It was a quiet Wednesday evening in the Recital Hall at the Performing Arts Center. When the sun was just setting and the mellow mood of the night had started to emerge, so did a recital by former professor Jeremy Johnston. When I got there, however, there were very few to witness this production at work. It was difficult to look at, for every performer no matter what they are doing, has to work very hard and practice day in and out to convey their passions to the world. I, along with 12 others, were more than happy to listen to this. Just after five, Johnston displays an instrument called a marimba. This percussion instrument consists of wooden bars that are struck by mallets to produce a musical symphony like no other instrument could.
When Johnston steps out at first, he does not speak a single word. Mysteriously and confidently did he approach his tool, and begin to display his practice and love for this skill to us all.
Although playing this instrument may sound simple to some, the performance that was given was far from easy and simply done. The audience could see Johnston marking his every move from his shoulders all the way down to his fingertips. Even the slightest motion of the mallet could change the sound completely, and with the entertainer knowing this, he was sure to act cautiously yet passionately when dealing with his instrument. It was almost if at some points that he was so synchronized with himself and the sound, that he and the instrument were one.
Only after this introductory performance did he introduce himself and thanked the few people that came to come see him. However, what was notable is that he talked very little about himself, and immediately talked about his craft and the piece he had just performed. This is very notable for someone who is performing, for it shows their love for what they do and how important it is to them, rather than speak about himself.
Following the first composition, had come seven more. Each of the songs was progressively making the performance more intimate and outstanding than the last. Johnston had touched on songs played on the marimba all the way from Europe to South America and even Asia to North America.
The most outstanding piece, however, was one from the United States. David Maslanka, an American composer, was most known for his chamber wind compositions and tremendous musical talent was quite the staple in the musical world. Unfortunately, just this past summer Maslanka passed away in his home in Montana due to colon cancer.
Johnston, when introducing this piece, was tearful speaking about it, but had felt that it was right of himself to finally perform three of his compositions. These consisted of Maslanka’s, Madrigal-My Lady White, Spring…Birds Sing…A Gift of Rings…, and For Pretty Allison. When Johnston approached his instrument one could see the sentiment he had felt about this composer’s death. Although his previous performances were wonderful, this one was different in that the emotion was shown more than I had ever seen someone play anything.
The performance of these three songs was displayed well and was a true tribute to the passing of a great musical icon.
Beyond these points, what was the most fascinating was how Johnston had taken one instrument and performed songs composed with the marimba in mind from all over the world. I personally had no knowledge of this instrument before this event. It’s an interesting addition to the musical world and I feel guilty for having not acknowledged the beautiful music it makes.
Overall, Jeremy Johnston is a diamond in the rough in the music department here at St. Cloud State University. I encourage anyone who has a love for music as much as I do, to catch his next performance no matter what he may be playing. What was most enjoyable was seeing someone who loved what they did and who was willing to share that to the world, no matter how many people were there to listen. It was a wonderful show, a wonderful night, and a treat for myself for attending.
Bethanie is a junior at St. Cloud State and is a mathematics education major with minors in mass communications and special education. This year, she is the Managing Editor for the University Chronicle, a director for in house productions at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center and a math tutor. She enjoys writing, rock concerts, and serving her community and fellow students.