Wild Prairie Winds breezes through unique music

The unique wind-instrument quintet performed at Voxman on May 8 to share its program with the community and campus before touring around Iowa.


The University of Iowa School of Music is being moved to the newly built Voxman Building. The building is located at 95 East Burlington Street. (The Daily Iowan/Karley FInkel)

Haley Triem, Arts Reporter

Flourishes of notes string and blend together in the intimate setting of the Voxman Recital Hall. The music is cinematic and familiar to the audience, something one would expect from any string quintet. Except the instruments did not have strings.

Composed of bassoon, flute, oboe, clarinet, and horn, the Wild Prairie Winds quintet performed at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The players are unique in that typically, wind instruments do not play in quintets.

“Most of the recitals that you’re going to see here are either going to be solo recitals or large wind ensembles,” said Shawn Seguin, a bassoonist and second-year D.M.A. candidate. “This kind of gives a different light because in the smaller chamber ensembles, we usually have the string quartet. The wind quintet is this newer form to come out recently.”

There’s a reason that most wind instruments are played in large groups: it’s hard to make music with just five. But some say that the challenge is worth it, because it produces some unique music.

“It’s incredibly challenging but it also showcases not only each individual instrument but also pairs of instruments,” Seguin said. “You get such a variety of color and sound. We decided to lighten it up with ‘Red Oak Suite,’ to end on kind of a fun note.”

The lightness of the program’s repertoire didn’t mean that the pieces were not unique. On the contrary, the pieces performed were familiar yet still new and exciting to the audience.

“The program will definitely showcase our instruments,” Seguin said. “That’s really one of the big standards in the wind quintet. It’s sort of a culmination of what we’ve done this semester. You’ll hear all of this performed at a high level. It is a unique ensemble, a unique opportunity to hear what you might hear in a concert for just 15 seconds.”

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Quintet members had a number of responsibilities along with the program to keep track of throughout the semester.

“It’s a professional-level ensemble, even though it’s technically school-based,” Seguin said. “Most of us are actually the teaching assistants for each of our prospective instruments, so we have plenty of duties outside the quintet itself.”

The Wild Prairie Winds quintet is fairly new, but it has performed throughout Iowa on tour. The members are about to start their second tour.

“The quintet established itself last year,” said Katey Halbert, the horn player and second-year D.M.A. candidate. “We also did the Summer Chamber Music Tour last year and are about to do it again next week. We’re going to be gone for three days giving performances. We’re the only wind group that’s ever gone on this tour — up until now, it’s always been strings”

The music was chosen to sound unique, yet familiar in style to the audience. Titles included “Kvintet” Opus 43, by Carl Nielsen, “Roaring Fork,” by Eric Ewazen, and “Red Oak Suite,” by David Crowe. 

“We purposely chose very accessible music both for this concert and to be on tour,” Halbert said. “It’s very programmatic. We want to make sure that the sound is unique, but at least the music will make more sense.”

The selected music was dramatic, movie-like, and challenging to both players and listeners.

“The Ewazen [piece] is very much so a movie soundtrack,” Halbert said. “The music immediately puts the reader into that role. The first movement is called white-water rapids, and you immediately hear the music rushing through.”

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One benefit of performing in the smaller setting of the recital hall was the closeness among the performers and the audience.

“It’s a much more intimate setting,” Halbert said. “We try to make it a homey kind of feeling. Lots of concerts are very sterile. We’re trying to avoid the separation of stage and audience.”

The players seemed most concerned about audience interaction, in hopes of both themselves and the audience enjoying the program together. The players look forward to another successful tour.

“The best part of performing on tour is people coming up to us,” Halbert said. “They like to reminisce playing an instrument in college or high school, which is always really fun.”

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