Flute Choir? Is That Even a Thing?

Nervously, I shift in my seat before the concert begins. I’m ready. I look around and see the same look in the eyes around me. There’s the downbeat! And we begin.

I’ve played the flute since I was 10 years old. Most amateur musicians give up playing after high school; I think there’s a hidden rule that encourages quitting unless one plans to major in music. That, and there aren’t very many ways to continue with an instrument after a person finishes public school. That’s why I took a ten-year hiatus from playing—there wasn’t anywhere to play. Then I heard a group of flutes playing at a church service, and my mom said, “That’s the flute choir. We should join together!” And we did. That was 20 years ago.

Thank goodness for flute choirs. The concept of a “flute choir,” or a group made up only of flutes, has grown in popularity over the past 40 years, and is designed for members with a wide range of age and ability. The thing that makes a flute choir amazing isn’t that it’s a bunch of flutes playing together, but that the flutes are not all the “C” flute that everyone’s familiar with. Flutes exist in a “family,” just like stringed instruments do. They range from piccolo at the top down to sub-contrabass at the bottom, with five different flute types in between.

A regular “C” flute next to an alto, bass, and contrabass flute. Photo courtesy of Janet Rose, The Cheyenne Edition

A regular “C” flute next to an alto, bass, and contrabass flute.
Photo courtesy of Janet Rose, The Cheyenne Edition

subconrabass

A subcontrabass flute with its owner, Akio Lis. Photo courtesy of DeLyn Martineau.

It’s not just the different flutes that make a choir special, it’s the modern music that has been composed and arranged specifically for flute choirs. Composers such as Catherine McMichael, Ricky Lombardo, and Phyllis Louke have really expanded the repertoire and the range of what flutes and flute choirs can do. I myself belong to three different flute choirs, and for a city the size of Colorado Springs, it’s extraordinary that three choirs coexist. Pikes Peak Community College has one, the First Congregational Church has one, and the city has one: the Pikes Peak Flute Choir, which just celebrated its thirtieth year.

Anita Collins, a leading educator on TedEd, says that listening to music makes the brain fire multiple areas at once, as opposed to reading or doing math problems, where brain activity is largely localized. But “playing music is the brain’s equivalent to a full-body workout.” The video below explains this phenomenon in thoughtful and entertaining detail.

I had no idea my brain went through all that during my thrice-weekly rehearsals; I just think playing music makes me feel better, like therapy. So, if you are an aspiring virtuoso, or even someone who used to play, but still likes to make noise, come join a flute choir. If you enjoy flute music, or if I have piqued your curiosity, come hear a concert! Concert dates are regularly posted on the Pikes Peak Flute Choir Facebook page, or use the comments to ask me more about any of the groups.

If you don’t play the flute, there are several band options: The Pikes Peak New Horizons Band (led by Bill Callen) is open to players 40 years old and over, and, although no audition is required, it is preferred if musicians can play out of the Rubank Advanced Method, Volume One. Rehearsals take place during the school year (September through April) on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:15 to 11:15 AM at Nazarene Bible College (1111 Academy Park Loop).

The New Horizons Band of Colorado Springs (led by Ed Nuccio) is open to all players 40 and over at any playing level.  Rehearsals take place throughout the year, with short breaks between sessions. For more information, check out their web site at www.nhbcosmusic.com or contact the director at enuccio@aol.com.

Canon Winds Band, under the direction of Doug Downey, performs a wide variety of music in concerts throughout the year. Rehearsals take place at Trinity United Methodist Church (701 N. 20th St.) on Thursdays from 7 to 9 pm.  For more information contact Doug Downey at dougdowney@centurylink.net.

Just because you’re not required to play an instrument for school, or you didn’t become a famous rock star, this doesn’t mean you can’t still get enjoyment from playing an instrument; nothing is like that nervous excitement just before the downbeat. The rewards far outweigh the time commitment. It’s better for you than just listening to someone else play, and you will re-awaken what made you love music in the first place: making it.

Photo By: Chris Kjeldsen