August 2014 Convention
Chicago, IL

Friday Evening Gala

Nancy Stagnitta

The anticipation was palpable in the International Ballroom before the Friday Evening Gala, whose overall theme could have been “Pushing the Envelope”—all of the featured artists played music outside of the standard classical flute repertoire.

The concert began with a jazz set performed by Nancy Stagnitta, flute and alto flute; Frank Portolese, guitar; Marion Hayden, bass; Sean Dobbins, drums; and Claudia Schmidt, vocals. The ensemble’s cohesion and communication was awe-inspiring, especially since the guitar player jumped in to substitute for the regular guitarist on the afternoon of the performance! On each piece, players took turns improvising over the changes. Stagnitta’s improvisations were a great marriage of her knowledge of jazz theory with her technical and musical brilliance. The middle two pieces featured vocalist Claudia Schmidt, whose singing was soulful and energetic. Perhaps the audience’s favorite piece, Birdbrain Blues, featured quotes from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Stravinsky’s Firebird, and Chaminade’s Concertino. Listeners laughed out loud at Stagnitta’s humorous incorporation of these familiar passages into this new piece.

Claire Chase

The program, which was announced, included “The Jody Grind,” by Horace Silver; “Black Orpheus,” by Luiz Bonfa; “Moanin’, ” by Bobby Timmons; “I Dreamed My Baby Wanted Me Tonight,” by Claudia Schmidt; “Cinema Paradiso,” by Ennio Morricone; and Stagnitta’s aforementioned “Birdbrain Blues.”

The gala’s second performance featured flutist Claire Chase. She performed Parabolas for solo amplified flute by Marcos Balter. The amplification created the effect of being inside a cave. Sometimes this effect was so strong that it sounded like multiple flutes were playing. Chase’s performance was, in one word, fearless. Every extended technique was performed with intention and intensity. Her memorization of the piece also allowed for a greater connection with the audience.  Her playing was mesmerizing. With each phrase, she drew listeners further into the cave.  It was a beautiful performance by a master in the genre of contemporary flute music.

The final group to perform was Project Trio, featuring Greg Pattillo, flute; Eric Stephenson, cello; and Peter Seymour, double bass. Their program featured a nice variety of jazz tunes, arrangements of classical music, and original pieces all with Pattillo’s signature beatbox style of playing. The energy coming from the group was contagious and listeners’ heads were nodding with the music. There was also a narrative or storytelling quality to Project Trio’s performance, from the creative arrangement of Peter and the Wolf to the players’ explanation of how they formed the group. This further allowed the audience to connect with the ensemble. The group received three standing ovations. Project Trio is a fantastic example of musicians finding a niche and having an entrepreneurial spirit to follow their own path.

The program, also announced, included “Fables of Faubus,” by Charles Mingus; Symphony No. 5, by Ludwig van Beethoven; Hungarian Dance No. 5, by Johannes Brahms; Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf; Jethro Tull’s “Bouree” from Suite in E Minor for Lute, and Project Trio’s own “Classique,” “Raga Raja,” “Sweet Pea,” “Sloeberry Jam,” and “The Bodega.”

Project Trio: Greg Pattillo, flute; Eric Stephenson, cello; and Peter Seymour, double bass

—Karen McLaughlin Large

photos by Brian Covington