TT – By Ray Funk – On November 6 at 2 pm, Professor Liam Teague will offer his third faculty recital in a decade, as a professor at Northern Illinois University (NIU). It is livestreamed worldwide at https://www.niu.edu/music/performances/index.shtml. It is a rare opportunity to hear one of Trinidad’s greatest pannist in a variety of settings and performing unique new music for the instrument, by a wide variety of composers and with different accompaniment.
Teague is the professor of music and head of steelpan studies at NIU. In 2018, he became NIU presidential research, scholarship and artistry professor—a prestigious award at NIU that provides additional funding for four years, which Teague has used to commission new works for steelpan by a variety of composers with different styles, part of his personal mission to expand the repertoire for the instrument.
This recital will be dedicated to four people who have been essential to the steelpan programme at NIU, all of whom have died in the last few years.
These are its founder G Allan O’Connor, its co-director and primary link to Trinidad, Dr Clifford Alexis, resident composer at NIU Dr Jan Bach who composed for steelpan, and Lester Trilla.
Little known in Trinidad, Trilla owned a drum manufacturing company in Chicago and was invited by Cliff Alexis to attend an NIU concert, that led to Teague himself being the first recipient of a Trilla scholarship. From that first concert, he selflessly committed to becoming a patron of pan, helping to bring a number of students from Trinidad and elsewhere in the Caribbean to the music programme at NIU.
These are four key mentors in Teague’s life at NIU and it has indeed a tough losing all of these friends and colleagues. “These men profoundly impacted the trajectory of my life and that of many others, and I am extremely grateful for everything they did.”
The title piece for this recital, Sorcerer, is the premiere performance of the last piece that Jan Bach wrote for steelpan and the only solo piece he wrote for steelpan. Bach is a well-known classical composer and best known in the pan for his famous concerto for steelpan and orchestra, which Teague, that has performed with orchestras all over the world. Two of his students Mia Gormandy and Josanne Francis, both won the concerto award at NIU, performing this seminal work. Bach had also reworked the concerto to other accompaniments and at the programme, Teague will perform this seminal work with NIU’s resident Avalon String Quartet. Ben Wahlund’s Griot which features steelpan, Cheng-Hou Lee Avalon and electronic tape.
Wahlund had been part of the NIU steelband when pursuing his master’s degree and has gone on to be full-time percussion instructor at NIU and the director of percussion, at the College of DuPage as well as a noted composer.
This piece was deeply influenced by Cliff Alexis playing on the iron and Wahlund’s recordings of Alexis playing brake drum are part of this unique composition.
Geof Bradfield is a professor of Jazz Studies at NIU and a noted saxophonist and composer. He had previously worked with the world music ensemble that Teague and Robert Chappell led years ago, Panoramic, and has been a guest artist with the steelband. Teague had wanted to work with him in a duet setting, which led to Bradfield’s piece Reflections.
Teague has for several years performed with harpist Faye Seeman as a duet called Pangelic. A desire to work with her but in a trio with pianist William Goldenberg, resulted in a commission from Gustavo Leone entitled De a Dos.
This piece is a pan and harp concerto that will hopefully be played with full orchestra next year. But is heard here in a trio format.
Reggie Thomas, who is head of NIU’s jazz programme, has a long-standing relationship with the NIU steelband, having directed them as well as done joint performances with the steelband and jazz orchestra. Thomas’s Steel Peace for steelpan and piano will be their first duet together.
The final piece will be the premiere of the aptly titled The Closer a marimba and pan duet by Teague’s friend and percussion colleague at Indiana University, Kevin Bobo, who has composed several pieces foe Teague over the last several years.
Bobo has travelled the world as a master of the marimba, distinguished composer and has even written method books for the instrument. The two will be performing it as part of a joint recital at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, on November 13 and a mini-tour.