The Western Washington University Bassoon Ensemble will be reviving the Bassoon Apocalypse concert this fall after a year off due to COVID-19. The concert will take place on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center room 155; the Concert Hall. The event is free for all Western students.
The concert, titled “Bassoon Apocalypse IV: Once Upon a Reed,” will be an all-bassoon ensemble playing modern contemporary Halloween-themed music.
This will be one of the first larger performances at Western since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I absolutely missed playing in person,” said Taylor-Marie Mocorro, a Western student who plays both bassoon and contrabassoon in the Western Bassoon Ensemble. “It's one thing to be over a camera on Zoom playing together and making recordings of ourselves playing, but it's a whole different level of hearing everyone at the same time and being able to play and adjust on the spot.”
Pat Nelson, Western bassoon instructor, said the concert is an excellent way to introduce bassoonists who are new at Western’s music program and to their fellow musicians.
“I try to put together a concert or at least two per year, sometimes we do one every quarter. That winds up being a lot,” Nelson said.
Nelson said popular Halloween music is easy for new students to learn, as opposed to more traditional bassoon music.
“When we do [a concert] in the spring, it's more traditional classical,” she said. “But the fall is always a little bit difficult because I'm often getting new students who are coming into the studio who I don't know very well yet. I feel it's really important to get them to work on a project that isn’t … super hard or difficult.”
In addition, bassoons have a unique quality of sound that allows them to produce eerie and haunting music.
“The bassoon can definitely have a spooky sound,” said Jackson Stewart, Assistant Principal Bassoon at Bellingham Symphony Orchestra via email. “Even the way the instrument looks can be ominous. Bassoon ensembles are awesome because they typically combine all the ranges of the bassoon at once, so you get these great deep chords while the high register plays a beautiful melody on top.”
Although the bassoon is a slightly more obscure woodwind instrument, it is common for groups of bassoons to play together in ensembles such as the Western ensemble.
“There's tons and tons of music that's arranged for a bassoon ensemble; if you play the oboe, or even the clarinet, there's not as much,” Nelson said. “At universities all over the country, bassoon ensembles are a thing that happen.”
Mocorro said the instrument has a unique charm and challenge associated with it.
“What I love the most about it is the challenge that it brings,” Mocorro said. “I find bassoon to be one of the hardest wind instruments. Just because all there's alternate fingerings and so many different ways you can play the same note, the same music.”
Mocorro, Nelson and Stewart expressed that the bassoon is a captivating instrument that they have enjoyed playing for a long period of time.
“I've played bassoon for 13 years now, half of my life, so the connection is very strong,” Stewart said. “I was hooked right when I started and now music has taken over my life.”
Part of the fun of this concert, according to the participants, also lies in the spooky, Halloween atmosphere of the chosen pieces.
“I love Halloween,” Nelson said. “It’s one of my favorite celebrations, it's so different. So I really feel like I can pour myself into this concert.”
In addition to the Halloween vibe of the music, the performers will all be dressed up in their Halloween costumes, and the stage will be decorated.
“We do have an idea for the stage,” Mocorro said. “In the past, they did these gravestones, and each student got to design their own headstone [with] their name and what they ‘died of.’ I came up with the idea, since the subtitle for Bassoon Apocalypse is Once Upon a Reed, to have us all have our own little story books.”
There is a lot of excitement around this concert, as many concerts have not been available in person for the last year.
“It's so great to be back playing together again after this past year of lockdown,” said Stewart. “Everyone should try to get out and see live, local shows to support the arts as we are reopening. It's a very exciting time to be a performer and also a supporter of the arts.”
Sam Pearce is a third-year Journalism and Creative Writing double major at WWU. He writes for Campus Life at The Front. He also enjoys pop music, obscenely long sci-fi/fantasy novels, and kaiju movies from the 90s. You can contact him via email email@example.com.