Swedish artists, UAF musicians share the stage at Ensemble 64.8 show

Lilly Necker/Sun Star Reporter
Nov. 8 2011

Two sirens, three gongs, one piano and several drums filled the Davis Concert Hall on Nov. 5 with their unique sound. The 13-member ensemble played with an unbelievable sense of timing. Eight months ago, the musicians played together for the first time.  Some of them don’t even speak the same language.

“The Arctic Connection” was the fusion of UAFs Ensemble 64.8 and the Ensemble Evolution from the Luea University of Technology´s (LUT) Institution for Music and Media. Assistant professor and musician Morris Palter directs Ensemble 64.8. Percussion artist and composer Anders Åstrand conducts Ensemble Evolution. The group comes from Pitea, a small town in Sweden.

Even before first meeting in Indianapolis in 2010, Palter and Åstrand heard about each other and decided to play together.

“When I heard Anders work the first time I was blown away by the mad skills he has. We needed to work together. Not just for ourselves but for our students,” Palter said. 

In March 2011 Ensemble 64.8 traveled to Sweden. The group performed with Anders Åstrand, musician Daniel Sauer and the rest of Ensemble Evolution at the Percussion Repertoire Festival and several concerts at UAF’s sister school LUT. Saur is one of the founders of the professional ensemble Global Percussion Network, and is known for playing entire concerts on ice instruments.

Ensemble Evolution decided to visit Fairbanks and UAF, especially because Fairbanks and Pitea have more in common than passionate percussion groups.

“The latitude there in Sweden is almost identical with that in Fairbanks. Therefore, I felt this week there like I am still at home, besides everyone is talking Swedish.” Palters said.

The team began with a piece by Edgard Varèse, “Ionisation.”

Besides three songs from other composers, the combo played self-composed pieces with atmospheric names like “Echo, part IV” by Maria Finkelmeier, “Walk on a White Path,” by Charles Marin. “Walk on a White Path” was written in December 2010 while Marin was experiencing an arctic winter in north Sweden for the first time, according to the program.

The Swedish classically-trained singer Anna Larson filled the concert hall with her voice, interpreting Swedish folk songs full of fervor.

Before the last Swedish song was over, Ensemble 64.8 and Ensemble Evolution started playing either a drum or a vibraphone — which looks a bit like a xylophone  — in every corner of the hall, giving new meaning to the term “surround sound.”

The team finished with Åstrand’s “Gigue,” which was composed this year. Åstrand was inspired by a Mexican friend whose family danced a traditional dance for him for two hours in front of their house.

“It was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen,” Åstrand said. 

Åstrand started playing a solo on a vibraphone with his fingertips, his elbow and sometimes his whole arm. Soon all the other artists stepped in and filled the concert hall with the sounds of a huge fiesta.

The audience responded with standing ovations. 

Audience member Richard Grisham thought the concert was really inspiring and the Swedish folk song especially nice, he said.

“It wasn’t something I normally would listen to, but it was interesting and the voice of the singer was amazing without any question,” Diane Ebenal said.

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