NFA New Orleans 2013

I’ve been back from New Orleans for a week now, but it’s taken me this long to process all the concerts, masterclasses and lectures I went to – my head was full of flute!  I arrived at the NFA Convention a day early for rehearsals for the Jambalaya Flute Orchestra, I will write another blog on that experience, which was lots of fun.  In no particular order, here are performances, people or goodies that caught my eye!

FLUTE CHOIRS

I purposely went to a lot of these concerts, I’m always looking for new pieces for Northern Westchester Flutes and the conventions increasingly seem to be the place where world premieres happen at the drop of a hat.   University of Wisconsin-Madison Flute Choir played the premiere of Danse des Mysteres, a cool piece by composer Jonathan Cohen, who played contrabass in their concert.  Trudy Kane‘s Frost Flute Ensemble partnered with tuba player Sam Pilafian for two amazing arrangements: Hoagy Carmichael’s New Orleans, and Nick LaRocca’s Tiger Rag.  I rode in the elevator with Trudy afterward and begged her to get them in print!  The whole program performed by the Texas Woman’s University and Brookhaven Flute Choir was fantastic.

Kelly Via’s Mercer University Flute Choir program was fabulous from top to bottom, and after meeting him at the New York convention four years ago I wouldn’t have expected any less.  Andra Bohnet‘s Celtic Krewe from University of South Alabama was multi-talented and amazed everyone with their memorization, especially when Andra announced from the stage that the group had only formed last fall!  Another standout all-around performance was the University of Veracruz Flute Ensemble.  They played Jazzscapes by Sonny Burnette, Chamberjazz by Christopher Caliendo, and gave the world premiere of Marie Leveaux, Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, with the composer Ruben Flores conducting.

My favorite choir performance of the entire convention goes to Stacey Steele‘s Slippery Rock University Flute Choir: Jax Mechanique (2013) by Stephen Barr is ingenious and deserves to be heard by much larger audiences.  The piece has the choir imitating the sounds you would hear in a car factory, and includes physical movement by all players.  They got a standing ovation afterwards, and with Robert Dick in the audience they should consider it the ultimate compliment!

SOLOS

I really enjoyed Zart Dombourian-Eby‘s performance of Gary Schocker‘s Piccolo Concerto No. 2, with Gary himself on the piano (loved his flowered shirt!).  After reading so many of her posts on the FLUTE List, it was great to finally hear Nicole Esposito play.  She was joined on the same concert by Jenny Cline’s Monmouth Winds, another FLUTE regular.  Monmouth played Startin’ Sumthin‘ by Imani Winds‘ Jeff Scott, and Jenny had a fabulous story of how she won an auction and the piece came to fruition!

Sophie Cherrier was featured in a masterclass, several recitals and a gala concert, and with good reason: her playing was exquisite.  I enjoyed Sarah Schettler‘s performance of Nino Rota’s Sonata per flauto e arpa, and had fun meeting her afterwards, we had a shared student in common!

MASTERCLASSES

I didn’t get to as many of these as I would have liked, but what I saw was great.  Marianne Gedigian‘s class for high school students made me almost want to be back in college so I could study with her.  She was smart, poised, and thoughtful in her critiques of some fine young players, and her love of flute gave the room a wonderful energy.

Zara Lawler‘s class on memorization was packed; it was cool to hear how her memorization process combines awareness/thoughtfulness with repetitions, which makes her performances so energizing and powerful.  She had us memorize a piece in class with her, I struggled with it and left vowing to work more at home with her techniques.

GALA CONCERTS 

Thursday’s Gala concert featured Jim Walker, Ali Ryerson and the unparalleled Hubert Laws.   I had heard Jim play at the NYFC a few years back, but what a treat to hear Ali and Hubert live.  And an even bigger surprise was Orlando “Maraca” Valle, holy smokes could he play!!

Friday’s Gala concert honored 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Barthold Kuiken.  I had never heard him play live before, he simply took my breath away.  The crowd asked him back for three encores, it still wasn’t enough of his gorgeous, effortless playing.

Saturday’s Gala concert was ingenious, and I can’t believe the NFA hasn’t done it before – orchestral excerpts live in concert!  Nobutaku Shimizu, Karl-Heinz Schultz and Sarah Jackson all played effortlessly and beautifully.  People did start to giggle after a few, because it seemed so odd to stop and not continue on, but I understood their time constraints.  Note to NFA for another convention, maybe next time make this the only headline of the concert and play the entire pieces?  I never heard the name of the orchestra onstage, but they were wonderful and should have gotten top billing.

MIXER – An Audience Interactive Project

The Fourth Wall get their own section because what they did on Saturday was amazing.  Part cocktail party, uncomfortable family gathering, neighborhood concert, and happening, it was the most fun I had all weekend.  I laid on the floor, played my flute, crumpled paper, jumped around, and did the hustle.  I can only imagine that we will be hearing a lot more of these guys in the future.  Based in Indianapolis, they must drive the kids at the schools they visit wild!  P.S.  In trying to find their website, Google provided me with this definition:  The Fourth Wall – The space that separates a performer or performance from the audience.

GOODIES

In the midst of all the flute scarves and g-clef ponytail holders, I found a revolutionary new device in the exhibit hall.  I saw many people using AirTurn in performances, and I purposely sought the rep out to ask questions.  A starting kit comes with a stand for your tablet device, and the three foot pedals, for about $200.  I saw a lot of contra bass players using them, and it made total sense – why fight with the instrument to put it down to turn a page when you can do it with a tap of your foot?  I thought of the daunting task of scanning in my file cabinet of music at home, but AirTurn’s software offers you access to DropBox, the camera on your tablet, or files uploaded from your laptop.  I loved the “half page turn” feature, and that I could use a stylus to write on the pages, or insert text boxes. And once you do go to the trouble to get your scores in there, how cool is it to scroll through your library with the flick of a finger?  The wave of the future for sure.

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