Tag Archives: flute music

The Wedding Flutist

Building A Flute Library: Music for Weddings

Spring has sprung and the temperature is rising, so it won’t be long before someone asks you to play at their wedding. There is an astonishing amount of repertoire suitable for both the church and the reception, so depending on your forces the choice is yours. Books of arrangements are really handy in this situation – you never know what might happen on The Big Day!

The most obvious combination is for flute and organ, and Sacred Solos Volume 1 arranged by Gilliam and MacCaskill will provide you with plenty of choice. Contents include Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze, Pachelbel’s Canon and the Meditation from Thais so you should be covered for all eventualities. The accompaniments work equally well for piano, and there is the added bonus of a CD that could be used to help the couple decide what music they might like.

Wedding Music for Flute and HarpWedding Music for Flute and Harp is for you if you are a part of that classic wedding combination. Compiled by Meinir Heulyn and Katey Thomas, who have a great deal of hands on experience in this genre, the books include performance directions and advice on when you might play each piece. This is really useful again if the couple are uncertain as to exactly what music would be suitable for their occasion. As well as the usual repertoire they have included the Intermezzo from Cavalieri Rusticana, Dance of the Blessed Spirits and the Pearl Fisher’s Duet, so again there is plenty of choice.

The Wedding FlutistIf you’re playing by yourself, look no further than Ricky Lombardo’s The Wedding Flutist, where he conveniently divides the repertoire up into Preludes, including Elgar Salut d’Amour and MacDowell To a Wild Rose, Processionals (Pachelbel Canon, Wagner Bridal Chorus (Lohengrin) and Clarke Trumpet Voluntary), Ceremony (Bach Air from Suite in D and Gounod Ave Maria) and Recessionals where you can play them out to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. Lombardo is a really good arranger and these pieces all work, given the scale of the reduction.

Sacred Duet CollectionLombardo also has another good book to offer you – Sacred Duet Collection is ideal for 2 flutes. Not everything here is suitable for the wedding but All Glory, Laud and Honour and Holy, Holy, Holy will add a suitably stately feel to your contribution. For the reception you might like to try Double Act by Marian Hellen. Subitlted ‘Popular Melodies’, there’s everthing here from Blow the Wind Southerly to Rule Britannia. This is very straightforward music, so there is plenty of scope for improvisation and repeats. You could also try them as written with a glass or two of champagne!

Single pieces that might work well at the reception if you have more than just 2 flutes would be the inevitable My Heart Will Go On in the excellent version for flute trio by Eric Hovi and Jamaica Sunrise for 4 flutes by Kate Cuzner. This will really add some sunshine on a rainy day with its lilting Caribbean rhythms and catchy melody. 8 flutes could play Jubilate Deo by Giovanni Gabrielli at the church where the antiphonal writing would be very effective.

If you are lucky enough to have a flute quartet at your disposal, Bill Holcombe is your man once you have finished playing Mozart Quartets. Music for Weddings has 2 volumes (Vol 1, Vol 2)and includes Ich Liebe Dich by Greig and Oh Perfect Love by Barnby as well as the usual mix of Bach, Handel and Mendelssohn. He has also arranged similar combinations of pieces for flute choir, wind trio and wind quintet, all of which will complement any standard music that you might have chosen.

Playing at weddings can be great fun as long as you are prepared, so sort out your music, don your wedding finery and get ready to party!

Hidden Gems: Christmas Music for Flute Choir

There is now so much choice of Christmas music available for flute choirs that it’s difficult to know where to start. In this post I’ve selected some of my favourites which I can really recommend.

Carol settings abound and the choice can be alarming. The best policy is to pick your carol, and then stick to those arrangers that are proven or whose pieces you have previously enjoyed. My personal favourites are Amy Rice Young, Ann Cameron Pearce and Ricky Lombardo, and all of them have contributed music to which you can return year after year.

In The Bleak MidwinterFor example, the Pearce version of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ atmospherically shares the tune, accompaniment and descant evenly between the parts and uses the lower instruments to great effect. This is also true of her arrangement of the ‘Wexford’ carol.

‘Wassailing’ by Rice-Young has dances from Somerset and Gloucestershire as well as the traditional one from Yorkshire – this is a simple arrangement, even if it is in A major. Her ‘First Nowell’ (sic) is bright and breezy as is the pairing of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ and ‘Sing We Now of Christmas’.

Lombardo’s ‘Trilogy of Carols’ utilises the versatile expandable format. It only takes four players to perform this, but there are actually 8 parts, including alto and bass flute options plus parts for string bass and percussion.

You might also like to investigate the ‘Peace Collection’ by Paul Horn. The textures here are simpler, making them ideal for the less experienced group. I particularly like the ‘Carol of the Bells’ from Volume 3 for the way in which it builds and subsides – most effective.

Foreign carols can often provide a good programme contrast. Take the ‘French Nativity Suite’, 3 carols set by Kelly Via. ‘Il est Ne’ is well-known and surprisingly has some swing-rhythm in the accompaniment, but the less familiar 14th century carol from Provence ‘Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella’ is handled simply. Pat-A-Pan is more of a challenge – upbeat with a 5/8 central section and complex ensemble writing which is as enjoyable to play as it is to listen to. Meanwhile, the ‘Scandinavian Suites’, again put together sensitively by Rice-Young are just lovely tunes which completely illustrate the countries from which they originate. ‘Two Preludes for December’ by Claudia Bissett will also delight audiences. Scheidt and Praetorius provide the music here and she arranges for double flute choir skilfully.

Sample Music from Two Preludes for December

You could take the humorous option. Merging Christmas songs with traditional carols is a favoured route with surprisingly good results! ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ (Rice-Young again!), punctuates the main theme with carol snippets. Great fun could be had here with some audience participation. Darlene Dugan’s ‘A Patchwork Christmas’ stitches together various carols to give us ‘Noel in a Manger’, O Song of Joy (Jesu, Joy and O Tannebaum) and ‘Joy on Deck’. On a slightly different tack, Lombardo’s ‘Santa’s Symphony’ (again in the expandable format) combines carols with popular classics. Watch out for Eine Kleine, 1812 Overture, The Nutcracker and even some Brahms! This is such fun and perfect for most Christmas occasions – a real winner. Jingle Bell Prism, another gem from Ann Cameron Pearce, is a classic. Here she gives this song the real treatment – 7 different styles from a 16th century Venetian Madrigal to Boogie-Woogie and Beach Rock. It works
perfectly well with C flutes only but will take a bit of practice. Oh so worth it though!

And finally – what about a Christmas piece that is completely original? Kathleen Mayne’s ‘Christmas Overture’ tells the story of the Nativity. The beautiful opening melody in F minor sets the scene of the ‘Cold, Still Bethlehem Night’ before the music becomes more rhythmic for ‘The Visit from the Magi’. Playful music depicts ‘The Curious Stable Animals’ before the lilting ‘Mother Mary’s Lullaby’ builds to an eventual grandioso conclusion. Lasting 6 minutes this is a substantial piece that will reward the work needed to perform it well and enhance any Christmas concert.

Cecilia McDowall

Composer Profile: Cecilia McDowall

Cecilia McDowall

Cecilia McDowall

It is very unlikely that you will not know at least one piece by Cecilia McDowall – even if it is the very popular Comic Song from the ABRSM grade 4 book! She isn’t a flute player, but her father, Harold Clarke, was. He was principal flute at the Royal Opera House, and professor of flute at Trinity College of Music. So it is inevitable that Cecilia would write music for us, and write it well. She is completely woven into the flute fabric in the UK, with works on exam lists and commissions ranging from contemporary solo pieces to music for large flute ensembles.

Cecilia McDowall - Six Pastiches for Flute and PianoThe Comic Song actually comes from one of my favourite of her albums for emerging students. Six Pastiches for flute and piano is a book of little gems, each one having a quirky take on their individual title. For example, there is a disjointed “Hornpipe”, in which the tune appears almost but not quite as you would expect; the minor key “Comic Song” full of clown-like pathos; and a truly slapstick “Music Hall.” Easily accessible but full of scope for the imaginative pupil to explore the unusual, these are invaluable as both teaching and performing resources.

Three Concert Studies develops technique by the back-door – the “Chromatic Waltz” for chromatic scales, “Tongue in Cheek” for articulation patterns and “Spaces” for intervals. In a popular harmonic language, these are all very appealing. Soundtracks, another album of intermediate pieces, is worth having for the sumptuous Russian Encounter alone. The wonderful melody and off-beat accompaniment make this a winner!

The Moon Dances by Cecilia McDowallAt the other end of the spectrum, The Moon Dances, commissioned by Susan Milan, represents a serious challenge. Here McDowall uses contemporary techniques to evoke the colors with which to illustrate the “intense imagery of the Spanish poetry” – the inspiration behind these contrasting dances. The whole of the second movement, “Black with Shadows and Wolves”, involves the flute being played into the piano, resulting in a pervading veil of ghostly harmonics. Rhythmic complexity and drive characterize the outer movements “Paper Sea” and “Silver Coins and The Red Star Trembles”.

McDowall is greatly influenced by her Scottish background. Piper’s Dream draws inspiration from Celtic folk music, with the flute at times reflecting the sound of the bagpipes! Essentially a fantasy, the improvisatory style of writing creates a dream-like quality that eventually fades away into the mist.

Eleven by Cecilia McDowallAnother of her important works for flute and piano is Eleven, illustrating her ability to create a sound world distinctly foreign to the instruments used. It was written at the time of the troubles in Kosovo. She writes: “I became obsessed with what happens to a culture when it is dispersed due to war. ‘Eleven’ means ‘alive’ in Hungarian, and I dedicated it to all those in danger of losing their cultural identity, in the hope that they can keep their cultural ‘voice’ alive.” The mesmerising nature of the indigenous religious music of the region is graphically illustrated here, and the depiction of suffering is intense. The piano part is written to reinforce the sound of the cimbalom, and the improvisatory nature of the folk song writing for the flute adds to the passion. I think that this is one of her best pieces and is impossible not to be moved by the strength and depth of feeling underlying every nuance.

Her latest project is Crossing the Bridge, an exciting new work for flute orchestra, commissioned by Margaret Lowe for the National Flute Orchestra. A whole array of flutes feature – piccolo, 4 flutes in C, 2 alto flutes, bass flute and optional contra alto and contra bass flute. As she explains:

“The structure of the work is like that of a bridge. The short middle movement, ‘London Bridge’, spans the divide by taking the last phrase of ‘Mostar’ as its opening, exploring the darker tones of the lower instruments, and the first bar of ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ as its close. In this middle movement I took the old English song, London Bridge Is Falling Down, and played around with it, sharing it between the instruments, until it ‘falls down’. The opening movement, ‘Mostar’, refers to the old single arch stone bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which became such a symbol of peace and hope in the late 1990s. In the outer sections of this movement the flutes explore the characteristic ‘fall’ at the end of the phrase which is quite a feature of some middle European music. The central section is lively and has a whirling, folk-dance feel to it. At the time Brooklyn Bridge was built (1883) it was one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. It connects Manhattan with Brooklyn across the East River, always busy with traffic, and has a powerful presence on the New York skyline. The third movement of Crossing the Bridge is one of perpetual motion, opening with a bright, staccato texture, and is in the shape of a palindrome or arch. (Appropriate, I hope, for a piece about bridges!) It is restless and energetic, driving full speed to its final cut off.”

If you add to all of this Seven Impressions for piccolo and piano, and Winter Music for wind quintet, you start to understand how important the flute is in the life of Cecilia McDowall. Her father has a lot to answer for and we are in his debt!