Groton Hill Flute Orchestra

Season Finale

Sunday, June 2, 2024 at 3:00pm

The Concert Hall at Groton Hill

Nicole O’Toole, Conductor 


The Cascades
Scott Joplin
arr. Lisa LeMay

The “King of Ragtime,” Scott Joplin was born in Texarkana in 1867 or 1868 and died in New York City in 1917. He became famous for his ragtime compositions, most notably The Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer. Our opening selection, The Cascades, was written for the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904 and was inspired by “the most beautiful feature of the Exhibition,” as described in a souvenir photo book. It had fourteen waterfalls that flowed into a basin in front of the fair’s centerpiece, Festival Hall.

George Gershwin
arr. Melanie Thorne

Brooklyn native George Gershwin’s (1898-1937) jazz-infused orchestral works helped shape a sound that is uniquely American with pieces like Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris. His opera Porgy and Bess featured the aria “Summertime.” In the context of the story it’s a lullaby sung by Clara to her child. It is thought that artists have made an astonishing 25,000 covers in every genre of “Summertime” speaking to its universality and widespread appeal. It was arranged for flute choir in 2009 by flutist and educator Melanie Thorne of the United Kingdom.

Mountain Songs
Jennifer Higdon

Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962 in Brooklyn) writes of her own music: “Mountain Songs is a depiction of the mountains and the life of its inhabitants.” After a lively introduction you will hear four sections in this piece: Lazy Laid-Back Afternoon by the Pond, Mountain Spirituals, Lament for a Dead Child (sadly more common where help may not be available), and Mountain Air.

Memories of East Tennessee
Austin Alan Scott

II. The White Frame Church near Tater Branch
III. “Rhododen-dance”

Austin Alan Scott (1920-2014) was born in New York City, studied at Julliard, and completed a M.A. at Columbia University. Mr. Scott spent most of his professional life in England as head of the Orchestra Department at Nottingham High School and was principal flute of the Nottingham Harmonic Orchestra. In 1966 he settled in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and taught at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. His suite Memories of East Tennessee was inspired by his time in the Great Smoky Mountains in the 1940s. We will play two movements from the suite. “The White Frame Church from Tater Branch” portrays a service where beloved revival hymns were sung. The musicians are given the image of a church harmonium for the opening sounds. “Rhododen-dance” does not quote any actual folk material but is written in the style of the dance music of the region. The composer says, “The subject was a once well-known square-dance hall in Gatlinburg where high-jinx shenanigans took place every Saturday night.”

Air Traffic Control  World Premiere
Alexa Letourneau

The brand new composition, Air Traffic Control, was commissioned by Groton Hill for the Groton Hill Flute Orchestra in 2024. The opening of this work captures the electric energy in the air at the airport as the various flutes put forth unpredictable chatter. The soprano Eb flute enters with a soaring melody that will be heard throughout the piece. Various layers of rhythmic material and special effects, including jet whistles, glissandi, and feathered tonguing add to the airport atmosphere. When the ensemble leaves the mixed meter section and lands in common time with an augmented melody, it is clear that an arrival has happened as the group moves together towards the closing chord.


Goin’ Uptown
Valerie Coleman
Jessica Volk, soloist

Grammy nominated, American flutist and composer Valerie Coleman wrote this piece for flute ensemble in 2015. She writes that it is “a lively, happy morsel that joyfully describes all the many ways a person travels through a city.” The syncopated 8th note ostinato pattern played by the piccolo alludes to city traffic. As other flutists join “there is a sense of travelers packing into a subway car heading to work. The soloist flute part has a capricious, spicy nature in the styles of jazz and Afro-Cuban music throughout, fueled by a network of intricate rhythms within the background that form a fun groove when locked into place. The result is a toe tapping feel that gives a modern approach to being in a drum circle, ending with a bluesy improvised ‘last word’ from the soloist.”

Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana
Pietro Mascagni
arr. Art Lambert

In 1888, the young Italian composer Pietro Mascagni wrote a short opera and entered it into a competition for young composers. The opera made it to the top and has remained one of the most beloved and most frequently performed shorter operas. Described as opera verismo this story takes place in one day and has all the elements of love and jealousy that appeals to a modern audience. The Intermezzo occurs mid-way through the story as a contemplative character thinks over their choices. The music speaks clearly to the Italian countryside with its sloping hills and fragrant air.

arr. Wil Offermans

The Itsuki Village of Japan is in the southernmost part of the country and has a small population of about 1200 people. The title of this well-known lullaby translates to the Itsuki “babysitter song” or the “lullaby song.” In the year 2000, Dutch flutist and composer Wil Offermans, long known for promoting extended technique on the flute, arranged this lullaby for flute choir. Listen for the improvisatory technique amongst the players which sets the mood at the opening and end of this piece.

Tico Tico
Zequinha Abreu
arr. Alberto Aran

Brazilian composer Zequinha Abreu (1880-1935) had composed nearly 100 works by the age of 25. With his orchestra he premiered his new, unnamed composition at a ball in 1917. The dancers loved the fast-paced song, and Abreu thought they looked just like the rufous-collared sparrow, locally known as tico-ticos, eating corn meal. This inspired the song’s eventual name “Tico-tico No Fubá.” The tune became popular in Brazil and then in the U.S. where it was both sung by Carmen Miranda and played by Ethel Smith on her organ.

America The Beautiful
Samuel A. Ward
arr. Kelly Via

The words of “America the Beautiful” were written by Katharine Lee Bates in the 1890s. On her horse-drawn carriage journey to Colorado she found herself looking out over the vast expanse of grasslands which faded away under the ample sky. The opening lines of her poem came into her mind. For years her text was sung to the melodies of many popular folk songs of the day. By the 1920s, however, it had been paired with a melody by Samuel August Ward. The Library of Congress says of the piece, “It conveys an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for the nation’s extraordinary physical beauty and abundance . . .” Flutist and educator Kelly Via arranged “America The Beautiful” for flute choir in 2002.

Members of the Ensemble

Nicole O’Toole, Conductor

All members play the C flute. Additional instruments for this concert are listed next to the player.

Sarah Andrysiak, bass
Stephanie Connors, alto
Blythe Cowen
David Deifik, piccolo
Kaitlyn Gonzales
Jeanne Hebert, bass
Jennifer Hunt, Eb soprano flute
Forest Kerr, alto
Laura Kuncho, alto
Haley Laken, alto
Lisa Mitchell, bass
Joel Nolan, piccolo & bass
Lois Reynolds, alto
Vera Sellers
Elaine Sinclair, alto
Bruce Taylor, contrabass & bass
Kimberly Tower, bass
Victor Villarreal, subcontrabass & bass
Jessica Volk, piccolo & alto

About Our Conductor: Nicole O’Toole

Nicole O’Toole has been teaching music in Massachusetts since the early 90s and playing flute for over 40 years. She holds a B.M. in Music Education from University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a M.M. in Flute Performance from University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Her primary teachers were Doug Worthen and Joanne Tanner. Nicole teaches beginning band in her hometown of Bedford, MA, where she also serves as the K-12 Program Director of Performing Arts. Each summer she works with the flutists at the Mary Jo Leahy Symphonic Band Camp preparing the students for a flute choir performance. An active musician, Nicole performs with the Metropolitan Wind Symphony, the North Worcester County Symphony Orchestra, and the Firebird Pops Orchestra. She was also a playing member of the Groton Hill Flute Orchestra for many years before becoming its director. Nicole enjoys adapting music for flute choir and many of her arrangements can be heard on the ensemble’s YouTube channel.

About ‘World Premiere’ Composer: Alexa Letourneau

New York-based creative Alexa Letourneau is a composer, flutist, singer, researcher, educator, and chronic procrastinator. An Ohio native, Alexa began playing the flute at eight years old. Within weeks, she was taping 5 pens together to draw a staff on which to begin composing. At present, her works are focused upon an exploration of shared human identity through compositions that toe the line between whimsical and deeply serious. Alexa is a founding member of Mosaic Composers Collective, the director of Unjust Intonation a cappella, a member of C4: The Choral Composer Conductor Collective, and the creator of Classical Schmassical: the anti-Classical classical music podcast. Outside of music, she is extremely excited by nighttime thunderstorms, excessively camp science fiction, and geography as a whole.

About Our Guest Soloist: Jessica Volk

Jessica Volk is a lifelong musician and has been playing the flute for nearly thirty years. She holds a B.M. in Flute Performance from Florida State University and a M.M. in Flute Performance from Carnegie Mellon University. Her primary teachers were Eva Amsler, Alberto Almarza, and Jeanne Baxtresser. Jessica has performed with the Westmoreland, McKeesport, and Cape Symphony Orchestras in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, as well as the Erie Chamber Orchestra and Resonance Works in the greater Pittsburgh area. She has competed in the National Flute Association Young Artist Competition in New York and Los Angeles, and placed first in the Florida Flute Association Young Artist Competition. Jessica currently stays home with her two small children, and enjoys performing with the Groton Hill Flute Orchestra as well as other small chamber ensembles. She loves having the opportunity to play instruments across the whole flute family.

History of the Groton Hill Flute Orchestra

The ensemble began as the Nashua Flute Choir in 1983 as a four-person ensemble. Current concertmaster and piccoloist David Deifik is a founding member. The group was devoted to the cultural and musical enrichment of Nashua, its surrounding communities, and many other locales in New Hampshire and Massachusetts for more than thirty years, through performances at church services, libraries, outdoor concerts, senior residences, weddings, corporate functions, and charitable events. The Nashua Flute Choir also performed at five National Flute Association Conventions: New York City (2009 and 1996), Washington, D.C. (2002), Atlanta (1999), and Boston (1993).

The ensemble celebrated its twentieth anniversary by making its first commission, resulting in the world premiere of Views from Falls House, by Gary Schocker. Additional works commissioned and premiered by the Nashua Flute Choir/ New England Flute Orchestra include Concertante Dragon Court by Katherine Hoover (a joint commission with Bickford Brannen), Bone, Wood, Silver, Granite, by Lisa LeMay, and Dancing Among Colored Leaves, by Brandon J. Nelson. They have recorded three CDs: Sounds of Christmas, A Falls House Christmas, and Views from Falls House (a classical and contemporary album), and were also featured on an episode of TV’s New Hampshire Chronicle.

In 2014 The Nashua Flute Choir changed its name to the New England Flute Orchestra, reflecting the growth of the ensemble, the geographic range of its performing venues, and plans for the future. In 2015, the group merged with Indian Hill Music (Littleton, MA) and enjoyed performing in Blackman Hall for six years. At the time of Indian Hill’s rebirth as Groton Hill Music Center and its move to its spectacular new venue in Groton in the fall of 2022, the ensemble became the Groton Hill Flute Orchestra.

The 2022-23 season marked both the 40th anniversary of the Flute Orchestra and Dr. Eileen Yarrison’s 25th year as its conductor. Each concert was a wonderful celebration of favorite pieces from the past, premieres of new music of the present, and a look to the future for this exceptional group of musicians. Following Eileen’s retirement as the group’s director after the June 2023 season finale concert, the ensemble welcomed Nicole O’Toole as its new conductor.

The Groton Hill Flute Orchestra’s members come from all walks of life: professional musicians, doctors, teachers, clergy, businesspeople, and engineers from various communities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These dedicated flutists play all members of the flute family: piccolos, Eb flute, C flutes, altos, basses, and the contrabass flute.