WMS percussionist brings piano and percussion colleagues back to The Block for Scheherazade, Stravinsky and more

Muskegon, Michigan, December 20, 2022— WMS Principal Percussionist Matthew Beck returns to The Block with a program featuring music by Steve Reich, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Igor Stravinsky, among others, at 5:00pm Saturday, January 14. Joining him will be CMU faculty member and former WMS timpanist Andrew Spencer, along with pianists Patrick Johnson from MSU and Zhao Wang from CMU. In addition to more recent works by Ivan Trevino and John Psathas, the program will feature Reich’s early minimalist Clapping Music, excerpts from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and Beck’s own version for piano and percussion of Stravinsky’s notorious Rite of Spring—the ballet score that caused a riot at its 1913 premiere.

As its name implies, Clapping Music features Beck and Spencer using nothing but their hands as instruments. Next, Wang and Johnson will perform an arrangement of Scheherazade, 3rd movement, for four-hand piano. Trevino’s Catching Shadows brings the two percussionists together again, this time for a marimba duo. Trevino is a faculty member at the University of Texas—Austin. The first half closes with all four musicians performing Matre’s Dance by John Psathas, one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed composers.

The major work on the program—comprising the entire second half—is Beck’s piano and percussion arrangement of Igor Stravinsky’s groundbreaking Rite of Spring. Beck has a natural affinity for the Rite, in which rhythmic development for the first time replaced the melodic development characteristic of all preceding classical music. Its orchestral version is awe-inspiring. Reduced for four-hand piano and percussion, its savagery is even more pronounced.

“Despite its benign-sounding name, this music has nothing to do with butterflies, birds and flowers,” says West Michigan Symphony CEO Andy Buelow. “It is a gripping, primeval work that changed classical music forever. Audiences rioted at its 1913 Paris premiere—who knows what will happen at The Block?”

Single tickets are priced at $48 for table seats, $32 for floor seats and, $10 for students with ID. To order, call 231.726.3231, visit www.TheBlockWestMichigan.org or in person at The Block, 360 W. Western Avenue, Muskegon.