By Živa Verdnik

Recently we had another cultural event at our school, and this time things went in a more classical direction. We got the opportunity to see Duo Dendrocopus, a duet of two amazing percussionists, who recently won the prestige International Percussion Competition Luxemburg and won the first prize by the judges as well as the first prize according to the public. This gives them an amazing opportunity to perform with the best musicians around the world and fulfil their dreams.

But success does not come over night, they have worked hard to get to their level of excellence. Jan Čibej, born in 1999 in Ljubljana started doing music when he was six years old in the music school Trebnje, where he studied for eight years. He didn’t play the drums only, he also played the piano and the trumpet, both for six years. Then he went to the Conservatory for Music and Ballet in Ljubljana, percussion department, where he graduated with honours. Now he is in his first year of Music Academy in Ljubljana.

Luka Poljanec was also born in Ljubljana, in 1999. He began his music career playing the recorder flute at Franc Šturm Music School , where he began playing the drums when he was eight years old. Later he enrolled to the Conservatory for Music and Ballet in Ljubljana, which he is still attending at the present.

In all these years they have won a lot of prizes at many competitions, now they compete together.  Separately they both attended Svirél, Jan in 2014 and in 2016, both years achieving gold and in 2015, when he cooperated with Slovenian Percussion, he won the gold prize. Luka attended Svirél for years in a row, between 2009 and 2012. He was golden three times and silver in 2010. Both attended TEMSIG, where Jan was silver in 2011, 2014 and in 2017 and Luka achieved gold in 2017. They also entered a lot of other prestige competitions, like Mariva Festival, International Percussion Youth competition, Povoletto, KALIMA and many others. The last competition where they competed together was International Percussion Competition in Luxemburg, where they got first place.

The program they prepared for our school mostly consisted of works they also competed with in Luxemburg. The works were extremely hard to play and they absolutely mastered them.

They started with A. Morag’s Octabones, a composition written for two marimbas. Its name comes from the word octatones, which is a scale that is used in the piece. It has four sections, first is fast allegro which is followed by slower legato part. Next part is quick again, but the players play with the mallet handles. The last section repeats the first one and by doing so nicely brings whole composition to the end. Players have to be really skilled to be able to follow the fast tempo and in some parts of the composition even to play certain figures on the other player’s marimba.

Next piece was SonataK141 by D. Scarlatti. Sonata was originally written for the piano in D-minor and was arranged for two marimbas by Tchiki Duo. Scarlatti was a baroque composer and that is why the sonata has a lot of typical baroque figures. The main theme develops from a toccata-like beginning which transforms in to playful, but urgent melody at fast tempo. It is relatively short, but filled with anticipation, strength and passion that challenges the player and gives an amazing performance to the listener.

Third composition, Sex in the Kitchen by N. J. Živković, was one of the most unique pieces of the concert. It grabbed the attention of the public within first ten seconds, when the players took off their shoes, unclasped their belts and began hitting the floor with them. The innovative intro then transformed into the fast, energetic rhythm, played on the couple of bongos, toms, kick-drum and piccolo snare drum. They also used pots, cups and other things that can be found in the kitchen. One of the players also opened a jar of yoghurt and started eating it, and then returned back to his drums. After a big exciting finale they took two wine glasses and cheered, which beautifully wrapped up the composition.

Next composition was Das Lied vom jungen Akkordeonspieler by D. Wirtz, which translates to “Song of a young accordion player”. The piece tries to imitate accordion with quick notes, which means players must be extremely concentrated while playing. Furthermore, there are so many tones, played in such a fast tempo, that the both players need to hold four mallets to be able to play all of them.

Fourth piece was Ultimatum II, also written by N. J. Živković. It was based on the combination of atonality and post-modern style and is played in three movements. In the first movement players play intensive octave melodies and powerful power chords in the low register. Second movement has long-lined melodies that are accompanied by short, small, rain-like notes in the high register. The last movement transforms in to angry, passionate solo, played by one of the players. After the climax of the soloist both players meet again, release the tension and end the piece.

The last composition that was played, Eight on 3 and nine on 2 by R. Marino, is made to be a challenge for every player, regardless of their level of experience, because two players must collaborate with each other. That is because they need to share their instruments – eight pitched tom toms, two rototoms, two bongos and a bass drum – and combine rhythms, created by individual players in to a whole.

When Jan and Luka were taking a pause to reorganize their drum sets, our music teacher, Almira Rogina, who also made this concert possible, educated us on the pieces we heard and made us laugh too. In the end, Duo Dendrocopos played an additional piece, Tango by Igor Stravinsky, originally written for piano.

Luka and Jan made an amazing job, and we were definitely impressed by their accomplishments, especially because they are almost our age. The evening left us amazed and charmed by beautiful melodies of marimbas and exciting beat of the drums that we will not forget for a long time.