Woodbridge Flute Choir Ushers in Spring with World Premiere Music

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By Linda T. Kennedy

Ancient Greek Philosopher Theosporatus (c. 371–287 BCE) claimed the sound of the flute would cure epilepsy and sciatic gout. While current scientists have yet to support that claim, a cure for your winter cabin fever might be hearing 30 of the best flutists in the Washington, D.C. area at the Woodbridge Flute Choir’s spring concerts.

Whether you attend the Irish-themed Spring Concert on Sunday, March 17, or Sunday, May 19, (details below), you’ll hear an instrument that was already ancient in Theosporatus’ time. The oldest flute dates back 40,000 years ago, according to the San Francisco Symphony.

Since its founding 30 years ago, the Woodbridge Flute Choir’s ancient and new music has traveled far across the country, past the ears of guests in front of the Kennedy Center Millennium stage and premiere flutists at National Flute Association conventions. At home, Prince William’s families at public libraries, houses of worship, and retirement communities have witnessed the results of an instrument that requires the most human breath to play, next to the tuba, says SFS.

“Our vision is to increase the awareness and experience of Flute Choir performance across the entire Northern Virginia region and to expand our audiences’ knowledge of the artistic range of flute performance that extends beyond the band and orchestra repertoire with which they may already be familiar,” said
Woodbridge Flute Choir Artistic Director Debbie Gilbert.

Woodbridge Flute Choir

30 Members Over 30 Years

Professional flutist Rebecca Jeffrey first developed the vision for an educational and performance group and gathered 10amateur and professional adult flutists, predominantly from Prince William, to build that dream. The choir grew quickly. Within five years, it became the 30-member group it is today. While they’ve performed in front of some of the country’s most privileged, the choir’s priorities are to provide opportunities for and to build tomorrow’s flutists. The musicians support an annual community service fundraising activity in Prince William and participate in Washington Flute Society and National Flute
Association-sponsored events.

“We will strive to improve access for under-served communities and young flute students throughout the region while maintaining our regional and national presence,” says Gilbert, explaining that’s one reason most of their concerts provide free admission.

The choir’s December concerts have been benefit performances for Farthest Corners, a Christian mission project in remote regions of Asia that provides humanitarian aid. The organization raised $10,000 at the last concert. These concerts are often heldat Greenwich Presbyterian Church in Nokesville.

Hearing History Happen

While flute music may not cure physical ailments, as some believed in Aristotle’s time, the best way to see how the choir enriches the community is to hear them play in person. The Irish-themed, free performance on March 17 will include the choir’s 16th annual Concerto Scholarship Competition winner, who will perform their solo concerto with the Choir. You’ll also hear music never heard before in public. The concert will be held at 3 p.m. in the Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield,

We are excited to perform the world premiere of ‘Fantasia and Variations on Old Irish Melodies,’” said Gilbert. “We commissioned Irish composer John Buckley to write this piece for us.”

Gilbert developed the idea to approach Buckley to commission the piece after she heard another group play his work “Fantasia and Variations” at the 2015 National Flute Association Convention. This past summer, she reconnected with the director of that group while both were touring with the International Flute Orchestra in France and Switzerland.

With their upcoming St. Patrick’s Day concert in mind, she approached the director about the commission and contacted Buckley — her effort was a success. “The group will also play the Irish piece ‘Innes Glas Mor’ by Lisa eMay,” said Gilbert.

If you go, arrive early; seating is first come, first served. While it wouldn’t replace the live experience, you can catch a recording on YouTube following the concert.

A Master for the Master Flutists

If you can’t make the St. Patrick’s Day performance or enjoy it so much you want an encore opportunity, consider attending their May performance on Sunday, May 19, at 3 p.m. at the Greenspring Village Square Chapel also in Springfield. You can purchase a ticket at the door for open seating and see Mel Orriss perform. This flutist, composer, arranger, and music publisher from the United Kingdom has won honors in the National Flute Association Newly Published Music competition.

Additionally, Orriss will conduct a master class for a small flute ensemble on May 18. Members of the Woodbridge Flute Choir will have the first opportunity to perform in the master class, and any additional openings will be available through the Flute Society of Washington monthly newsletter. Participants will learn how to improve their listening skills, intonation, and musicality. Contact Gilbert through the choir’s website for details.

Gilbert says a vision for the next 30 years is still on the drawing board, but it will likely include performances and more performers auditioning for a spot in the choir. “We have about 30 members in the choir, and about 16 to 24 members perform at each concert, depending on their availability,” said Gilbert. “I’ve been happy to see some of our members return after the pandemic, and the group is growing.”

The Woodbridge Flute Choir partly performs through sponsorship by Heritage Financial Management, NOVEC, Arts Fairfax, and patrons. For more information about the choir or performances, visit woodbridgeflutechoir.org.

Linda T. Kennedy is a contributing writer for Prince William Living.

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