“fearless foursome of female flautists”
Sunday, June 12 at 2 pm.
Club Helsinki Hudson
Buy tickets online: www.columbiafestivalorchestra.org
or call Club Helsinki at 518.828.4800.
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Advance ticket buyers are guaranteed seats.
Tickets are $ 20.00.
FLUTE FORCE was founded in 1981 when there was virtually no written music available for four flutes playing together. As a result, much of what the group presents these days is either commissioned specifically for them or transcribed from pieces created for other instruments.
“When we first got together,” says quartet member Sheryl Henze, “people assumed that we would sound like a calliope. “But instead, what we did was really mix it up and find music that refuted that concept.” And that’s what they want when they commission a new piece, too. “We look for a composer with a distinctive voice,” explains Henze, “someone with their own vocabulary and style. As a result, we’ve gotten a very diverse set of pieces.” Together, the group has commissioned and premiered over twenty new compositions and serves as a model for flute quartets throughout the country.
Take the composition Silver Halo, for example. Originally commissioned by a flute manufacturer (to insure continued interest in the purchase of the instrument), the piece was created for the 25th anniversary of Flute Force in 2006. Says Henze, “We chose composer Joseph Schwantner because of a piece he had written several years ago. We thought he had a good ear for our instruments. But, low and behold, the piece he sent us had no resemblance to what we had liked. It was nothing like the reason we had chosen him. But,” she adds, “People are growing all the time. And, we like to think we are too.” So they happily accepted his work.
Little did they know that it would come to be the most difficult piece they had ever played. Schwantner had heard the quartets’ recordings and was very excited. As Stern says, “he said he could write a piece free of worry that it would be too hard.” Still, the group struggled to make it work. And, if that wasn’t enough, the composer included some ‘theatrical effects’ – playing non-flute instruments and walking into the concert hall from the back – just to make things interesting.
Challenging or not, commissioned works have an added benefit. The group doing the commissioning gets to premier the piece. And in the process, as Stern says, “discover what the piece can really evolve into” right alongside the composer. Ultimately, the first recording becomes the performance model for all who follow.
Which brings us to a sure sign that Flute Force has become an extremely influential ‘force’ in music. Says Henze, “We received an inquiry on our website a few days ago asking where a CD of the Schwantner piece could be found. The writer went on to say that they had heard it at Wheaton College – a place where we’ve never performed. The mystery was solved when we found out that another flute quartet had formed just to learn this piece and when they performed it, they called themselves Silver Halo – the same name as the commissioned piece.”
Commissions come from within the group, too. In fact, on Sunday, quartet member, Elizabeth Brown will be showcasing her original composition, The Baths of Caracalla. “It’s my favorite piece,” says Henze. “It’s so original; so different.” The composition includes not only four alto flutes, but the recorded sounds of Vietnamese instruments shakuhachi and dan bau, and the eerie addition of the theremin. “It’s sort of haunting,” Henze says.
Overall, the quartet has chosen selections that they feel will give the listener an overview of what 4 flutes can do. These include a piece by Stravinsky, a Quartet in d minor from around 1700 – probably originally written for a recorder (but no one is certain), a “great, standard work” written by Eugene Bozza from mid-20th century, and “Walk Like This” – described as “rock influenced” and written by Ian Clarke, an English studio composer who counts Bobby McFarren and Robert Dick among his most important influences.
This event is part of the Columbia Festival Orchestra’s ClaverackLanding series – a program designed to increase the classical music audience. By presenting their music in the intimate atmosphere of Club Helsinki in Hudson, virtuoso musicians of the CFO and highly acclaimed guest artists and ensembles can reach new listeners with both traditional and non-traditional concert music. More information about this program is available at www.columbiafestivalorchestra.org.