Rehearsal: Massachusetts High School Flute Choir, directed by Danielle Boudrot, in April 2000
18th April 1999
Flute Day, Birmingham Conservatoire
Soloists Clare Southworth and Gary Woolf
Birmingham Flute Ensemble,
Conductor Carol Kniebusch Noe
More information and sheet music
An account by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on January 22nd, 2023
FANTASTIA FOR ALTO & BASS FLUTE SOLOS WITH 5 PART CONCERT FLUTE CHOIR
Most of Andrew's commissions for flute choir were brought about by Margaret Lowe, wife of the late Dr James Lowe (see my Sonata for 8 Horns blog post). Margaret is as fanatical about the flute as Jim was about the horn. There was a friendly rivalry between them. In the year following the Sonata for 8 Horns, commissioned by Jim in 1995, Margaret
commissioned Andrew’s Sonata for 8 Flutes or Flute Choir.
Margaret Lowe is very small, but she has a phenomenally strong personality. At the 1996 USA National Flute Convention in New York she went round clutching Andrew's Sonata for 8 Flutes score and introducing it to all her flute friends. The first performance of this work was an immense success and literally hundreds of flute choirs all over the world have performed the work since, mainly thanks to Margaret.
Margaret’s second commission from Andrew was the Fantasia. She stipulated the instrumentation: alto and bass flute soloists and 5 part concert flute choir accompaniment. The Fantasia was commissioned by Margaret for the 'Birmingham Flute Commission' and premiered on l8th April 1999, at a special Flute Day at Birmingham Conservatoire, by soloists Clare Southworth and Gary Woolf and the Birmingham Flute
Ensemble, conducted by Carol Kniebusch Noe.
'I had the great pleasure of coaching a flute choir on this work at Margaret Lowe's excellent Birmingham Flute Commission Day... This is an entrancing work, rhapsodic in style and exploring a wide range of tone colours from both the low solo instruments and the accompanying five-part concert flute choir. The sound world is tonal and lyrical, the
challenges for the performers being rhythmical rather than technical... shortly after the Birmingham Day I played his Symphony No.4, one of the most rewarding works for symphonic wind ensemble of recent years.'
Kenneth Bell PAN MAGAZINE
Andrew Downes taking a bow, Carol Kniebusch Noe conductor, Flute Day, Birmingham Conservatoire, Soloists Clare Southworth and Gary Woolf, Birmingham Flute Ensemble, Conductor Carol Kniebusch Noe, 18th April 1999:
The first American performance of Andrew’s Fantasia was given by the James Madison University Flute Choir of Virginia, directed by Carol Kniebusch Noe, in the Wilson Hall of James Madison University, on 11th November 1999, with a subsequent performance at the same venue on 31st March 2000. It was performed by the Massachusetts High
School Flute Choir, directed by Danielle Boudrot, in April 2000.
American performances 1999 and 2000:
Andrew Downes taking his bow at the Massachussetts performance, 2000:
I particularly remember the wonderful trip Andrew and I made to Virginia in 2000 to hear the James Madison University Flute Choir, directed by Carol Kniebusch Noe, play Andrew's works, and then our drive up to Lexington near Boston, Massachusetts, with Jim and Margaret, to hear the Massachusetts Flute Choir, directed by Danielle Boudrot, who also
gave a concert of Andrew's works. It was springtime in Virginia. The trees were laden with blossom. We saw Mennonites for the first time and visited their market, where I bought a tube of their udder cream, a great moisturiser! As we drove north to Massachusetts, we returned to winter and the trees were bare. Both concerts were stunning and both Flute Choirs made CDs of Andrew's music.
Photos of the 2000 trip to attend the performances:
Above: Jim Lowe and Cynthia Downes
Below: Cynthia Downes
Upper photo: Jim Lowe and Cynthia Downes in a Mennonite market
Lower photo: Cynthia Downes and Margaret Lowe in front of a Mennonite horse and cart
Below: Performance of works by Andrew Downes, Massachusetts Flute Choir directed by Danielle Boudrot, Follen Church, Arlington, Massachusetts, USA, April, 2000
In the spring of 2000 the work was recorded for CD by both of these American flute choirs, along with Andrew’s Sonata for 8 Flutes/Flute Choir (and Song of the Eagle, recorded by the JMU Flute Choir). The recordings have been broadcast many times on Musicians Page Radio, Los Angeles, USA.
Subsequent performers of the Fantasia include the West Michigan Flute Orchestra in their Fall Concert, November 2003.
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