As mentioned in my last post about the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, one of the things I love about Cleveland is the quality of the performing arts that can be found here.
However, the city also demonstrates excellence in other areas besides theatre. It not only hosts the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra, but is also home to a number of smaller music societies that provide the community with the opportunity to participate in and experience exquisite performances.
One of these organizations is the Greater Cleveland Flute Society. Established in 1997, the GCFS works toward furthering an interest in flute music within the local community.
They achieve this by hosting both performance and educational opportunities including masterclasses and flute chamber ensemble concerts. In addition to local activities, they’ve performed at the Northeast Ohio Flute Association Festival last fall as well as the Chicago Flute Festival.
One of the Greater Cleveland Flute Society’s most popular local events is the Cleveland Composers Connection Concert, which took place this year on April 25. This particular concert focuses on composers who are local to the Cleveland area. Starting in the Fall, composers can submit flute compositions to be performed at a concert the following Spring. This gives both the composers and the GCFS the opportunity to showcase selected compositions to an audience of flutists and flute enthusiasts.
This year’s event took place at Judson Manor on E 107th St around University Circle. It featured two programs that showcased works by 8 composers of varying styles and backgrounds. Since the composers were local to Cleveland, they were able to attend the concert, discuss their compositions, and in the case of one composer perform part of it as well. While I personally don’t have a strong background in flute music, I studied piano for a number of years and really enjoy discovering new music and composers. Subsequently, this was a very exciting opportunity to listen to the composers explain the thought-process behind their pieces.
The concert opened and closed with two pieces by Victoria Belfiglio: Processional for Flutes and Spanish Nights. A resident of Shaker Heights, Belfiglio was previously featured in the 2006 Cleveland Composers Connection. Her Processional was a pleasing piece for a small ceremony such as a wedding or graduation and was written for a flute choir of 2 standard flutes, an alto and a bass flute. It was the first time I had ever listened to a bass flute, so that was a new experience in and of itself. Her Spanish Nights composition, on the other hand, was written to convey the energy of a hot Spanish night and featured a multitude of other instruments in addition to the flute – including guitars, castanets, tambourine and maracas.
Spanish Nights wasn’t the only piece to incorporate instruments besides the flute. A few of the other pieces I found particularly enjoyable also used guitar and piano as a complement. Among these were pieces by Loris Chobanian and Stephen Griebling.
A professor of composition and guitar and a composer-in-resident at Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory, Loris Chobanian performed the guitar portions of his two compositions Nocturne and Vivo. Originally, the accompanying flute arrangements were written for the cello. One thing that Chobanian noted about converting the cello portions to flute was accounting for the flutist’s necessity to breathe. After a few attempts at working it into the composition, he recounted how he decided to just let the individual flutist determine that for themselves.
The Cleveland Composers Connection also featured the world premiere of Dance Suite – a piece by William Rayer. Rayer, who is a retired music teacher and performs regularly with the Lorain Community Orchestra, first wrote the suite as a study of technique. However, in working on the movements, they developed into a beautiful piece for a flute trio. The three movements – Dance Mystique, Pavanne and Dance Macabre – were each written to bring a different sound to the suite. The first movement balanced being both reflective and energetic. The second movement featured the first flute in a cadenza-like movement, with the second and third flutes supporting with a quiet and plaintive sound. Finally, Rayer equated the third movement to a chase. Written in a fugal style, it starts out as the most energetic, but at the very end becomes somber and reflective hinting at earlier movements before the chase restarts. My favorite part about the premiere of Dance Suite was that you could see how the performers worked hard and collaborated with the composer to successfully ensure the first impression the piece made conveyed Rayer’s intention.
Other compositions that were featured included Christopher Lee’s beautifully lilting Skywriting, David Kulma’s contrasting Waxing Rhapsodic and Waxing Fantastic, Bryan Kennard’s aptly titled Two Fugues: DeaFuga and Fyoog, and a moving remembrance of Amy Barlowe’s father in Hebraique Elegie.
Currently, the Greater Cleveland Flute Society is in the planning stages for next year’s programs. In September, they’ll host their kickoff meeting and picnic for the new season. Other official events that will follow are the ‘Just Us’ Concert – which is open to the public and features members of the GCFS performing – as well as the call for submissions for next year’s Composers Connection Concert. Outside of these events, members will frequently perform throughout the area playing at local churches such as Lakewood Congregational Church and Shaker Heights’ First Unitarian. More information about upcoming and past events, including photos, can be found on the Greater Cleveland Flute Society’s Facebook page.
The GCFS is an excellent example of local talent looking to enrich the community through its educational and performance efforts. And by featuring compositions by Cleveland composers, the Greater Cleveland Flute Society has definitely achieved its mission.