Joss Campbell, Melanie Orriss, Elizabeth Walker, Sarah Murphy
Mel Orriss is a familiar figure in local orchestras. She was flute soloist at Exeter Bach Society's 'Autumn Baroque' a few weks ago. (See 'A Week of Music' Sun 7 Nov on this site.) She was joined by three other flautists, all alumni of the Guildhall School of Music, who together form the 'Festive Flutes'.
A large audience were joined at the last moment by Cathedral Music Director Laurence Blyth and Tenor Gordon Pike who brought a whole class of Exeter Cathedral schoolchildren to enjoy the show. The opening was Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker Suite' arranged for four flutes by Mel herself. Flutes without strings made a very distinctive sound. The celeste was, of course, replaced by piccolo flutes. After the slightly less familiar overture the dances of the sugar plum fairy and the reed pipes were recognisable to all, but delightfully different.
Next was Mel's arrangement of Vivaldi's 'L'Inverno' - 'Winter' from the 'Four Seasons'. Over the last few weeks on 'Classical Journey' we have been hearing Catherine Mackintosh playing this piece on baroque violin with the Academy of Ancient Music. On four flutes it was very different. For each movement the players moved around to different music stands to give us the right combination of sounds. Mel also explained the imagery of the music for the benefit of the children (and adults). Soft snowfall, walking gingerly on ice, all were reflected gracefully in the music.
The 'Carol Suite' by composer, and ornithologist, Peter Cowdrey was very different, reflecting his interest in birds. Sarah began by 'singing' into the curved neck of her alto flute, and was joined by the other players producing equally unexpected and interesting sounds. Growls, squeaks and discords were added without interfering with the traditional carol melodies. The sounds were often very reminiscent of the very imaginative compositions of Chris Caldwell and Susie Hodder-Williams (bass clarinet and bass flute) which we heard at Gallery 36. (See 'Time and Distance' Mon 22 Nov on this site.)
Time was a little short, so we didn't hear all the pieces advertised on the programme. Mel's arrangement of Prokofies's Troika, although also quite modern and originally scored for saxophone for the 1933 film 'Lieutenant Kijé' brought us back to a much more conventional style before a series of traditional carols. The arrangements were by various people including Mel.
The children were especially delighted to hear their favourite tunes in a new and very distinctive style. They particularly appreciated the comedy number 'Santa Baby', for which the four players dressed up and played as comedy characters. Liz was supposedly 'drunk and inept' while actually playing very skilfully. Everyone enjoyed the show so much we had an encore even though it took us over time, and the children were probably late for their next lesson!
Three of the four musicians live in other parts of the country and had to rush off shortly after the performance to get back home before the weather got any worse. Sarah Murphy had come from Northern Ireland for the concert and had an equally arduous journey to get back. The four players have all been friends for many years, since their time together at the Guildhall School of Music. Whenever they can they like to get together to play, and all agreed that they have immense fun playing music together. That really came out in the playing and we in the audience were having great fun too!
Not only did the performers travel large distances, they also performed for no charge. The retiring collection and half the proceeds from CD sales all went to the NSPCC whose telephone helpline is based near the Chapter House. So special thanks to the group for all their hard work and generosity.
More information about 'Festive Flutes' here.
More information about NSPCC here.