Andrew Downes’ Symphonies
Symphony No.5 for Flute Orchestra

Symphony No.5 was premiered at the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham (CC photo by metrogogo)


17th March 2002
Adrian Boult Hall Birmingham
Birmingham Flute Day
Conductor -
Carol Kniebusch-Noe

More information and sheet music

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An account by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on December 17th, 2021

SYMPHONY No.5 Scored for Flute Orchestra Opus 79 (2001)  

4 movements

More info

Flutist Margaret Lowe, whose contribution to the promotion of all of Andrew’s music for flutes was immense, commissioned 3 works from Andrew, each one of which was for her Birmingham Flute Commission Flute Day (later known as the National Flute Day), which she organised at Birmingham Conservatoire once every two years, inviting flutists from all over the UK and the USA.
For the third commission from Margaret, for which she obtained funds from ‘The Awards for All Programme’, Andrew took the opportunity to write a Symphony for Flutes.  No known flute choir work of this magnitude existed.  The work follows the traditional lines of orchestral symphonies.  

Margaret asked her favourite conductor, the superb Carol Kniebusch Noe, to conduct the Birmingham Professional Flute Ensemble in the premiere in the Adrian Boult Hall at Birmingham Conservatoire on March 17th 2002, with financial assistance provided by the Brannen-Cooper Fund.  Carol flew over from the USA with a number of excellent American professional flutists, who had already played Andrew’s music and who were very excited to come on the trip to play in the Symphony.

ISM Journal article:

Arrangements for the Flute Day:

Concert Programme:


'... the daring idea to compose a work for large-scale flute orchestra ... the talented forces of a special ten-voice ensemble, some 30 strong, assembled to premiere Andrew Downes Fifth Symphony. Commissioned to crown Birmingham Flute Commission’s Flute Day .., this substantial piece is immediately attractive, often minimalist in its rhythmic patterning and had the visual delight of featuring two contrabass flutes.'  

'... Andrew Downes’ voice is very much his own. We must be grateful to him for a major contribution to the flute ensemble repertoire.'  

'... Andrew Downes again demonstrates his deep appreciation for the instrument.'  

'... We were all sent our parts ahead of time ... there was no way we could have known how glorious this piece would be ... Putting it all together in that first rehearsal was unforgettable!'  

Letters from performers:

Carol conducted the American premiere on 18th August 2002 at the Convention of the USA National Flute Association in Washington DC.  The US National Flute Association Professional Flute Choir were the performers.


Flute choirs are extremely popular in America and Andrew’s Sonata for 8 Flutes, his Fantasia for Alto and Bass Flute Soloists with Five Part Concert Flute Choir, and his Song of the Eagle had been performed all over the USA.  I have sold hundreds of sets of scores and parts of these pieces, as well as the Symphony No 5, to numerous flute choirs in the States.  So when the USA premiere of the Flute Symphony was given by The National Flute Association Professional Flute Choir, the hall was packed and the performance was superb.

Performance of Andrew Downes' Flute Symphony by the USA National Flute Convention's Professional Flute Choir directed by Carol Kniebusch Noe, Washington DC, August 2002

The National Flute Convention, 2001: 
Margaret Lowe

Write-ups (USA National Flute Convention):

Andrew and I took a short holiday in Virginia just before attending his Washington DC premiere.  We stayed in a motel with a beautiful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and sat peacefully enjoying the view most of the time, because the temperatures were over 100°F!  The heat remained as we arrived in Washington DC.  I really wanted to see the White House and Capitol Hill.  We walked there from our hotel, great distances in the intense heat and with very little shade.  Despite his Ankylosing Spondilis Andrew coped very well, with his usual stoic good humour!

Andrew Downes, Luray, Virginia, 2001

Andrew & Cynthia Downes, Capitol Hill, Washington, 2002

Numerous subsequent performances of Symphony No 5 for Flute Orchestra, individual movements and the whole work, have since taken place.  Those we know about include performances by:

  • The 2002 Stratford International Flute Festival Flute Orchestra, conducted by Jenny Brooks: two performances - in the Guild Chapel, Stratford upon Avon and in St Edmund’s Church, Shipston-on-Stour

  • The West Michigan Flute Orchestra, conducted by Darlene Dugan: in their 2002 Fall concert at the Royce Auditorium, Grand Rapids, W.Michigan, (mvts 1&2), recorded and put on CD

CD Cover:

  • at Jeanne Baxtresser’s International Masterclass in Pittsburgh PA in June 2003 (mvt 2) 

  • further performances at the Royce Auditorium, Grand Rapids, W.Michigan in March 2004 and May 2012 (mvts 3 & 4) 

  • at the 2004 USA National Flute Association Convention in Nashville, Tennessee (mvt 2).  [The Association’s Professional Flute Choir also played mvt 4 from Andrew’s Sonata for 8 Flutes at this Convention, once in a scheduled concert and once as an encore to another concert which they gave]

  • The UNC Charlotte Flute Choir, directed by Mark Thomas: in the Rowe Recital Hall of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte NC (whole work, April 2003) 

  • The Space Coast Flute Orchestra, Florida: at Eastminster Presbyterian, Indialantic (mvt 1, April 2004)

  • The National Flute Orchestra of Mexico, conducted by Jenny Brooks, who gave the first Mexican performance of the whole Symphony at the Xochipilli Concert Hall in the Escuela National de Musica, Mexico City in April 2004

  • The Birmingham Professional Flute Ensemble augmented by American guests, Birmingham Conservatoire students and massed choir of flautists attending the first National Flute Choir day, conducted by Jenny Brooks: excerpts were performed at the event in the Adrian Boult Hall Birmingham (November 2005)  [Andrew’s Song of the Eagle for Flute Choir was also performed at the event.  Our American friends bought a lot of Andrew’s music from our stall!  Below is a photo of us by our diplay. This was the day when Gerry Lowe (son of Margaret and Jim Lowe) told us we needed a website, rather than our paper brochure, and very kindly helped us to build our first one!]

Andrew Downes & Cynthia Downes' stall, First National Flute Choir Day, 2005

  • The USA National Flute Association High School Flute Choir, conducted by Jenny Brooks: at the USA National Flute Convention in Albuquerque in August 2007 (whole work)

  • The Northwestern University Flute Orchestra, directed by Walfrid Kujala: at Regenstein Recital Hall in Evanston Illinois (whole work, March 2007 and May 2011) 

  • The Monash Univerity Flute Ensemble, Melbourne Australia, directed by Peter Sheriden (mvt 1, May 2015)

  • The Pacific Flute Ensemble, directed by Darrin Thaves: in Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Long Beach, California (mvt 4, April 2017)

Listen to the premiere:


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