The St. Olaf Department of Music had the pleasure of presenting the WindWorks Woodwind Quintet last Friday night at Urness Recital Hall.

The quintet featured three St. Olaf alumni: Kay Sahlin ’66 on flute, who retired from teaching at St. Olaf in May of 2010, Dana Maeda ’92 on oboe, a current Instructor of Music at St. Olaf and director of  the Collegium Musicum and Jo Ann Polley ’73 on clarinet, who is Professor Emerita in Music at St. Olaf. Cindy Bailey on bassoon and Becky Jyrkas on horn completed the quintet.

Bailey holds a music performance and education degree from the University of Iowa, while Jyrkas earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in music and mathematics from Concordia College.

The quintet performed five pieces, including a piece composed by St. Olaf Professor of Music Steve Amundson as a tribute to horn player Vicki Wheeler.

Professor Amundson’s piece, “Sempre Dolce,” was a sweet tribute to the founder of the Dolce Wind Quintet.

The three movements of the dolce, “Conspirare in Motu,” “Alphorn Amore” and “Wheel a Jig,” combined into a lively piece which invoked the natural sweetness and beauty of life, from a bike ride to the simple act of breathing itself.

The first piece, “Three Shanties for Wind Quintet,” was a jaunty tune written by British composer Malcolm Arnold. Featuring popular melodies intertwined with more serious, classical moments, the “Three Shanties” were a great introduction to the recital.

“The Charterhouse Suite,” composed by the British Ralph Vaughan Williams, drew on the rich treasury of national British folk songs. The six movements came together to create a piece as traditionally British as it was classically brilliant.

The second-to-last piece, composed by 18th century Italian Giovanni Giuseppe Cambini, was one of the most preeminent and original classical pieces written for the quintet medium.

The third of Cambini’s three woodwind quintets was a naturally elegant piece which reflected the graceful, yet technical, Italian writing of the time.

The final piece of the evening, “Mississippi Five,” was written by British composer Jim Parker and was inspired by the mighty Mississippi River.

Featuring New Orleans-style blues riffs and long, ascending melodic lines, the five-movement piece brought a splendid finale to the recital.

Audience members were wonderfully impressed by the individual musicianship of each member, which was highlighted by the brief, but marvelous solos, performed throughout the various pieces.

Alongside the individual musicianship, the quintet played phenomenally as a group.

Bailey on bassoon anchored the group together, keeping tempo and underlying the complicated rhythms that played over the top.

Horn-player Jyrkas played beautifully in the middle of the group’s sound, bringing a unique muted-horn tone to several of the pieces. 

The three upper melodies, played on the clarinet, oboe and flute, gave a tremendous flavour to each piece.

While Polley and Maeda mingled their melodies and countermelodies together on the clarinet and oboe, flutist Kay Sahlin sprinkled her robust and eloquent stylings over the top.

Overall, the performance was truly marvelous and left the crowd in standing ovation as the five musicians gave a final bow to cap off a wonderful evening of music.