Marshall hopes to bring music to life with ‘Flute Stories’

Staff Report

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Three faculty members with the Marshall University School of Music and Theatre will perform a program of “Flute Stories” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7 in Smith Recital Hall on Marshall’s Huntington campus.

Dr. Wendell Dobbs, flute, will perform alongside colleagues Dr. Elizabeth Reed Smith, violin, and Dr. Johan Botes, piano.

“In a general sense, music, especially instrumental music, falls into two categories: program music, music that recounts a story, and absolute music, that which has no extramusical reference,” Dobbs said. “We’re proposing a program of ‘Flute Stories,’ flute music that recounts, with a little help from friends, a story, or at least an image.”

The program will begin with Paul Taffanel’s “Fantasy on ‘Der Freischutz.’ ” Taffanel was the central figure in the development of modern flute technique in late 19th century Paris. In his Fantasy, Taffanel composed a virtuoso concert piece that became one of his favorites, “Chevaux de Bataille,” making use of the well-known themes from von Weber’s enormously popular opera. Listeners would have remembered the supernatural plot as they enjoyed Taffanel’s extraordinary playing.

In Philippe Gilbert’s “Medailles Antiques,” ancient Greek medallions inspire the music. The first medallion depicts nymphs by a fountain and the second, dancing. Smith joins Dobbs and Botes in interpreting this charming impressionist work.

The program concludes with Katherine Hoover’s “Medieval Suite,” a work inspired by Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror,” a book about the history of 14th century France. Hoover uses a medieval French verse, known as a virelai, as a melodic basis for the work’s first movement.

Following movements feature another folksong from the era, “Sumer Is Icumen In;” musical depictions of the Black Knight, who suffers from a wasting disease; and the betrothal of six-year-old Princess Isabelle and the Drunken Friar. All precede the final Demon’s Dance, invoked to rid one of the plague. Hoover’s music skillfully underscores Tuchman’s story of this tumultuous era of famine, pestilence and excess.

“Flute Stories” is free and open to the public. For more information about Marshall’s School of Music and Theatre, visit or call 304-696-3117.

Staff Report