Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA's Contemporary Ensemble to perform music of rock legend Wonder

April 7, 2017 - Robbie Goodrich
The Contemporary Ensemble
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Contemporary Ensemble at Stephen F. Austin State University will perform selections from critically acclaimed musical performer Stevie Wonder's "Natural Wonder" concert when the ensemble performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, in Cole Concert Hall on the SFA campus.

"Natural Wonder" is a live album Wonder recorded in Osaka, Japan, and released in 1995. Contemporary Ensemble Director Andrew Sperandeo selected this theme because he wanted his students to be exposed to Wonder's music "to ensure they internalize the elements that make up a great piece of music," he said.

"Stevie Wonder is one of my favorite musicians," Sperandeo said. "Not only is he a great songwriter and arranger, but also a great vocalist, keyboardist and drummer."

The Rockin' Axes will open the program with a couple of numbers from their "History of Rock" Concert.

The ensemble will perform Wonder's "I Wish," "Superstition," "Higher Ground," "Dancing to the Rhythm" and other favorites.

"'I Wish,' along with other songs on the program such as 'Superstition' and 'Higher Ground,' show the high level of groove and soul in Stevie's writing and arranging," Sperandeo said. "You can't help but want to get up and dance and sing along with these iconic funk and rock tunes."

"Dancing to the Rhythm" is the first song on the double CD set and will be the ensemble's opening number.

"It was a lot of hard work transcribing note for note every instrument on this track and arrange it for our group, but I grew so much as an arranger/musician from the highly concentrated effort," Sperandeo said. "This song, along with 'Pastime Paradise,' showcases Stevie Wonder's Latin groove influence, which are so infectious and so much fun to play."

The Contemporary Ensemble is comprised of Barry Martin of Arp, main vocals/piano; Julia Murad of Plano, background vocals/piano; Chase DeShazo of Abilene, background vocal/synthesized percussion; Tyler Hyndman of Leona, guitar; Ryan Lackey of Nacogdoches, guitar; Chance Forrest of Anna, guitar; Austin Gehring of Missouri City, bass; and Matt Coronado of Cypress, drums.

Sperandeo arranged the ballad "Ribbon in the Sky" to incorporate solos by the ensemble's guitarists and to feature Martin on lead vocals and Murad on piano.

"We have quite a few amazing musicians in the band this semester, and they play some challenging yet really fun music," Sperandeo said. "You are guaranteed to want to jump out of your seat and groove with us."

Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS or visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu.