Blog Header
Borealis Beat

A glimpse into the mind of our Artistic Director as she shares her knowledge and expertise on our music selections, the composers, artists, concerts, and more

Fanciful Flutes

Consortium Aurora Borealis celebrates the flute! Penelope Clarke and Doris Dungan, who for many years made up the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra’s flute section, reunite to perform “Fanciful Flutes”, an endearing programme of Baroque and Classic-era solos, duos, and trios, with cellist Peter Cosbey.

In keeping with the season, we present a joyous springtime concert, at whose heart are Haydn’s spirited “London Trios”, divertimento-type short works written during his second trip to England, and gifted to a baron.

We showcase composer Kuhlau, “the Beethoven of the flute”, with a Duo Brillante, Devienne, “the Mozart of the flute”, with a flute sonata, and from the Baroque, the prolific Telemann. On the lighter side, we throw in some charming Mozart flute duets from his opera “The Magic Flute”. In keeping with the “Fanciful” idea of the title, we present three unaccompanied Baroque-era cello Caprices and a Telemann Fantasia for solo flute. The flutes sparkle; the cello enthralls with its deep, mellow timbre.

Doris and Penelope, well known to Thunder Bay audiences, played as partners in the TBSO for 40 years, retiring only relatively recently. For this reason, I offered them an opportunity to appear in public as a team again. They happily accepted my invitation; their fans will be delighted to see them return jointly in action, especially in such an enchanting programme. As Penelope declared, “Playing these duets together for this concert is just pure fun!”

Penelope Clarke selected Devienne’s Flute Sonata Opus 58, No. 1 as her solo. Despite being in a minor key, it’s a happy piece, full of fanciful flourishes, cheerful cascading passages, and virtuosic playing, interspersed with lovely, lyrical melodies. A slow, melodious middle movement gives way to a chirpy finale in perpetual motion for the flute, romping brightly to the end.

François Devienne, composer and virtuoso on both flute and bassoon, was regarded during his lifetime as the French Mozart, whose contemporary he was. His compositions for flute and bassoon were elegant, well-crafted, imaginative, and influenced by Mozart, whom he admired. Their compositions shared characteristics of charm, grace and balance. Devienne’s published flute method became the standard reference book on technique and style. He died in 1803 when only forty-three, at the peak of his fame, four months after being committed to an insane asylum, possibly due to overwork.

Doris’s solo, Telemann’s Fantasia No. 8 in E minor for unaccompanied flute, is one of a set of twelve. Its short movements are reminiscent of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites. A soulful, contemplative Largo movement, with implied harmony through leaps from low to high registers throughout, gives way to a spirited dance-like movement, followed by a final syncopated, jagged-edged Allegro.

J.S. Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello are gems. Relatively unknown are Joseph Dall’Abaco’s eleven stylish, short but challenging, Capricci for solo cello, of which Peter Cosbey will brilliantly perform three. No. 1 in C minor is soulful and melancholy, moving steadily along in repeated rhythmic patterns, with very rich sonorities. No. 8 lilts along in G major, with two or more strings often played at once. The ninth, more rhapsodic and caprice-like, befits our concert title, with small contrasting sections strung together, and a somewhat flamboyant ending. Evident is the influence of Bach and Baroque dance. Dall’Abaco was one of the greatest cellists of his time.

As to flute duos, we’ve a typically-Baroque, four-movement slow (‘dolce’)-fast-slow-fast one by Telemann, with the two instruments imitating each other at the beginnings of phrases, gently intertwining before carrying on. It’s both languorous and lively.

Friedrich Kuhlau, known for high-quality, idiomatic flute music (sixty-plus works) and piano pieces, was greatly influenced by his friend Beethoven. In his Duo Brillante, Opus 81, No. 1 (1826), with its long-breathed, beautifully lyrical melodies, the flutes are not only equal, but constantly interchange parts, making it hard to know who’s on top! Sometimes there’s parallel motion; sometimes quicker triplets accompany a slower melody. The mellifluous flute sonority is explored in all registers. The final Rondo burbles to a happy conclusion.

Mozart’s three flute duets are light and appealing. Opus 75, No. 5, is arranged from the outer Allegro movements of his K 548 C-major piano trio. Next, fittingly from “The Magic Flute” (1791), come two deliciously-comic arias transcribed for two flutes by Mozart himself: “The bird catcher am I indeed”, sung by Papageno as he first enters, pining for a wife, and his “A maiden or a little wife” at the end, still pining.

Haydn’s London Trios frame the magical evening, at the beginning and the end

This concert is sponsored by Lynn Barber, who has appreciated what Consortium Aurora Borealis has offered its audiences over the many years.

My heartfelt thanks to all who have supported Consortium Aurora Borealis, both financially and by your presence. We must keep the music sounding! I would like to encourage people to continue supporting us, so that we may survive and grow! I am very happy to say that the programming for our 2024-2025 season has fallen nicely into place. Energized by the enormous success of our recent all-Vivaldi concert, we are preparing another dynamic concert on Italian Baroque themes for March 2025, and this time our fine string ensemble and harpsichord will be joined by soprano Irina Medvedeva, who will sing a variety of Baroque arias with Italian and Latin texts, many of them flashy and virtuosic, including works by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and Handel.

Our 46th season opens on Saturday, September 14th, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity United Church just down the road from St. Paul’s United, with Thunder Bay-born violinist Gregory Lewis, accompanied by pianist Paul Williamson, in a beautiful programme of music by Mozart, Ravel, Smetana, and Richard Strauss, performed on his newly-acquired “Miller” Gagliano violin of 1768, on generous loan by the Canada Council for the Arts. The ever-popular Martin Blanchet Jazz Quintet will return on January 11, 2025, and there will be lots more musical treasures coming your way!

More good news for our 46th: We are keeping our season passes at the same price of 7 concerts for only $150, $90 for students. Please check out our website for more information. Subscriptions are on sale as of now, at concerts, and also online. We would love to see you, and encourage you to sign up now!

As a special perk for those who purchase their season pass by June 30, there will be an Early Bird Draw for a gift card for fine dining in the impressive amount of $100, generously provided by Bight Restaurant and Bar.

One more concert remains: On Saturday, May 11, 2024, as a glorious conclusion to our 45th Season, we present “The Brilliance of Baroque Organ”, a concert of mighty works by Bach and Buxtehude. Special guest artist Christopher Dawes, a leading Canadian concert organist, will dazzle us as he explores the full colour palette of the St. Paul’s United Church’s magnificent Casavant organ.

Now for a plea for assistance: We are in special need of people with technical skills to take over our website and to help us with a variety of other tasks, both technical, photographic, and otherwise, and for volunteers in general. We must keep our ship sailing, and we now face the challenge of preparing everything well for our upcoming season and beyond.

We are most grateful for the expert and tireless help that we have had up until now. After five years of dedicated service, the person we were fortunate to have filling a multitude of crucial roles, especially technical ones, is stepping down. He is kindly leaving many helpful instructions which may be followed by his successor. We thank him, but we are sad to see him go. Nevertheless, we must quickly move on with a plan, which is the reason for this urgent appeal. Technical support is crucial. We owe it to our audiences not to let the ship sink.

Our fine members of our Board of Directors are doing as much as they can, but this is a very earnest request at this time. Many thanks for considering it. Volunteers are so important in our type of organization, and we really appreciate any help that can be offered!

If you are able to help us, or have any suggestions as to anyone who could possibly lend a hand, please contact our President, Hilda Postenka by emailing her:

We look forward continuing to delight you with our musical offerings, and wish you well!


Posted in: Blog Post