Flute Gets Legendary
The Russell House began its 2012-2013 concert series this weekend with Peter Standaart’s “Legends of the Flute.” The performance went far beyond a classical music showcase and into a flute rendition of myths filled with surprises from both Standaart and the audience.
Standaart’s popularity among the Middletown and Wesleyan community was clear from the attendance at the Sunday afternoon performance. There was not a single empty chair by 3 p.m. Attendees perched on the staircase to catch a glimpse of Standaart during the program.
The concert was split into three sections: “Mythological,” “Our Feathered Friends,” and “Mysticism.” Each section began with Standaart appearing in a different mask and playing an introductory melody before explaining the history behind each piece.
“Mythological” began with Standaart in a goat mask to depict Pan, a Greek god of nature who had the physical attributes of a goat. The uneven rhythms of the pieces in this section were intended to represent how Pan would walk on his hooves.
“Our Feathered Friends” started in a similar manner, only this time with a bird mask. The flute has been used for centuries to teach sounds to birds as well as to mimic their tunes; Standaart even shared a few 18th-century pieces that were written for aristocrats so that they could teach their birds melodies. Standaart said that different pieces were written for different species of birds, the bullfinch supposedly being the most responsive.
Towards the end of this section of the program, Standaart was suddenly accompanied mid-piece by another instrumentalist: Michael Pestel joined the concert playing the bass recorder. This particular instrument is played with the mouth in a similar manner to a flute, but looks nothing like it. Rather, it is a large block of plywood that stood larger than Pestel himself. Both men created musical banter with their woodwind instruments during a prolonged call-and-response segment.
After Pestel was formally introduced to the audience, the duo played “Two Thrushes” by Daniel Goode, with planted audience members making a variety of accompanying sounds. The makeshift ensemble brought the noises of the jungle right into the parlor of Russell House.
Standaart donned a white square mask to close the concert with “Mysticism,” a piece intended to show spiritual and metaphysical stages of life. This included six selections that Standaart played straight through.
Throughout the program, Standaart demonstrated a keen awareness of his audience. His program was specifically designed to avoid a straight hour of only him playing the flute. This thoughtfulness proved to have a purpose. Standaart was compelling from beginning to end, the audience laughing and smiling along with him. The standing ovation that he received at the end of the performance was more than deserved. With his flute, Standaart orchestrated a mystifying afternoon.