Eclectic group with Queens roots to play SJU

Percussia -- including harpist Susan Jolles (form l.), percussionist Ingrid Gordonwill, violist Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin and flautist Margaret Lancaster -- will perform at St. John's University in Jamaica on Dec. 1. Photo by Anna Rozenblat
TimesLedger Newspapers

A Jackson Heights-based chamber music ensemble’s eclectic arrangements will be featured on St. John’s University’s Jamaica campus Dec. 1 showcasing the musical genius of its percussionist and artistic director, Ingrid Gordon, and renowned harpist Susan Jolles, a longtime Forest Hills resident.

Playing modern classical music that draws on world, pop and folk genres, Percussia uses stylistically surprising, exquisitely crafted compositions that hold a wonderfully universal appeal. With a repertoire of exciting programs its concerts are as much fun to watch as they are to hear.

“Making percussion central to the chamber music experience introduces an element of choreography and physicality not usually found on the concert stage,” said Gordon, who founded the group in 2000. “Audiences are drawn into the music by a combination of intriguing melodies and colorful sounds as musicians move from drums and gongs to vibraphones and marimbas.”

The group will spotlight a soulful, Asian-inspired piece by an American composer, another by a Greek-American composer and three original commissioned works. The concert begins at 6 p.m.

Gordon’s musical mastery will be evident on vibraphone, xylophone, bongos, snare drum, temple blocks, cymbal, triangle and Orff (mini) xylophone, as will some of New York’s finest percussion musicians playing classical instruments like the viola and flute. Several pieces for concert harp will be performed by Susan Jolles, a Forest Hills resident, who also plays on Broadway and with the Metropolitan Opera.

Gordon, a Jackson Heights resident, met Jolles on a recording session in Manhattan and was so taken by her amazing playing and gracious personality that she began commissioning and arranging pieces that featured the harp just to have the chance to work with her.

“She’s an inspiration to me as a human being and an artist,” Gordon said. “Performing with Susan is one of my life’s greatest joys. Her reputation as one of America’s foremost harpists is well-deserved.”

Themes touched on in this concert include video game music, children’s stories and tiny instruments like the Celtic harp, Orff xylophone and glockenspiel — even an arrangement of the “Super Mario Bros.” theme song.

“As a musician working in city schools, I’ve become artistically inspired by my — mostly teenage — students’ passions and interests. Tiny instruments are traditionally used to teach music to young kids, but I was struck by how beautiful they were in their own right and thought it would be interesting to use them in my own music making,” said Gordon, whose musical niche ranges from orchestral to West African drumming.

“I’m also hoping that playing music inspired by youth culture in an innovative, artistic way may draw youngsters to classical music concerts.”

Gordon has appeared at Carnegie Hall and with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

IF YOU GO

St. John’s University

Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery

80-00 Utopia Pkwy., Jamaica

Free and open to the public

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