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How to REALLY Experience Beethoven February 13, 2011

Posted by flutebrarian in Music Performances.
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Last night the Tuscarawas Philharmonic performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to a near capacity crowd.

And I had the best seat in the house. You see, I am the principal flute and sit dead center in the orchestra.

You have never experienced this monument of music unless you have participated in it. And with my location on stage, I had all the strings in front of me, the winds surrounding me, and the 140-voice chorus and soloists behind me. The result – incredible.

The quartet solo in the finale transferred me to another dimension, especially when Patty Boehm floated up to the high B so effortlessly. This was by far the best quartet that we have ever had perform with us.

So, chalk up another stupendous performance as part of our 75th anniversary season. Next year, Carmina Burana. Beethoven will have to wait another 5 years for our 80th year.


Playing Elijah February 9, 2009

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The first and only time that I have ever played Mendelssohn’s Elijah was as a terrified high school senior. I had been playing second flute to my flute teacher in a community orchestra with the man who would become my college flute teacher as the conductor. This year was my first experience playing in an orchestra and a great experience to prepare me for college.

Then my flute teacher dropped the bomb – she couldn’t play the Elijah concert. She wanted ME to play principal.

Shyly (as I did many things then) I agreed, not knowing what I was up against. Somehow, I made it through the performance and was completely overwhelmed by the whole experience.

Fast forward about 34 years…

Now, I have about 12 years experience as the principal flute in the Tuscarawas Philharmonic Orchestra and it’s Mendelssohn’s 200th birthday. Time to bring Elijah back to life!

I can honestly say that none of the oratorio sounded familiar, except for the crazy E major scale with the long D# trill at the end in one of the movements. This time, the run and the trill went off without a hitch. A triumph at last.

The performance went extremely well and Ron Barkett was an incredible Elijah. I found myself in a trance as I sat through my tacet movement while listening to the wonderful duet between Ron and principal cellist Elaine Anderson. Wow. Just beautiful.

And conductor Eric Benjamin – where would we be without him? His ability to pull chorus, soloists, staging and orchestra together is uncanny. He makes our work so easy and definitely never boring…

Another Closing of Another Show June 22, 2008

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The folks at Carnation City Players (CCP) have done it again! Today wrapped up a two weekend run of the hilarious musical HONK! at the Firehouse Theater in Alliance, OH. It was a work of shear delight both to the eyes and ears.

But there was a twist to the birth of this show about the Ugly Duckling.

You see, the show was changed at the eleventh hour due to casting problems with the original show. Director Don McCallister had the original show all blocked, musical director Kim Lewis had all the musicians lined up. A couple weeks were lost in trying to fill in the crucial gaps in the casting before it was decided to jump ship and pull out Honk to replace it.

So, instead of the usual 6 or 7 weeks used to stage a musical, only 5 weeks was available. All but one cast member from the original auditions said they would participate and the preparation began. Fortunately, Don had staged this show elsewhere and had retained all his notes. Of course, his skill at pulling things together and the dedication of the all-volunteer cast and crew didn’t hurt either.

Not only did the director have to shift gears, but costumes, sets, lighting and props had to be changed quickly as well.

And change they did. We no longer had soldiers on stage, but ducks, turkeys, frogs, and chickens. Oh, and don’t forget the cats and swans.

Mama duck and the duck family were wonderful and Ugly’s transition through “the molt” was mesmerizing. But the  cast members who stole the show were the cats and the bullfrog. I’ll never look at my cat the same way again….

Not Your Typical Christmas Concert December 16, 2007

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Playing a Christmas/Holiday concert with the Tuscarawas Philharmonic is never a dull thing. I’ve played many Christmas concerts over the life of my community band and orchestra career and many a painful Christmas sing-along after the long ordeal of Nutcracker Suites/Leroy Anderson medleys/Messiah excerpts leaves one’s chops sore and tired.

But not so with an Eric Benjamin concert. Sure, there are plenty of familiar Christmas tunes to put one in the mood for the season, but Eric interweaves them with intricate counter-melodies and lots and lots of notes and noodles. Let’s just say one does not expect to sight read the concert!

This year’s concert included what seemed to be a smaller children’s chorus than usual, although the sound and enthusiasm from the kids seemed much more lively than normal. One of my favorites was brought out from the vault (kind of like the Disney animated movies) this year, “Here in My House,” a delightful partner song to unite Christmas and Hanukkah  traditions.

Our workout for this year was a new work called “Music for a December Day.” This turned out to be quite a workout and one that I definitely will need to brush up on my scales up to high C# and D to be able to play next year. Ah, but the effect was there at least. Thank goodness for doubling with the piccolo!

But wait! There’s more…

Not only were we joined by the kids’ chorus, but Divine Hope, a gospel group from Akron, Ohio performed a set of holiday numbers with us as well. The rhythms and accidentals are tricky with these arrangements since they are transcribed from aural recordings before they are orchestrated.  But we let the music happen and with only a couple of glitches, the performance was met with wild enthusiasm from both audience and orchestra.

A Musical Christmas Carol December 9, 2007

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We’ve all seen the traditional performance of the play A Christmas Carol – bad English accents, tired acting, and ragtag costumes used year after year. This was not so with Carnation City Players staging of the musical version with music by Alan Menken.

I had the privilege of playing in the pit ensemble – an ensemble, mind you, not an orchestra. You see, even if we wanted to, we could only fit about 7 people maximum in the small pit space off to the side of the large stage. Another reason for the small group of musicians – there are no mics used on the cast. Our group this time included piano, flute, viola, electric bass, and percussion – and all with no conductor. That alone is quite a challenge in live theatre!

After the initial run-through to get tempos and cuts, the race was on to figure out all the vocal cues to know when to play. Head bobs from the pianist cued us in – well, most of the time – and we were off to the races. The piccolo was too aggressive, so we stuck with just the flute. And if it weren’t for sticky notes, I never would have found my way through all the cuts.

So, the performance is over and I have my evenings back, more or less. So, Civil War, the Musical anyone?