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The Scruncheons - Journey (2009)

Disc I

    1. Whirley Gig Don Wherry 8:12

    2. Asakusa Ed Squires 4:10

    3. Five Alive Rob Power 10:21

    4. Leaky Facets Brad Kilpatrick 9:46

    5. Suite for Perc. Anthony Hall 8:14

    6. schactertwofactor John Power 10:45

Disc II (Live)

    1. Belo Horizonte Bill Brennan 10:24

    2. Woody Phil Yetman, Ed Squires 6:48

    3. Journey John Wyre 30:06

    soloists: Trichy Sankaran - kanjira, mrdangam 

                  John Wyre - djembuka

Liner Notes:

The Scruncheons Percussion Ensemble were formed by Don Wherry in the late 1980s and are now directed by Rob Power. The group includes both current music students and alumni. Over the years they have presented hundreds of concerts and workshops, including collaborations with dance, theatre, and the visual arts.

Learn more about the Scruncheons here

Disc I

All tracks were recorded in the Petro-Canada Hall, Memorial University School of Music

April 2005 - December 2008

Producer - Rob Power

Recording Engineer - Richard Blenkinsopp

Mixing - Richard Blenkinsopp

Mastering - Fedge

Disc II

Belo Horizonte was recorded live July 8 2000, in the D.F. Cook Recital Hall at the Sound Symposium in St. John’s. Recorded by David Quinney and produced by David Jaeger for CBC’s Two New Hours

Woody was recorded live February 10 2005, in the D.F. Cook Recital Hall at the NewFound Music Festival in St. John’s

Journey was recorded live July 6 2002, in the Gower Street United Church at the Sound Symposium in St. John’s. Recorded by David Quinney and produced by David Jaeger for CBC’s Two New Hours

Mastering - Fedge

Photography - Andrew Mercer

Design - John Andrews 

If you’ve ever seen or listened to a percussion ensemble, you’ll likely recognize that there is something different about the Scruncheons. When percussionist Don Wherry moved to Newfoundland in 1973, it wasn’t long before Memorial University in St. John’s got their hands on him, and a year later he was teaching percussion at the School of Music. It took some years to build the program, but with Don’s all-embracing role in the local arts community, the ‘MUN Percussion Ensemble’ gradually became a collective of university percussionists, up-and-coming younger players, returning alumni, and other percussion enthusiasts. As the numbers grew, it became clear that such a collaboration of experimental and creative players needed a much more fitting name, and in 1992 they became the Scruncheons - a great Newfoundland word, even if you don’t consider fried cubes of salt pork fat to be a ‘delicacy’.

Aside from performing standard percussion repertoire, world music, and environmental pieces, the Scruncheons have collaborated with dancers, visual artists, actors, and world class musicians. Yet it is the focus on composition through improvisation and experimentation that has defined Scruncheon concert programs for the past twenty years. Every year the members of the group write works for the ensemble, which are workshopped, rehearsed, and performed. When Don Wherry passed away in 2001 while leading the Scruncheons in a drumming procession, this tradition of breaking new ground moved ahead under the leadership of Rob Power, a senior Scruncheon and the current percussion instructor at the MUN School of Music.

Which leads us to this recording.

This project is a celebration of the creativity that Don Wherry inspired in his students, and the culture of innovation, playfulness, and self-expression that continues to manifest itself within the group. All of these pieces were written specifically for the Scruncheons by members or instructors of the ensemble, and each composer has their own unique voice. Even though these selections were written over a fourteen-year time span, they represent just a sample of the activity of the approximately seventy players that have contributed over the years. Over twenty-five Scruncheons were involved in this recording, a project that took five years to complete - enabled by the relentlessly supportive staff and faculty at the MUN School of Music.

Of course the real magic happens in performance, which is why the second disc of this set is devoted to some particularly meaningful live concerts. As you listen to Belo Horizonte by Bill Brennan, picture the scene: It was the 2000 Sound Symposium, an international event that Don Wherry had created seventeen years earlier, and the last that he would organize. He came up to the podium to introduce Attacca, three of his former students, all now professionals in their field, performing the world premiere of a work composed by another of his former students. After introducing the group, he looked to the audience with a wry smile, and said, “I love these guys. They’re like my you’d better clap!” 

Two years later, on a steamy July night in the Gower Street United Church in St. John’s, hundreds of people showed up to hear John Wyre’s Journey, a thirty minute work written for the Scruncheons in memory of Don Wherry for the 2002 Sound Symposium. No one who was present will ever forget the powerfully long silence at the end of this performance, as the audience sat motionless in reflection, following the quiet ring of the piece’s final chord.

This recording is dedicated to the memories of both Don Wherry and John Wyre. Enjoy the music, have fun, and never stop listening!                            

~Rob Power

Disc I

Whirley Gig (1993) Don Wherry (1935 - 2001)

“Whirley Gig was inspired by a little cottage I used to pass regularly on Newfoundland’s southern shore. Sometimes I would stop there to look and listen, and what I heard was a really interesting sound environment. The piece reflects this by using duck quacks, crickets, little soft wind sounds, sirens, dancing rhythms, and dogs howling. Each of the nine players uses a whirley - which is a cut-up sump pump hose that gives a very ethereal sound when you whirl it, like wind. You never quite know where the sound is coming from. Every Christmas we’d all get together to have a jam at our place, and one year I discovered that by rolling the hose up in a circle, and using some Canadian Tire dowelling, you could play inside of it and get a very interesting drum sound, and also a scraped sound. So these sump pump hoses can be whirled, scratched, beaten, sung through, whispered through, or even howled through if you like. It was really fun to put together and the players are really into it.”

~Don Wherry

Playing a length of sump pump hose: 

Evan Bowen, Bill Brennan, Brad Cooper, Mark Edwards, Scott Latham, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Power, Andrew Rideout, Adam Staple

Don Wherry was a musical pioneer in the truest sense of the word. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, he studied percussion with Art Cooper of the Detroit Symphony, and eventually joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1961, where he played for fourteen seasons. During his years in Toronto, Don performed with The Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet, The Toronto Dance Theatre, The CBC Festival Orchestra, and collaborated with countless other world renowned artists and musicians. In 1973, he moved to Tors Cove, Newfoundland. Before long, he was at the centre of the arts community in St. John’s, where he was principal percussionist with the Newfoundland Symphony, taught at Memorial University, and co-founded the new-music ensemble Fusion.

Always an innovator and explorer of sound, Don composed numerous works for both conventional instruments and homemade constructions, including Mixtum (for percussion ensemble), 105 MM (for five artillery shell players), Bowls (for twenty mixing bowls), and several works for ship’s horns. He also composed soundtracks for mixed-media pieces (The Pond, Birds), working closely with artist Frank LaPointe. In 1983, he created the international Sound Symposium, an event which continues to redefine the cutting edge of sound exploration, and in 1996 he was awarded the Canadian League of Composers Award for his contributions in encouraging the creation of new Canadian music works. He was also a co-founder of the ground breaking improvisational ensemble The Black Auks, and brought his own students together to form the Scruncheons Percussion Ensemble.

On a warm summer evening in 2001, at the inaugural Victoria Park Lantern Festival in St. John’s, Don passed away while leading a drumming procession of his students. He was a beloved mentor, relentless innovator, and visionary artist. Don Wherry’s legacy lives on through the work of all those who were touched by his creative force, sense of humour, and generosity of spirit.

Asakusa (2005) Ed Squires (1984 -)

“Asakusa was written after a trip to Japan in the summer of 2005. The name comes from a district in Japan which houses Tokyo’s oldest temple, the Sensoji Temple. While quite peaceful and serene, the Sensoji is nestled within one of the busiest cities on the planet. In this piece, there is a fastpaced simplicity throughout, along with influences from specific experiences that I had on this trip. There is a quasi Taiko section in the music that is inspired by a lone Taiko drummer that I heard on a dark and rainy day at another temple in Tokyo. Throughout the piece, one of the percussionists plays a relentless ‘E’ on the marimba - symbolizing the Peace Flame at the Hiroshima Peace Museum, which started burning in 1964 and will remain burning until all of the nuclear weapons on earth are destroyed and we are free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Like the flame, the player remains playing even after the end of the piece.”

~Ed Squires 

Mark Edwards - marimba

Brad Kilpatrick - marimba, conga, cymbal

Scott Latham - marimba, conga

Whitney Rowe - marimba, cymbal, conga

Ed Squires - vibraphone, rin, crotales, tomtom, conga

Ed Squires is a percussionist and improviser from Goulds, Newfoundland. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in percussion performance from Memorial University, where he studied with Rob Power, John Wyre and Don Wherry. He also holds a performance diploma from the Glenn Gould School, where his teachers were John Rudolph and David Kent. Now living in Toronto, Ed is active as an orchestral player as well as an accompanist for dance. He has been the principal timpanist of the Brampton Symphony Orchestra, and has also performed with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, Oshawa Durham Symphony Orchestra, Tapestry New Opera Works, Kingston Symphony, and Windsor Symphony Orchestra. Ed is a member of the contemporary percussion duo River Connected.

Five Alive (2003) Rob Power (1971 -)

“Five Alive was written in the fall of 2003 for a Scruncheons tour of the remote communities of northern Labrador. Due to the requirement to travel in very small airplanes, there was a necessity for music that involved portable, hand held instruments. In this piece, each of the five players use a frame drum, a copper pipe, an artillery shell, and a small gong from the Philippines known as a kulintang. Though somewhat structured, there is a strong element of improvisation in this piece, including frame drum solos for all of the players. Since it’s premiere, Five Alive has been performed several times in various venues. Every performance is different, as the players begin the first section while surrounding the audience, and slowly make their way to the stage. This recording features the original five players from that tour.”

~Rob Power

Yves Conan - copper pipe, artillery shell, kulintang, small frame drum

Andrew Dunsmore - copper pipe, artillery shell, kulintang, medium frame drum 

John Power - copper pipe, artillery shell, kulintang, large frame drum

Rob Power - copper pipe, artillery shell, kulintang, small frame drum

Phil Yetman - copper pipe, artillery shell, kulintang, large frame drum

Rob Power - bio here

Leaky Facets (2005) Brad Kilpatrick (1984 -)

“Leaky Facets, like it's composer, is a piece that thinks itself a lot funnier than the truth would have us believe. The premise behind the music, or at least the title, is several facets of the composer's personality coming together. The first section of the piece features prominently the use of live turntable in performance, with which the ensemble then begins to interact. The second section was inspired by the Halifax band Wintersleep, and uses one of their bass lines as a melodic framework. This section is further developed with some rhythmic interplay between the drums. The final section of the piece features a Serbian folk tune set on the mallet instruments. While Kilpatrick is very obviously a Serbian name, this tune was actually chosen just because it happened to be in 7, and the composer likes to be difficult.”

~Brad Kilpatrick

Rob Power, conductor

Andrew Bartle - vibraphone, timpani, tomtoms

Brad Cooper - Fender Rhodes, temple bowls, shaker

Brad Kilpatrick - turntable, crotales, congas, tomtoms, bass drum

Richard Klaas - marimba, timpani

Ed Squires - marimba

Brad Kilpatrick, originally from St. John's, lives and works in Toronto as a freelance drumset player and percussionist. While still in high school, Brad played timpani and percussion with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra while learning percussion with Don Wherry. Brad went on to study at the MUN School of Music with Rob Power and John Wyre. A highly demanded drumset player, Brad relocated to Toronto to work with a variety of bands, while periodically visiting New York to take advanced drumset lessons with drumming icon Billy Ward. Primarily a songwriter's drummer, Brad’s work also frequently includes theatrical productions and orchestral performance. He regularly performs with Hawksley Workman, Holy Fuck, and Mark Bragg, among many others.

Suite for Percussion (1992) Anthony Hall (1970 -)

“Suite for Percussion was my first percussion composition and continues to be the most performed piece in my repertoire. Not a suite in the strictest sense of the term, this work is more of a collection of ideas gathered together under one umbrella. It was greatly inspired by the natural beauty of Newfoundland and the ultracreative environment fostered by the late Don Wherry. Suite for Percussion has been performed by percussion ensembles throughout Canada including the University of British Columbia Percussion Ensemble (John Rudolph, director) and the University of Toronto Percussion Ensemble (Robin Engelman, director). It received it's world premiere performance by the one and only Scruncheons Percussion Ensemble in 1992, conducted by Don Wherry.”

~Anthony Hall

Rob Power, conductor

Ed Squires - piano, chimes, PVC pipes, brake drums, snare drum

Andrew Bartle - timpani, timbales

Scott Latham - water gong, phone bell, xylophone, tomtoms

Brad Cooper - marimba, snare drum

Whitney Rowe - vibraphone, snare drum, woodblock, cymbal

Mark Edwards - marimba, bass drum, woodblock

Brad Kilpatrick - marimba, snare drum, cymbal

Richard Klaas - glockenspiel, bass drum, conga

Anthony Hall hails from Corner Brook, Newfoundland - a place he likes to call “the west coast of the Eastern World.” An original member of the Scruncheons, he studied percussion at the MUN School of Music with Don Wherry, and quickly became fascinated with writing music. He studied composition at MUN with Clark Ross and Don Wherry, before moving on to a Masters in composition from the University of Toronto, where his teachers were Chan Ka Nin and Lothar Klein. Anthony continued composition studies at the University of British Columbia, where his teacher was Keith Hamel. An avid problem solver, Anthony now lives in Ontario, where he spends his days working on some of the world’s toughest healthcare engineering problems, in addition to spending as much time as possible with his wife and two children.

schactertwofactor (2002) John Power (1982 -)

“schachtertwofactor was written in the fall of 2002, drawing it’s title from a social psychology theory that views emotion as having two separate components: arousal and cognition. Musically, much of the piece is also influenced by the improvisational teachings of Don Wherry, and the antiphonal characteristics of West African drumming. Running throughout the piece is a single rhythmic pattern, gradually introduced in the first section, on a single instrument per musician. Using only small, hand held instruments, the players each add a note, one by one, until the rhythmic theme is complete. After an improvised solo section, a counter rhythm is introduced, followed by a longer, more developed solo section, where players are free to use a second instrument of varying timbre. Once all the players have taken their solo, the original theme is reintroduced in unison.”

~John Power

Romano Dinillo - log drum, metal bowl

John Power - tambourine, bongo

Rob Power - muted gong, cowbell

Ed Squires - tambourine, copper pipe

Amie Watson - temple bell, metal plate

Phil Yetman - low log drum

John Power is from Paradise, Newfoundland. He began his percussion studies at a young age with Don Wherry, and eventually entered the MUN School of Music, where he studied with Don Wherry and Rob Power. While still a student at MUN, John performed with the Ceremonial Guard Band in Ottawa and with NEXUS at the Toronto Summer Music Academy. John moved to Toronto shortly after graduation, and quickly found himself on the road with two major bands - The Hidden Cameras, a well established eclectic pop group, and The Brutal Knights, a progressive punk outfit. When not touring Europe and North America with these bands, John resides in Toronto where he is involved in a wide variety of musical projects.

Disc II (live)

Belo Horizonte (2000) Bill Brennan (1964 -)

Belo Horizonte was commissioned with the generous support of the Toronto Arts Council for the Attacca Percussion Trio - three former Scruncheons, all living in Toronto. This recording is of the world premiere at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall during the 2000 Sound Symposium in St. John’s, and was first broadcast on CBC Radio’s Two New Hours.

“In 1991 I travelled to Brazil to spend a month with my friends of the renowned musical group UAKTI. They lived in the city called Belo Horizonte in the mountains of the province Minas Gerais. I would regularly take morning walks with Marco (the artistic leader of the group) in the large city park close to where I was staying. During these jaunts I experienced the park "waking up". Inevitably the walks would start with a meditative beginning of silence or just a slight breeze. The bamboo trunks would softly rub against each other. The birds would then start chirping. Following this the monkeys would start acting up. All these sounds intensified over time until I came out the other end of the park to the quiet streets beyond. This piece is a musical representation of that walk in the park.”

~Bill Brennan

Romano Dinillo - vibraphone

Gregory Hawco - marimba

Rob Power - marimba

Bill Brennan bio here

Woody (2005)

Phil Yetman (1982 -)

Ed Squires (1984 -)

“Woody refers both to a specific instrument, as well as the music that is played on it. Constructed by John Wyre, rows of tuned cedar planks overlap each other to create an instrument that can be played by several players simultaneously. Woody was used for many years during John’s time with NEXUS, and later donated to the Scruncheons. It is a fascinating instrument that draws both the players and audience into a unique sonic environment, while lending itself to improvisation in a way that few instruments can. This version, recorded live at the Newfound Music Festival at Memorial University in 2005, features Ed Squires and Phil Yetman - two players facing off in an improvisation that brought the house down.”

~Rob Power

Phil Yetman earned his Bachelor of Music from Memorial University of Newfoundland where he had the good fortune to study percussion with Rob Power and the late Don Wherry. These two inspiring educators helped Phil develop interests in improvised music, instrument construction, and the music of other cultures - interests that he in turn has tried to pass on to his own students. During his time at MUN, Phil performed with a variety of groups such as the Scruncheons Percussion Ensemble, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, and the Dzolali African Drum and Dance Ensemble. Upon completing his music degree, Phil’s interest in AfroCuban music led him to Toronto to study with Paul Ormandy and Ruben Esguerra. He is currently a freelance percussionist in the Toronto area, the resident modern dance accompanist at Cawthra Park Secondary School, and percussion instructor at the University Settlement Resource Centre.

For Ed Squires, see Asakusa

Journey (2002) John Wyre (1941 - 2006)

Journey was composed for the Scruncheons with soloists Trichy Sankaran and John Wyre. This recording is of the world premiere at Gower Street United Church during the 2002 Sound Symposium in St. John’s. It was first broadcast on CBC Radio’s Two New Hours.

“Journey is written for The Scruncheons and is dedicated to my dear friend, Don Wherry. There are five sections to the piece. The first section comes from the Ewe people of Ghana, using the traditional iron bells of that culture in rhythmic patterns that are reminiscent of the music of frogs. An improvised drum solo will play the role of bull frog. The second and slower section employs rhythms from Korean farmers’ music, and the sounds used here are old brass artillery shells. The third section employs rhythms of Sri Lanka, played on clay flower pots, to accompany a mrdangam solo. The fourth section uses wooden sounds that are chosen by the performers. The fifth section employs rhythms common to the contemporary urban music of West Africa, known as High Life. But these rhythms are performed on kulintang, which are the traditional melodic tuned gongs of the Muslim culture of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. The final phrase of the piece comes from a Newfoundland folk song, Wave over Wave. I was struck by one line of the lyrics: “I’ve sailed the seas, north, south, east and west, and the middle of nowhere is the place I like best.” I draw a strong analogy here between the sailor’s middle of nowhere and the artist’s heavenly lostness, remembering Don and his love of losing himself in the exploration of sound.”

~John Wyre

Trichy Sankaran - kanjira, mrdangam

John Wyre - djembuka

Curtis Andrews - atoke, artillery shells, flower pots, log drums, kulintang

Bill Brennan - gankogui, artillery shells, flower pots, log drums, marimba

Erin Donovan - gankogui, artillery shells, flower pots, log drums, kulintang, rin

George Morgan - firigywa, chinese cymbals, log drums, kulintang

John Power - gankogui, artillery shells, flower pots, log drums, kulintang

Rob Power - firigywa, chinese cymbals, tongue drum, kulintang

John Wyre’s long career as an orchestral timpanist encompassed the Marlboro Music Festival, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony. He was a founding member of the renowned percussion quintet NEXUS, an ensemble that he performed with for over thirty years. He was also active as a composer and teacher and, as Artistic Director of World Drums, organized and directed international drum festivals. Upon retiring from NEXUS, John relocated to St. John’s, where he composed, performed, taught at Memorial University, and inspired all who met him - including of course, the Scruncheons. His book, Touched by Sound, is an autobiography of his life as a drummer.