Celebrating 63 Years of Inspired Music Making!

June 22 – July 27, 2024


Eastern Music Festival (EMF), Greensboro’s nationally recognized classical music festival and summer educational program, presents an evening of “Percussions Explorations”, which will include the world premiere of Wand’ring Fire by Michael Ippolito, on Wednesday, July 20th at 8PM in Dana Auditorium, Guilford College.

The Percussion Explorations performance will highlight unconventional percussion techniques and pieces by EMF Faculty. Composers you can expect include: Devonté Hynes, Rolf Wallin, George Hamilton Green, Connor Shafron, Alyssa Weinberg, and Aurél Holló, and the world premiere of Michael Ippolito’s Wand’ring Fire.

Michael Ippolito, praised by the New York Times for his “polished orchestration,” has many works that have been performed by the top musicians in venues around the world. Ippolito is known for drawing on his rich musical background in classical and folk music, while drawing inspiration from other art forms. This has enabled the expansive body of works that span across orchestral, chamber, and vocal works.

Wand’ring Fire, written for and commissioned by EMF Faculty Artists, harpist Anna Kate Mackle and percussionist John Shaw, is a musical meditation on the ignis fatuus or will-o’-the-wisp. These strange lights that appear in the night can be explained scientifically, which is a fascinating topic on its own, but Ippolito was particularly fascinated by the various folkloric explanations. John Shaw was interested in singing bowls, which are metal bowls that produce a pitch when you rub or strike them, and the use of his own kalimba, which is a modern version of a traditional African instrument with metal tongs that you pluck to make noise, to convey the story of the piece. Ippolito expressed:

“He challenged me to include those instruments in the piece, and as a composer, I appreciate that kind of challenge! I borrowed a singing bowl from a colleague, along with some other instruments, and started to imagine a piece in which the percussion and harp sounds sort of cast a spell on the listener and draw them in. The legend of the ignus fatuus, or will-o-the-wisp, seemed to fit what I had in mind.”


Anna Kate and John, notoriously known as the Mackle Shaw Duo, decided to commission Michael Ippolito since he grew up in the Tampa Bay area, where both musicians perform with The Florida Orchestra. What you can expect from this piece includes “almost exclusively ringing metal percussion instruments – vibraphone, gong, bell tree, tibetan singing bowl, as well as an amplified kalimba (African thumb piano). The sound of these instruments paired with the harp are haunting and beautiful, and we’re excited for audiences to hear it,” John says. The Mackle Shaw Duo are thrilled with the outcome of the piece and want to mention that it would not be possible without the support from the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance