Mixing traditional Japanese and other music from around the world, Silver Roots delighted their audience at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on February 18. During the Center for International Studies-sponsored concert, titled “Japan Meets World,” the group played “a rich blend of music from over 15 countries and classical music spanning over 400 years.”
Silver Roots is comprised of Shawn Wyckoff (flute), Maria Millar (violin) and Michael Haas (cello). All Juiliard graduates, the three share a fantastic gift for music and improvisation. Many pieces performed were written or arranged by the group’s musicians, who more than proved their ability to beautifully mesh music of different backgrounds.
According to their website, “Silver Roots weaves music, history and candid commentary into magical performances that leave audiences and presenters asking for more,” which was true for their performance in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater. Between most songs, they provided a bit of background, whether it be something about the style of song they played, how the song originated or the history it.
As a whole, the show was excellent. All of the pieces played combined beautifully into a night filled with pleasantly different music. The concert began with a unique musical piece composed and played by Millar, “Tsuru (for Solo Dancing Violinist with Fabric).” The music itself was extremely interesting but the addition of a fabric dance grabbed the audience’s attention early and created high hopes the rest of the night.
The rest of the night proceeded the same way. Each piece was given some history before the audience was amazed again. Throughout the night, modern Japanese, Irish-Japanese music and even a piece from a movie soundtrack were all played perfectly. Each piece became more and more impressive than the last.
Perhaps the most interesting song of the night was called “Ghost Ship.” The song sent shivers down spines as the musicians used their instruments in a not-so-usual way. This created an eerie sound that filled the theater. The staging made it seem like there was mist on stage and whisked the audience’s imagination away to a ghost ship.
The night ended with the theme song from “Tonari no Totoro.” The movie is a Japanese animated film that acquired its popularity after Disney released the film with English sub-titles in 2006. The song was every bit as delightful land whimsical as the movie and was instantly recognizable.
The only minor qualm that could mentioned is that there was no piece that was strictly traditional Japanese music. For those who do not know very much about Japanese music, it was difficult to pick out the pieces that were Japanese or Japanese fusion. A purely Japanese piece at the beginning would have been very nice for those not well versed in Japanese musical stylings.
Also, at times, the Japanese aspect of the night seemed to be lost. At one point Silver Roots played a combination of songs that they titled “Bach in Ireland.” While the songs were beautiful, had a wonderful sense of purpose and flow, the piece seemed out of place in the evening. Perhaps it would have been better to title the show as a night of world music instead of “Japan Meets World.”
However, as a whole, the evening was wonderful. The group deserves all the praise, awards and recognition that they have been receiving. Silver Roots does exactly what they promise, fuse Japanese traditional music in unconventional and never-before-dreamed-of ways.
by Janaca Scherer, design editor for The Current.
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