April 12, Elizabethtown College will be presenting an all-saxophone concert called Saxophonium. This concert is run by Faith Shiffer, adjunct flute and saxophone professor. Shiffer has had this date reserved for a year now, and after hours of practice, she and her students are about ready to show the rest of the College what they have been doing.
The students who will be playing in the concert are first-year Jess Albrecht, senior Tanna Leigh Gibble, senior Stephanie Gingrich, junior Zach Link, junior Sierra Tretter and junior Dan Tschop. These students have been rehearsing all semester once a week for this concert.
Link, a double major in Japanese and fine arts with a studio art concentration, is excited to play in his first saxophone choir. He has been playing the alto saxophone for ten years and isn’t nervous for Saxophonium. The best part for him in being in this group is “playing together with the students and working with Fatih Shiffer,” he said. “The environment has always felt friendly and calm, yet at the same time professional.”
Albrecht, a biotechnology major, is nervous for this performance because it is her first Saxophonium. Albrecht has been playing the saxophone for five years, but is also familiar with the clarinet. Albrecht said, “Some of the songs are definitely challenging. If you believe it, I am not very good at reading jazz music, and a few of our songs are jazz. Those definitely are the challenging pieces for me.”
Gingrich, a biology and pre-med major, is most excited to hear what other bands have worked on and to enjoy some saxophone music. Gingrich started playing the tenor saxophone when she was in seventh grade, but has also been playing the clarinet and piano since elementary school. She is looking forward to playing jazz music the most during Saxophonium.
“As a clarinet player in the concert band, it is very rare for me to get the chance to play jazz, which is one of my favorite genres of music. I love when we get together in sax ensemble and play some jazz because it really sounds great and puts me in a good mood!” she said.
If you listen to a variety of genres of music, this concert is perfect. In an email interview, Shiffer explained the different types of music that will be played: “A variety of classical and jazz works by composers including Telemann, Mozart, Debussy, Beethoven, Desmond, Jeanjean and Nagle.”
During Saxophonium, one of Etown’s very own student saxophonists, Tschop, will debut a composition that he wrote. “It took me about a month or so to write the piece. It is pretty hard to try and balance composing with the rest of my schoolwork. It’s tough to say what kind of music it is. I write in a very off-place tonally. There isn’t much of a tonal center, but it has some cool ideas in it that are repeated throughout. My sax teacher asked me if I was watching horror movies all night when I composed this. It is kind of foreboding and eerie, with a touch of fun,” Tschop said.
Tschop, an experienced saxophone player of 11 years, is really excited for the concert. “This is such a cool opportunity for both the listeners and the performers of the Saxophonium. For the first time, we have a six-piece saxophone choir, which is a really cool thing to be a part of and to listen to. I’m excited for the attention we can draw to the sax ensemble, as we put a lot of work into the performance. It is always nice to be able to play for a nice crowd,” Tschop said.
The pieces they are performing are all composed by state-of-the-art composers who are well respected, so the pieces that will be played aren’t taken lightly. “We are playing a lot of really difficult pieces. We are playing everything from classical literature to some fun jazzy tunes. All the pieces present their own challenges. Some of the biggest challenges are keeping the group together and maintaining a unity and nice balance throughout the group,” Tschop said.
Also performing in this concert is a quartet of professional saxophonists, which includes Shiffer herself. Joining her will be Howard Boots, Bill Butts and Doug Cook.
“I have performed professionally with all three of these gentlemen in different groups, but Saxophonium will be the first time all four of us will perform together as a quartet,” Shiffer noted.
Shiffer explained that she is most excited for “sharing music with the audience and one another.” She added, “The combinations of different types of saxophones playing together can create some unique and pleasing music. I encourage anyone who is curious about saxophone ensembles to attend!”