August 2018 Convention
Orlando, FL

Flute Choir Concert: UpTown Flutes & Mercer University Flute Choir

Uptown Flutes

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, the eight-member Uptown Flutes performed four works by living composers. Derek Charke’s Raga Das featured an energetic, rhythmic ostinato in the altos and basses, with an added sustained-note flute duet that gradually evolved into running scales before returning to the earlier sustained theme. Loch Lomond Theme and Variations by Ervin Monroe began with the familiar, beautiful Scottish tune against bagpipe-like drones before the segue into lots of variations. While the variations involve a variety of styles and rhythmic textures, the lengthy and repetitious piece would work better if pared down to a handful of variations on a given program.

Next was the premier of Critical Mass by flutist/composer John McMurtery, a former UpTown member who rejoined the group for this special concert and explained the term “critical mass” as the “minimum material needed to keep a nuclear reactor going…or the minimum amount of people to keep anything going.” The mixed-meter composition, with a melodic motif heard throughout by different voices against varying layers of repeated rhythmic patterns, includes extended techniques.

 

For me, the highlight of the concert was Valerie Coleman’s Umoja, originally penned for female chorus, then for her Imani Winds woodwind quintet, and now for flute choir. Incorporating elements of African harmonies and rhythms, the piece offers fun, interesting lines for all the players and is sure to be a flute choir and audience favorite.

Mercer University Flute Choir, under the expert direction of Kelly Via, premiered three pieces: Melvin Lauf and Stephen Tung’s Beyond Tomorrow (NFA premiere), Christopher Schmitz’s Journey to Enceladus (world premiere), and John Palmer’s Danza! (NFA premiere). All pieces were impressively played by the 16 university students, who spent two days in flute choir “boot camp” to prepare for this NFA concert.

The first work featured a beautiful alto solo, while other parts frantically passed around articulated scalar flourishes. Enceladus, written by a Mercer theory/composition professor, encompasses shifting meters, interesting rhythms, and gorgeous tone clusters against an ascending lyrical bass line. Danza, in four movements, is destined to become a standard in the flute choir repertoire, with its fun dance patterns, rich harmonies, and expressive melodic lines.

—Rosene Rohrer