Iowa Saxophonists' Workshop concludes Asian tour (with photos)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Iowa Saxophonists' Workshop

The Iowa Saxophonists’ Workshop (ISW), under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Tse of the School of Music in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, embarked on a 10-day tour of Asia this July 15-24.  Comprised of 14 undergraduate and graduate saxophone majors in the School of Music, the ensemble performed concerts in Hong Kong and Chengdu, China. 

ISW began their tour at the six-day Hong Kong International Saxophone Symposium (HKISS), an annual event established by Dr. Tse in 2009.  Serving students from all over southeast Asia, HKISS participants hailed from Hong Kong, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.  The participants filled their days attending lectures, taking private lessons, and performing in masterclasses held by the symposium’s world-class faculty, comprised of Dr. Tse, Philippe Geiss (University of Strasbourg, France), Jean-Michel Goury (National Conservatory of Boulogne-Billancourt, France), and David Nabb (University of Nebraska at Kearney).  The University of Iowa’s doctoral teaching assistants, Yiqun Chen, John Cummins, and Elissa Kana also coached quartets participating in the event.

ISW performed in two of the three featured evening concerts at HKISS.  The first concert opened with a performance by the University of Iowa’s ICON Saxophone Quartet (Yiqun Chen, José Barrientos, Matthew Kobberstad, and Dennis Kwok).  After performing works from the standard repertoire, the quartet concluded with a dramatic arrangement of music from the 1973 Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon that required the musicians to shout the kiai syllables used by martial artists when performing their moves.  The ISW took the stage in the second portion of the concert, following a pair of contemporary music duets by the Zephyr Duo, comprised of Jean-Michel Goury and flautist Sophie Goury.  The concert concluded with performances by three faculty soloists, each one accompanied by ISW.  Dr. Tse played a transcription of Max Bruch’s, Kol Nidrei on baritone saxophone, a work originally written for cello and orchestra.  Professor Geiss performed his own composition, Calderosax, with Jean-Michel Goury conducting, and David Nabb rounded out the concert with a transcription of Nessun Dorma, the well-known aria from Puccini’s Turandot.

The final gala concert featured a full concert program by the ISW, after which the symposium culminated with a rousing performance by a saxophone choir that brought together 130 saxophonists, comprised of symposium participants, members of Hong Kong’s saxophone community, and ISW.  Selections included Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, and Ravel’s audience-favorite, Bolero.  Following the concert, members of ISW mingled in the theater’s lobby, greeting the enthusiastic audience and posing for photos with young fans. 

While not busy rehearsing and performing, the ISW took some time off to tour the city, sample the delicious local cuisine, and hit the famous shopping districts of Hong Kong.  Highlights included an evening at Victoria’s Peak, a guided tour of Hong Kong’s financial district and historic buildings, the Bruce Lee Exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Taoist Wong Tai Sin Temple, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (home of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra), a trip to the beach, and the purchase of custom-made suits for several of the men. 

The tour concluded with a trip to Chengdu, China, where the Sichuan Conservatory of Music and their professor of saxophone, Yusheng Li, served as hosts.  The ensemble performed a two-hour concert for a sold-out crowd at the Conservatory, and were called back to the stage for an encore.  Following the concert, ISW members were treated as guests of honor at a banquet featuring traditional, spicy Sichuan cuisine.  Toasts, songs, and general revelry made for an unforgettable celebration of the event. The last day of the tour, Dr. Tse led a masterclass for students of the Sichuan Conservatory, while the ISW explored Chengdu.  Activities included a visit to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and dinner and shopping in the city’s historic district, Kuanzhai Xiangzi (“Wide and Narrow Alleys”). 

By the end of the tour, the members of ISW had experienced the thrill of international performance, explored foreign cities and cultures, and come home with many wonderful memories of a once-in-a-lifetime trip. 

— Story by Elissa Kana

Tour Details
Hong Kong International Symposium: July 15-21, 2016
Concert – July 17, 2016
Gala Concert – July 21, 2016
Sichuan Conservatory of Music: July 22-25, 2016
Concert – July 23, 2016
Masterclass – July 24, 2016

ISW Asian Tour Members

John Cummins (DMA)

James Skretta (DMA)
Yiqun Chen (DMA)
Matt Mahaffey (DMA)

Ryan Smith (DMA)
Elissa Kana (DMA)
José Barrientos (MA)
Beth King (MA)

Matthew Kobberstad (MA)
Michael Davis (BM)
Eric Rierson (BM)

Hantao Li (DMA)
Dennis Kwok (BM)

David Nicholson (BM)

The Iowa Saxophonists’ Workshop Repertoire
Hugo Alfvén/arr. Mi-bémol Saxophone Ensemble  – Vallflickans Dans
Aldemaro Romero – Fuga con Pajarillo
Modest Mussorgsky/rev. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov/arr. Kyle Mechmet – Night on Bald Mountain
Samuel Lo – Rhapsody of the Hungry Horse (world premiere performance)
Massimo Botter – Summer Victim on a Train
Philippe Geiss – Sir Patrick
Max Bruch/arr. Mi-bémol – Kol Nidrei, op. 47 (Kenneth Tse, baritone saxophone soloist)
Andy Firth – Bach’s Pianola
Gerónimo Giménez/arr. T Guarino – “Intermedio” from La Boda de Luis Alonso
Maurice Ravel/arr. Mi-bémol – Bolero
Franz Biebl/arr. Timothy J. Schultz – Ave Maria
Edward Elgar/arr. Mi-bémol – Pomp and Circumstance March, No. 1
Philippe Geiss – Calderosax (Philippe Geiss, sopranino saxophone soloist)
Giacomo Puccini – Nessun Dorma (David Nabb, alto saxophone soloist)

ICON Saxophone Quartet Members:
Yiqun Chen, soprano
José Barrientos, alto
Matthew Kobberstad, tenor
Dennis Kwok, baritone

ICON Saxophone Quartet Repertoire:
David Maslanka – Mountain Roads: I. Overture
Thierry Escaich – Tango Virtuoso
Gregory Wanamaker – Saxophone Quartet
Lalo Schifrin/arr. Hideaki Miura – Enter the Dragon


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.