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Andy Akiho takes the steelpan to the Yale School of Music

Concerto for Steel Pans & Orchestra

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Andy Akiho at Yale School of Music for the 'New Music for Orchestra' concert Steel panist Andy Akiho at the Yale School of Music with the Yale Philharmonia

New Haven, Connecticut - With the world watching literally from every corner of the globe through a live streaming internet broadcast, musician and composer Andy Akiho brought the steelpan instrument front and center to the collective consciousness of the prestigious Yale School of Music.

In a concert featuring new music for orchestra  by Yale composers, Andy Akiho’s Concerto for Steel Pans, with Akiho as soloist was performed at Morse Recital Hall with the Yale Philharmonia, and Shinik Hahm as conductor. Akiho challenges the accepted boundaries and expectations for the steelpan instrument both in terms of music for the instrument and accepted performance techniques.

The piece simultaneously explored and presented the sonic textures from the steelpan instrument within the musical confines of the traditional orchestra with great success. His tactful use of dynamics to elicit emotional responses is excellent.

The exquisite storytelling in Akiho’s composition took the audience through the full gamut for human emotions - melancholy, joy, tension, shock, criticism, surprise, laughter, suspense, fear and tranquility among others.  All were there weaved into this matched musical bouquet of controlled dissonance and rhythmic counter-play; flirting at times with chaos and the perceived edge, to only in an instant grab the listener back into the safety and calm of a melodic conversation and harmonic stability, resolving treasured musical sanity. Akiho displays depth, growth, maturity and wisdom in allowing enough space for the listener to put his own stamp and interpretation on the piece.

Furthermore, Andy Akiho has mastered the ability to be intellectual and musically stimulating, without being so cerebral that you lose soul, spirit and the ability to connect with the human audience that naturally wants to relate to the story of the composer, in this case Andy Akiho, though through a new “voice.”

Andy Akiho performs with the Yale Philharmonia.  His composition is 'Concerto for Steel Pans & Orchestra'
Andy Akiho performs with the Yale Philharmonia. His composition is ‘Concerto for Steel Pans & Orchestra’

Akiho’s call and response is indeed a quite distinctive trait as his technique utilizes the percussive nature and unique tonal qualities of the steelpan instrument (rim, skirt and note) - to become completely involved in the voice of the steelpan.  And again all the while not allowing the listener to simply finish the lines to each passage by simply calling on old, past experiences, thereby keeping it - the story, new and fresh, alive and exciting.

When Steel Talks has been actively following the career of musician Andy Akio for a while. Talented, unassuming and humble, Andy continues to stretch the boundaries for which the steelpan can be conceptualized, utilized and realized.  What once was great promise has now become a source of terrific works of music. The journey of the steelpan instrument continues and Andy Akiho has indeed entered a critical entree in the ship’s log tonight.

The Yale Philharmonia Orchestra during the New Music for Orchestra concert
The Yale Philharmonia Orchestra during the New Music for Orchestra concert

The evening was filled with other thought-provoking performances that pushed the envelope of the so-called musical norm.  Additional ‘New music for orchestra’ by Yale composers were educator Martin Bresnick’s Pan Penseroso, a flute concerto with soloists Ransom Wilson and Dariya Nikolenko; Reena Esmail’s Aria, with Hindustani vocalist Meena Shivaram and conductor Yang Jiao; Adrian Knight’s Comblé, conducted by Adrian Slywotzky and Omar Surillo’s Partner in Crime.

Related Article:
Andy Akiho continues to create for Steelpan & Orchestra

Click here for more on Andy Akiho.

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