Dean Drummond Honored By Harry Partch

On Wednesday April 24, the Cali School of Music at Montclair State University presented the Harry Partch Ensemble in the Alexander Kasser Theater for a one-night only performance.

Dean Drummond was an artist with a profound passion.

The evening was dedicated to the life and legacy of Dean Drummond, the Director of the Harry Partch Institute of Montclair State University. The performance was in memoriam, as he unfortunately passed away the week before. The students performed an entire program of Harry Partch’s music, as well as compositions done by Dean Drummond for the Newband/Harry Partch Instrumentarium.

Back view of a young composer directing
© Viorel Sima | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Dean Drummond (1949-2013) was an internationally reputed composer, librettist, conductor, performer, inventor of instruments and long-time Associate Professor of Music at Montclair State University whose resourcefulness and wide scope as a musician was noted and admired by all.

The performance was preceded by a student of Dean Drummond’s who imparted humorous anecdotes to the audience about his time spent with his late favorite teacher. These were both interesting and touching, giving the audience a context to the show that might not have otherwise occurred, helping them to connect with the man being honored, even though many of them might not have known him.

The program consisted of nine pieces of varying length. There was also variety in the instruments used and the amount of musicians. There was, however, a common feel throughout all of the music played, a thematic calmness and tranquility, while still entertaining and entrancing the audience with an interesting individuality from other Kasser Theater productions.

The instruments used in the ensemble included kithara ii, bass marimba, intoning voice, diamond marimba, harmonic canon, surrogate kithara, chromelodeon I, zoomoozophone, bamboo marimba, cone gongs, spoils of war, adapted guitar I, cloud chamber bowls and surrogate kithara.

“All the instruments sounded really cool together and the sound wasn’t at all what I expected from this performance when I got my ticket,” claims Thomas Carey Gsell, Montclair State student who was in the audience.

Pieces like “Linger While Dancing,” “Duet for Zoomoozophone” and “Facets” were intrinsically impressive because they managed to fill the room with a full sound, as the result of only two performers.

Alternatively, instrument-heavy numbers like the finale, “Castor and Pollux,” included seven instrumentalists and provided not only a full sound, but one with extreme variety that left the audience unsure what to expect next with every note that echoed through the room.

There was also a surprising element of humor found in some of the pieces in this performance, such as “The Lesson of the Moth,” the text of which was written by E.E. Cummings, where the vocals provided an amusing story about, as one might have guessed, a moth.

All in all, Dean Drummond would surely be proud of his students for their performance, and touched by all those who came out in his memory. His good name shall surely be well preserved with concerts as successful as this. He will be missed.

Coming up next at Kasser Theatre is Andrew Lippa’s “Wild Party,” performed by Montclair State’s College of the Arts. The show runs from May 1 through May 8 and tickets are sold for $15. Please be advised that this show  contains adult themes and content. For more information, please visit the Peak Performances website.

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