Santa visits percussion concert

Washburn University’s Percussion Ensemble Holiday Concert was everything you would expect, as it was calming, fun and showed off an array of familiar and also less familiar Christmas songs.

The introduction was a soft and creative arrangement of “Deck the Halls” by Nathan Daughtrey that helped set the mood for the concert. The song was charming and executed on the marimba, a large instrument resembling a xylophone that, when played, produced a singsongy effect. Up next was “Housetop Variations,” a piece starting out simple and relaxing with a sudden change in the middle expressed through a march beat and ending with a satisfying version of the old favorite “Up on the Rooftop,” “Silent Night,” already a classic enjoyed by most everyone, was played beautifully by the ensemble.

The concert featured a  sing-along of the song “Caroling, Caroling,” prompted by director Tom Morgan, who claimed it to be one of his all time favorite carols. The audience sang along using the lyrics printed out for them on the back of the program flier.

The “Marimba Carol Medley” was a very soft, slow piece that proved how complex a song performed on the instrument can be. The student musicians, some two to a marimba, worked to play their instruments in a way that, using the wonderful acoustics of White Concert Hall, produced an organ-like effect. The song, haunting in its mood, was a vivid and engaging experience.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” a more familiar Christmas favorite, was rendered in an interesting arrangement, again by Daughtrey. You can’t have a holiday concert without “Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” and the ensemble produced a version on the marimbas of “Christmas Time is Here” that Morgan kindly dedicated to his wife.

“Carol of the Bells” was intense as usual, and delightful to watch, with the musicians showing their skills on several different instruments.

Santa himself made an appearance when he came out into the audience to pass out candy to any children (and some adults) that wanted any before performing in “Sleigh Ride,” which featured an excellent solo by Santa on the drum set.

Another “surprise guest” showed up for the last piece to participate in her own solo for “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” Kelsey Cook, a student at Washburn and part of the ensemble,  gave an impressive and skillful performance as Wanda the Renegade Elf when she sneaked out onto the stage so she could pay the drums, too, since Santa got to.

All this produced an energetic and fun conclusion to the evening that got the whole audience and ensemble involved.