The Art of the Flute

Last night I had the opportunity of hearing the International Flute Orchestra in their first public performance in the United States. This group of professional flutists travels each year to different countries, working with flutists in those countries and working to improve relationships between the host country and the United States.

I thought I knew what to expect–but I didn’t!

I knew what a flute looked like–doesn’t everyone? I realized, though, that what I was familiar with were the piccolo and the C flutes. I’d never seen a contralto or contrabass flute! They’re an unusual (and rare) instrument–apparently quite expensive and a challenge to travel with. The flute orchestra had 3 of them!

They played music around the world–arrangements of classical pieces, folk songs, and original works written specifically for them.

We were fortunate in that their national convention had just ended in Kansas City, and the orchestra took advantage of the opportunity to perform on the Dome and Spire Series, sponsored by Community of Christ.

I thought that maybe after a little while I’d get tired of hearing the flute sound, but the variety of instruments (piccolo, C flutes, altos, bass, contralto, and contrabass) provided a depth of sound I’d never heard before. Some of the pieces I was familiar with in their original orchestral versions–and wondered what they would sound like being played by only flutes. Yes, it was different in some ways, but fascinating to listen to.

Apparently flute choirs and orchestras are becoming quite popular in the United States, although most are not as large as this group–which is composed of approximately 40 professional and/or college-professor musicians from the United States and Canada. I’d heard a flute ensemble before–6 flutes (the “traditional” flute), but hearing this mix was just incredible.

If you ever get a chance to hear this group–or any other flute orchestra ensemble–I’d encourage you to do so. And go with an open mind–you’ll be surprised at the range of sounds you’ll hear!!

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