Laguna Flutes Make Their Concert Debut


Flute conductor Cynthia Ellis

Flute conductor Cynthia Ellis

It’s hard to imagine Sergei Prokofiev’s beloved “Peter and the Wolf” without the flute impersonating a bird. Those twittering sounds coaxed from a slender tubular instrument have been known to turn young children into future flutists.

Concert goers world-wide take for granted that a symphony orchestra features at least one or two flutes, and a piccolo tweeting “Stars and Stripes Forever” is part of the stock repertoire of any respectable marching band. Then again, Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” alludes to the flute’s ancient roots and its place in the realm of the magical.

Ubiquitous as the instrument may seem, the idea of a musical group consisting exclusively of 20 flutes, ranging from the high pitched piccolo to a deep throated bass flute, might still challenge the imagination of those musically inclined.

But considering that the Laguna Concert Band includes at least 21 flutists, it’s no real surprise that the section splits off as the Laguna Flutes, a separate flute chorus led by flutist and section leader Betsy Foster.

Conducted by Cynthia Ellis, first piccolo of the Pacific Symphony, this chorus will make their Laguna Beach debut in a concert at the Universalist Unitarian Church on Saturday, March 30. It is a fundraiser for the church and the Laguna Concert Band.

On April 7, the Flutes will also enliven the cocktail hour preceding this year’s Art Stars Award ceremony at Seven-Degrees.

Flute section leader Betsy Foster

Flute section leader Betsy Foster

Laguna Hills resident Betty Everett, a writer and flutist who had abandoned the instrument in favor of vocals, returned to what is called a standard C flute and learned to play an alto flute as well. “I need music in my life and I was not that good a singer,” she recalled.

Having retired the old flute of her youth, she mentioned that a high end flute is made of either sterling silver or 10-14 karat gold and can cost between $8,000 and $25,000 and up.

The 65-member Laguna Concert Band under the direction of Edward Peterson consists of several separate ensembles including the Flutes, the Swing Set big band and The Third Street Strutters.

Flutes members run the gamut from amateurs toiling as executives, health workers, teachers, professional flutists and retirees embracing music. Regardless of age, the group is allied with the Irvine Valley College under its emeritus programs where students are taught at a more gentle, age-appropriate pace. All pay the $30 semester fee with classes and rehearsals held monthly at Foster’s Tustin home with Ellis acting as instructor/coach.

Foster, the product of a musical family, received an undergraduate music degree from West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She has taught flute and piano, worked for a time as a fashion buyer and personal shopper and, now retired, devotes herself to her flute.  “I’ve played the same flute since college,” she said.

Suzanne Garrison Hench grew up in Laguna and first fell in love with flute music as a student at now closed Aliso Elementary School. Even though her father pushed for piano and violin lessons, flute and kid stuck together at Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School where she fell in love with a fellow “bando,” trumpet player Barry Hinch.

The couple married and now lives in San Clemente. Hench, a French teacher, now returns regularly to the LBHS music room for rehearsals. “I like to reminisce about us here and during the Patriots Parade,” she said.

When she joined Laguna Flutes, she noticed the lack of a bass flute and filled the void. “It’s an important addition to lower the pitch of the music and it’s very relaxing to play,” she said of the bent contraption taking here the place of an orchestral tuba or string bass player. “It’s fun to have diversity in the music ranging from classical to Latin to modern, to take instruments into a different direction.”

Music in Saturday’s program includes the Symphony No. 4 by William Boycee (1710-1779), the Little Fugue by J.S Bach and Christopher Caliendo’s (b. 1960) La Milonga.  Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” accompanied by video images, will form the show’s highlight.

“It is a joy to conduct a group of musicians who share a real passion for playing the flute, especially since my life as a musician usually takes place on the other side of the podium,” Ellis said.

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