Akropolis Reed Quintet: Quirky Classical at Memorial Hall

Nearly a decade since their first performance, the Akropolis Reed Quintet continues to dazzle and engage audiences with virtuoso off-the-wall performances.

Sep 24, 2018 at 4:58 pm
click to enlarge Akropolis Reed Quintet - Gary Norman
Gary Norman
Akropolis Reed Quintet

The Akropolis Reed Quintet formed in 2009 at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance. A unique ensemble of five students, each played a different reed instrument and loved the sounds they created together. 

“We felt an immediate connection with each other,” says clarinetist Kari Landry. “And the music we played was something fun and unique.”

The acclaimed ensemble makes its Cincinnati debut at Memorial Hall on Sunday (Sept. 30), presented by Matinée Musicale. Their sound is rich, deep and often wildly hilarious, just like their performance practice, which features new compositions and familiar work tailored for its members — in addition to Landry, there’s her husband Matt Landry on saxophone; Ryan Reynolds on bassoon; Andrew Koeppe on bass clarinet; and Tim Gocklin on oboe.

Nearly a decade since their first performance, the Akropolis Reed Quintet continues to dazzle and engage audiences with virtuoso off-the-wall performances. They’ve commissioned dozens of new works, often in collaboration with other performance groups, and released three albums. 

“We were drawn to the fact that the music was new, that we were having a hand in creating it, and that we could bring our own energy, colors and talents to the music,” Landry says.

Their Cincinnati program includes three works the quintet has championed; two of which are commissions.

Composer Marc Mellits’ Splinter is an eight-part work inspired by tree movements and infused with Rock and Electronic influences. Landry describes the piece, which the quintet commissioned, as fast-paced and energetic. 

Another commission, Thaw, is a work written this summer by 21-year-old composer Becky Turro. 

“Becky and a friend traveled to Acadia National Park in late winter, and this piece is incredibly serene and so evocative and you have the sense of the coming spring thaw,” Landry says.

Refraction, by David Biedenbender, is a three-part work, and if you’re a fan of the short viral YouTube video Death Metal Chicken, you’ll love the first movement. (Biedenbender was inspired to create it after watching the video of a rooster screaming over Death Metal music.) 

Arrangements of Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango and Gershwin’s An American in Paris round out the program. The Gershwin is especially engaging and reveals more of the score’s sonic textures and wit. “All the music is there, but in this arrangement, the mechanics of Gershwin’s compositional genius really come out,” Landry says.

The Akropolis Reed Quintet are dedicated educators who produce wide-ranging and varied K-12, college, community and collaborative programs. In February, the ensemble received a $10,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to help fund Together We Sound, a Contemporary music festival in Detroit that aimed to expand and diversify access to world-class Contemporary music, broaden Detroit’s stake as a cultural center and increase both artistic and scholastic achievement of local youth. 

While their time in Cincinnati doesn’t include a residency, the quintet’s informal manner and commitment to audience engagement are the next best thing.

“We try to be really informative and casual onstage so people get to know us, why we’re here and why this music is so special,” Landry says.

The quintet’s impressive roster of performances, awards, residencies and recordings put them at the forefront of young artists doubling as entrepreneurs, a vital component of a musician’s training, says Landry, who is in her fourth year of teaching entrepreneurial basics at her alma mater (her husband, Matt, teaches a similar course at Michigan State).

“People tend to separate being an artist from being an entrepreneur but if you want to share your identity with different communities, you have to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “There’s only so far your talents will take you.”

She says that in their boot camp sessions for college students, Akropolis Reed Quintet members work with participants to sharpen career-building skills. “We try to let them know how we approach certain aspects of our careers as an ensemble and as individual performers,” Landry says. “And then we help them discover the tools they’ll need to succeed.”

The Akropolis Reed Quintet will perform 3 p.m. Sept. 30 at Memorial Hall. More info/tickets: memorialhallotr.com