Manor Winds formed because two college friends wanted to keep making music together.
Oboe player Lauren Fairfull, of Lancaster, and flute player Matt Angelo, of Bethlehem, met at West Chester University while undergraduate students.
A few years after they graduated, Fairfull connected with a handful of Lancaster musicians through various freelance and pickup gigs. Among them was horn player Anne Nye.
“It seemed like it would be a really fun thing to start playing together as a quintet,” Nye says.
The connection spawned Manor Winds, a wind quintet made up of Angelo, Fairfull, Nye, clarinet player Christy Banks and bassoonist Robin Plant. Manor Winds will perform a free show Saturday at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. (At Saturday’s show, bassoonist Robert Sirois will fill in for Plant.)
Wind quintets aren’t quite as common as their brass and string counterparts, Nye says.
“The sound is so unique because (for) each instrument, the sound is produced in such a different way,” Nye says. For example, Nye’s horns and her bandmates’ reed instruments work differently.
The players come from different musical backgrounds, from edgy modern music groups to principal musicians in local symphonies. Playing in a smaller group offers them a different experience than playing in a large traditional orchestra — an experience they value equally, Nye says.
Nye balances performing in the group with her job as director of education, music librarian and personnel manager for the Pennsylvania Philharmonic and running an antique business in Columbia. She and the other Manor Winds musicians make the group work by dedicating full weekends to rehearsals, which they call retreats.
The musicians of Manor Winds will often get together on a Saturday, have dinner together, rehearse all evening, and then have a sleepover to rehearse again Sunday. The retreats happen at Nye’s Manor Street home, hence the band’s name.
The band is always evaluating its repertoire and adds a few pieces each time it performs. Among its favorites are Malcolm Arnold’s “Three Shanties,” a showy collection of drinking songs.
Part of the fun of the group is being able to change its setlist as it pleases.
“It’s been fun over the last three years to know every time we’re adding a new piece, we can revisit that in a year,” Nye says. “Or if we play something every month for a year and we’re sick of it, we can put that aside, try something new. We’re always mixing that up.”
Nye says Manor Winds has performed about 20 major recitals in the last year and a half, in addition to other smaller concerts. One of the group’s most memorable shows was in August at the Margate City Public Library in New Jersey. The performance space had large windows, so audience members got a view of the sunset during the show.
The audience was primarily older women, Nye says, and the musicians were worried if they’d enjoy the music.
“They were just ecstatic about it,” Nye says. “They were like, fighting over seats. It was just hilarious.”
Nye says that on the whole, they’ve been pleased with the audience response.
“When I play with the wind quintet, I feel like people come up to me and are more likely to be saying, ‘I have never heard this group of instruments before; this is such unique music. I loved it. I didn’t expect to love it,’ ” Nye says.
The key is keeping variety, Nye says.
“We don’t want to sit up there and just play the standards. … We like to avoid doing that,” Nye says. “But we also like to play things that, maybe they aren’t recognizable tunes, but they maybe invoke a recognizable feeling.”
It helps the group stay fun for the performers, too.
“We really want this to be more of a party all of the time versus just another performing group that’s trying to make money for a living,” Nye says. “It’s obviously much more than that, or we wouldn’t be doing this.”