One Woman, A World of Music: Rhonda Larson in Concert

May 21, 2012

On Friday, April 20, the Rochester Flute Association welcomed Guest Artist Rhonda Larson in an intimate solo-flute performance entitled “One Woman, a World of Music,” at the First Unitarian Church in Rochester, New York. Accompanied by her “virtual band” (a sound system that provided backing tracks during the performance), audience members enjoyed a journey based on her travels, weaving stories and inspirations from her life, combining her classical training with musical traditions and flutes from the globe over, including C and alto flutes, a crystal flute, panpipes, a Scandinavian overtone flute, bamboo flutes and penny whistle. The musical selections—many composed by Ms. Larson—varied from Armenian folk songs (“Armenian Allure”) to a boat song from Nova Scotia (“The Boatman”), to pieces inspired by walks (“The Gift”), rivers (“The Way of the River”) and the openness of America’s West (“Montana”).  They were verbally announced from the stage by Ms. Larson whose charm, sincerity and wonderful story-telling combined with her flair and virtuosity as both flutist and composer made for a truly memorable evening.

Opening the performance was “Armenian Allure,” a mid-eastern influenced piece that she played on a bansuri, a bamboo flute.  Ms. Larson followed this with a welcoming piece she wrote for C flute that depicted the big skies of the West (“Montana”) by its long traveling phrases played with a clear resonant high register.  “Sweet Simplicity” featured joyful, beautiful articulation and phrasing combined with gorgeous soft high notes.  An infectious melody which she wished to rename “Dreadful Difficulty,” it is a piece to be added to any flutist’s library.  Ms. Larson shared a Scandinavian overtone flute with us on the next piece from 13th Century Spain made of pear-wood with a haunting quality in timbre that fit perfectly within the context of the piece.

“Movin’ On”, the second piece she ever wrote, was played on C flute which featured fast leaping beautiful jumps down to her resonant low register, followed by a sad Celtic love song from Nova Scotia called “The Boatman” that was played on crystal flute. Ms. Larson finished the first half with “The Gift”, a melody that came to her following a three day walk in the New Hampshire White Mountains.

The second half of the concert opened with “Spirit Maiden,” a Native-American inspired piece she performed with three flutes which required an enormous embouchure (Ms. Larson humorously added, “It’s like going to the dentist!”).

Returning again to Nova Scotia, the next piece came to her while she was sailing in Cape Breton and featured crystal flute, penny whistle and C flute.  Ms. Larson lives part of the year one hour north of Rome, Italy, and shared with us a piece from 14th Century France she often plays for lute and recorder in a medieval festival there.  She performed it on an 1869 Meyer Flute with an ivory headjoint that had a woody, warm sound.  The second half also included “Be Still My Soul”, a piece Ms. Larson wrote a few years ago while practicing in a quintessential New England Church in Connecticut with a particularly beautiful moment when she sang and played simultaneously, and a tune from the Celtic region of Northwestern Spain which she performed with the ensemble Milladoiro. The last piece, “The Way of the River,” performed on C flute and written by Ms. Larson, was Celtic-inspired and homage to her love of rivers.

As I left the performance, I thought about Ms. Larson’s piece titled “The Gift.”  This flutist’s ability to combine incredible virtuosity with a unique voice that is only hers is truly a gift for all of us, and the Rochester Flute Association would like to extend a special thank you to Ms. Larson for such an unforgettable and inspiring evening.

Photos courtesy of Rochester Flute Association

© 2012 Laura Lentz

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