Memorial's St. John's campus. Parking is available in area 15, located east of the Music Building. Tickets cost $10 and $5 and are available by calling 737-4455 or on the Web at

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