Imani Winds

Imani Winds brought their global tour to the Lied Center on March 15. Before the show, the group was recognized for their commitment to music education.

Five-person Grammy-nominated ensemble Imani Winds performed the world premiere of “The Light is the Same,” a piece composed by Reena Esmail, on the Lied Center stage March 15.

Imani Winds is a chamber music ensemble with Valerie Coleman on flute, Mark Dover on the clarinet, Monica Ellis on bassoon, Jeff Scott on french horn and Toyin Spellman-Diaz on oboe. The quintet has been performing with one another since 1997, in that time earning a Grammy nomination and performing in Carnegie Hall.

The night first began with Derek Kwan, the Lied Center’s executive director, awarding Deerfield Elementary music teacher Sarah Bonner with an IMPACT Award. According to the Lied Center website, the award honors an educator within the Lawrence School District for their distinguished contribution to arts education. Imani Winds was then awarded the second IMPACT Award for their impact on L.I.E.D. (Leadership, Integrity, Education, Discovery).

After accepting the award, Imani Winds took their seats in a crescent of chairs on center stage. The group began their five pieces set with a performance of “Dance Mediterranea,” composed by Simon Shaheen. The piece was warm and upbeat, with each member of the band performing a solo at one point during the piece. 

“Prelude, Theme, and Variations from Quintet for Winds, Opus 43,” the group's next piece, featured a quick rhythm and an engaging conflict of sounds between the instruments. 

“The bassoon and clarinet fight with each other, box a little bit," Ellis said of the piece.

The piece shifted through many tones during the performance. The music gained color as it used the individual abilities of the ensemble to create a complete, swelling sound.

“The Planets,” a piece composed by the late Gustav Holst, was chosen because it celebrated its 100 anniversary this year.

“It's a four movement excerpt,” Ellis said. “Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and the beautiful Neptune."

Each planet or segment of the piece was highlighted by a different tone, from dark and somber with Mars to light and meadowy with Mercury.

Near the end of the concert, Imani debuted "The Light is the Same." According to Spellman-Diaz, Esmail gained inspiration for the piece from Ragas, a style of music performed in India.

The piece had a very calming and cool approach — relaxed, with the smooth sounds of the five instruments melding into one ensemble. At times the piece would pick up, but it seemed to always return to a calm and smooth pace.

“It was really cool to be able to be one of the first to experience 'The Light is the Same,'" Robert Taylor, a sophomore from Olathe in attendance, said. “It's the first time I have experienced something like this.”

As a final send-off, Imani Winds performed an unorthodox piece, “Wind Quintet No.2.” The four-sectioned collection featured the voices of the ensemble and an out-of-the-ordinary use of their instruments. Each of the four sections took on a different sound and tone, ranging from light and playful to dark and brooding. The piece ended with Scott raising his french horn into the air and releasing one last bellow to the crowd, or so the crowd thought.

After a standing ovation, Scott announced to the audience that their newest member, Dover, was a talented Klezmer clarinetist, which is a traditional form of performance originating from the Jewish faith. Dover gave the audience a taste of the sound he could produce with his clarinet before the rest of the ensemble joined in.

The night ended with a standing ovation as Dover ended his fast and playful song with one long high note on the clarinet.

— Edited by Casey Brown