A little over one year ago I was thanking Dr. Nora Lee Garcia for performing Flurry at the Florida Flute Fair. She then asked if I could write a solo for her so she could play it with her flute choir. I enthusiastically said yes and said it would be completed in September 2015.
Well, life doesn't work that easily. I had uncovered some questionable activities at my former school and decided leaving was the only safe option. Work on the piece was suspended until I got my life in order. The only thing I had written were the first 31 bars and some outlines for its other movements.
In October 2015 I had the opportunity of scoring for the Melbourne Independent Filmmaker's Festival, I received a commission for Trumpet and Percussion which I needed to complete, and all of this was coinciding with school applications. I was also working full time so any free time I had was very minimal.
In April 2016 I had a panic attack at work and decided to find something that would work better with everything I had going on. After securing that there was some downtime where I could focus on finishing this work. My Euphonium Concerto also premiered in Little Rock and I was high on the experience - I wanted more of my music performed like that.
I like to think of this work as a fine wine - when aged correctly the experience is much better. I had found all of my notes from before but they seemed juvenile compared to what I had in mind. The architecture that went in to designing each movement and how they interacted took pages and pages of notes. At one point I had worked on a section for four hours, listened to it, and then tossed it in a heartbeat.
From April to August 3rd, 2016 I wrote and tweaked the piece until it was complete. The last few days I wrote it felt as though my brain was on fire - links were being made and finally I could hear the work's inner mechanics working together. From then on came editing - over 150 pages of it. I would wake up, edit for one hour, jog for 1/2 an hour, read until the next hour, edit, play euphonium, edit, etc. The goal was to complete the work and do it right the first time.
My last day of editing - August 21st - marked the two year anniversary since I lost my grandfather and moved to Connecticut. I edited for about 12 hours, finalized everything, and sent the work to Dr. Garcia. It was an emotional journey from conceptualization in summer 2015 to the race to the finish of August 2016.
A performer of Dr. Garcia's caliber deserves such a work and from my research it's the only concerto for flute and flute choir (if there's another, tell me!). She has heard and seen her new concerto and said it is "massive and beautiful" and that she's already printed it out and began working on it. From this reaction I believe the wait was well worth it - I can breathe again.
Additionally, this makes it the third concerto I've completed within the past two years. I may call the series of concertos I've written the Windsor Concertos as it's where I'm writing but I'll let the musicologists work that out. There's so much more music on the way that I can't say too much about but I can assure you the wheels are in motion. This concerto won't be available for purchase until a premiere plan has been established - stay tuned.
Dr. Nora Lee Garcia - the commissioner and motivic inspiration. Each movement is based off of pitches assigned to her name.
Channeling my Hector Berlioz look may or may not have helped me complete writing.
I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by some of the world’s top performers. One such example is Dr. Nora Lee Garcia who is the flute instructor at the University of Central Florida. Her skills, and the skills of her students, impressed me as a composer during my time there. Her expertise and assistance in the premiere of Flurry for Flute Quartet (or ensemble) changed the way I approached writing for the instrument. In the summer of 2015 she commissioned this work for soloist and flute choir.
The Concerto for Flute and Flute Choir takes its material from assigning pitches to each letter of the performer’s name (similar to my euphonium concerto). The opening movement – Tocar – is a toccata presenting a theme and virtuosic variations. It touches base on all the tones assigned in this work but focuses on those assigned to “Nora”. The chromatic second movement – Claro – represents a person clearing away the surface of their soul in search of something deeper. “Lee” is focus of this movement. The finale movement – Vuelo – is a dazzling finale in rondo form making use of the remaining pitches.
It has been a fun work to compose and one that has pushed my creativity and technique.
- Matthew Nunes