Imani Winds quintet played music reminiscent of an abstract painting of many bright colors, a hymn, a foundation, airiness; reverence, a Scottish bagpipe, a chase, a comic conversation between two emphatic people, a requiem, a forceful monologue, Middle Eastern exotica, a grand entrance, delicate lace, conversation at a party and alma mater music. That was just one movement in one piece, Carl Nielsen's "Quintet for Winds." It was the sole work written for wind quintet on the program presented Saturday night, March 26, for Brown County Civic Music Association.
By the time Imani Winds finished shedding light on the versatility of wind quintet music, the New York City-based group stood before a standing ovation at Ralph Holter Auditorium of Green Bay West High School. The first image of five people playing classical music seated in a circle may be of something static. But Imani Winds players are personable not only in spoken introductions but in the way they perform.
The arrangement of Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" seemed like a haunting, living organism through the body/instrument movement of players and their emphasis on notes or passages. Stunning teamwork glues the group: Valerie Coleman, flute; Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe; Mariam Adam, clarinet; Jeff Scott, French horn; and Monica Ellis, bassoon. The audience was asked to give a "Super Bowl welcome" at the start. There was a connection: Ellis is originally from Pittsburgh. That brought a murmur, and Ellis acknowledged with a smile, "You had the upper hand."
Imani Winds had the upper hand on the night, from the opening mischievous scamper of Felix Mendelssohn's scherzo from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" to romping klezmer dances featuring a laughing clarinet. The pastoral "Bruyetes" (heather) by Claude Debussy was offset by the wide-ranging Nielsen piece and Scott's ambitious arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's "Contrabasjissimo."
It was an evening of intense concentration by the players and often one of wonder for listeners.