Variety: It’s the Spice!

Our September 24th concert was an experiment: a test to see just how much variety could be crammed into a single concert program performed by a single ensemble. To up the ante, we also added an element of chance; allowing the audience to play a game to randomly select the concert order.

Twelve different instruments and one guest musician later (Eric Olson, alto & tenor saxophone), we wound up with a concert that ran the gamut from Handel and Mozart to Hoagy Carmichael and Stevie Wonder! Here’s a list of the selections in the order the were performed:

Overture from “The Barber of Seville”           G. Rossini/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Playground           H.A. Curtis
piano solo

Contradanza from “Three Pieces for Clarinet & Piano”           P. D’Rivera
tenor saxophone

I. Allegro from “Horn Quintet in E-flat Major”, K. 407           W.A. Mozart/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, english horn, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Royal Garden Blues           C. Williams & S. Williams/arr. Ken Abeling
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Sir Duke           S. Wonder/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

The Nearness of You           H. Carmichael
tenor saxophone & piano

III. Brazileira from “Scaramouche”           D. Milhaud/arr. D. Stewart
piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, horn, & bassoon

Ancient Pines           L. McKennitt/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

I. Natalie Fraser (hornpipe) from “A Suite of Cape Breton Tunes”           J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

Summer Waltz           L. Hood
flute, clarinet, guitar, & lever harp

Cranberry Island           D. Tolk
piano solo

Overture from “Music for the Royal Fireworks”           G.F. Handel/arr. T. Cramer
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

To facilitate this colorful program based purely on variety and fun, we enlisted the aid of Jan Ross (aka Janice B.), voice-over artist, and our production manager, James Deaton (aka. J.D), to co-host the concert as a game show. Janice B. and J.D. selected audience members at random to come forward and randomly select the concert order. Those audience members were then entered into a special prize pool for a chance to win one of three prizes.

Adding even more flair to the event, we were joined by guest artist, Lori Feldpausch, who brought a dazzling array of paintings from her home studio to create an elaborate exhibit in the church’s narthex.

We were honored to be a part of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church’s “Concert on the Hill” series, and we’re delighted to have played a part in raising funds for Habitat for Humanity of Benzie County and Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing.

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Winter Songs & Carols: A Manitou Christmas Medley

In our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents

a program of music, poetry, and prose inspiring you to embrace winter.

As creative director of Manitou Winds, I spend a lot of time searching through titles and listening to music, curating the individual pieces that I plan to eventually morph into future programs for our ensemble. Putting a program together can be challenging. Often the toughest IMG_8850part is deciding how it all begins! It’s no secret that every concert needs an opener that is not only an attention-grabber, but also maybe a bit of foreshadowing to what the audience has to look forward to on the rest of the program.

For our annual Winter Songs & Carols concert, we enjoy presenting a program that encompasses all of winter — not just the holidays contained in December. So, finding an existing opening number that would encapsulate frost, warmth, holidays, feasts, and introspection all within one score was a tall order. It’s no wonder that early in January of 2016 I began scoring “A Manitou Christmas Medley” — a medley designed especially for Manitou Winds’ unique musicians.

The medley comprises eight of my favorite Christmas tunes in a variety of surprising twists and turns of style, tempo, and orchestration. In fact, one of the more unique aspects of this piece is that you’ll get to hear almost every combination of instruments Manitou Winds Jason's pianocan offer: five musicians, eight different instruments!

Before I even imagined I could be a part of a group like Manitou Winds, I would often sit at the piano and play through some of my favorite tunes and imagine lines that went above and beyond my own pianistic abilities — colors and characters that I knew only an ensemble could fully enliven.

It was in the spirit of those hopeful daydreams that I chose to begin the medley with a free, rubato-laden piano solo Anne's Clarinetof one of Alfred Burt’s most famous carols: Some Children See Him. In the midst of the piano’s rambling, Anne’s clarinet suddenly enters to lead the ensemble in adding striking colors to the evocative harmonies of Burt’s carol. Then, we’re off to the races as the tune shifts to a driving, syncopated jazz feel.

Next, the tempo quickens and we’re suddenly playing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a 16th century British carol, in a driving, pulsating style inspired by Karl Jenkins’ Palladio. The ensemble continues on a motif from the carol while I get up from the piano bench and make my way over to the harp.

Jason's Harp Sam's Flute

As the harmonies resolve into a dramatic climax, the harp enters with a glissando and suddenly we’re at an Irish seisiún with a foot-tapping, meter-jumping rendition of The Holly and the Ivy, a 19th century British carol. Sam’s flute takes the lead as the clarinet, horn, and bassoon intertwine (as the ivy!). The harp then takes a solo turn on the tune while Laura discreetly puts down her horn and grabs her guitar.

Laura's Horn Christina's Bassoon

Laura's Guitar

Seamlessly, Christina’s bassoon enters with a lyrical, ballet-inspired verse of Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella — a carol from 16th Century France — joined by the clarinet, flute, and harp. The guitar sneaks in at the end of the verse to lead us briefly into Cradle Song — a Christmas tune that I composed and hope to explore more in future pieces.

With the guitar taking over for the harp, I head over to the oboe while the key shifts to minor and there’s a guitar-flute Jason's oboeduet on Coventry Carol — a dark and disturbing carol from 16th century Britain.

As the clarinet and bassoon join in, we’re suddenly whisked from the mournful slaughter of the innocents as Laura’s guitar strums a fiery Flamenco rhythm and we flagrantly juxtapose an 18th century French carol (Pat-a-pan) within the trappings of Andalusian folk music (and maybe a wee bit of Romani influence too!). It’s like a wild sing-a-long around a bonfire — you don’t argue about whether it makes any sense!

As the flames of the flamenco grow higher and Manitou Windshigher, we’re suddenly swept up into a very syncopated spin of the ancient Ukrainian Carol of the Bells and with a sizzling stinger of an ending, we conclude a medley that reaches across continents, centuries, and even moods!

I’m very grateful to the musicians of Manitou Winds for agreeing to embark on such a strange musical journey with me. I hope you’ll join us for the premiere of this unique medley during our Winter Songs & Carols performances.

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Don’t miss

Winter Songs & Carols

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Saturday, December 3rd, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

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Friday, December 9th, at 7:30pm

The Leelanau School
1 Old Homestead Rd.
Glen Arbor

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Admission is free for both performances
A freewill offering will be taken

Summer Fantasies: Three Fiddle Tunes

The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar) ©2016 by Ellie Harold

“The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar)” by Ellie Harold, 2016 Collaborating Artist

For our Summer Fantasies concert, we invite you to join us in a colorful journey for the imagination as we visit the themes of summertime and all of its fantastical elements. In this series of brief articles, you can learn more about the pieces on the program; the composers who penned them and the events that inspired them.

The second premiere on our program, this September, is a new suite based on fiddle tunes from the isle of Cape Breton arranged by Jason McKinney. “I have a list of places I’d like to visit someday and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is near the top of that list,” he says. “Since our concert’s theme is about fantasies, I thought it would be fun to create a musical journey to a place I long to visit someday. Plus, it was an excuse to learn more about Scottish music!”

Jason McKinneyA Suite of Cape Breton Tunes

— Jason McKinney (b. 1979)

The suite is arranged for flute, clarinet, and lever harp (i.e., Celtic harp), and contains three distinct movements. “I wanted each movement to capture a different mood or scene you might expect to find during a céilidh (pronounced KAY’-lee) — the Scottish-Gaelic word for a party where there will be singing, dancing, and storytelling,” Jason explains.

I. Natalie Fraser is based on a hornpipe tune written by legendary pianist Joey Beaton of Mabou. Beaton happens to come from a very long line of famous Cape Breton composers and musicians. The hornpipe is a dance many northern European cultures share — each with their own version and traditions. In Cape Breton, the hornpipe is usually a lively dance in 4/4 time (though it can be danced slowly when the occasion calls for it) with a distinctly contrasting A & B sections.

Jason explored what he could from the Mabouinternet about Beaton’s tell-tale style of piano accompaniment. “In traditional Cape Breton music (which is seldom written down by the way), the piano accompaniment usually provides a bass line and rhythmic foundation for the undulating fiddle while ‘filling in’ chords and harmony. Since fiddling is nearly impossible on wind instruments, I basically split the musical roles between all three members of the trio,” Jason explains. “The harp part provides the bass line and the basic harmony, but it also grabs bits and pieces of the melody, allowing the flute and clarinet a little liberty to breathe and also embellish.”

Watching the dancers of the hornpipe swirling and bouncing like planets shifting in and out of their orbits is a bit mesmerizing (watch a hornpipe here). While there won’t be any dancers at our concert, it’s not hard to imagine them as the flute, clarinet, and harp weave in and out of the texture of the trio seamlessly.

II. The Rosebud of Allenvale is based on a relatively simple tune by the famous Scottish fiddler, dancer, and J.S. Skinnerprolific composer J.S. Skinner (1843-1927). Many Scottish emigrants to Nova Scotia arrived as a result of being thrown off their lands during the Highland Clearances. These displaced Scots made their way to North America and beyond, carrying their culture with them. A thoroughly Scottish citizen, Skinner’s music influenced the Scottish community in Nova Scotia because of his international notoriety and his advancement of Scottish music and dance.

“Since the traditional céilidh would contain at least a little storytelling, I thought this charming lyrical melody would be a great segue from the dancing,” Jason explains. “I imagined everyone making their way to their seats or gathering around as a single vocalist began singing a lyrical ode to a lost or current love.”

In this movement, the melody is carried mostly by the clarinet with the flute taking on the role of an accompanying violin while the harp provides graceful, arpeggiating accompaniment. “I think what drew me to this melody initially was that it was calming and graceful without the expected hint of tragedy that almost always finds its way into Celtic music,” Jason explains. “Reading the title then hearing the melody, you get the sensation that the fiddler is filled with pride or love rather than mourning.”

But, alas, after digging deeper there remains that little hint of tragedy. Skinner published this tune around 1922 and dedicated it to his cousin Jessie who was married to the gardener at Allenvale Cemetery in Aberdeen, Scotland. In his original inscription, Skinner wrote, “The Rosebud is in full bloom and will be played when you and I are asleep.” J.S. Skinner died five years later and was buried in the Allenvale Cemetery.

III. The Night the Goats Came Home Goats(sometimes known as “The Night We Had the Goats”) is a traditional Cape Breton reel tune. Here’s the moment in the céilidh where everyone has likely had one too many and the party’s getting decidedly rowdy! The fiddler takes the stage to get the crowd on its feet. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know how this tune got its name,” says Jason. “It’s so energetic, though, one just understands that it was an awesome thing when the goats showed up (perhaps for one night only)!”

In Scottish folk music, a reel is one of four traditional dances, but it is also a loose musical form (usually used to accompany the dance of the same name). Similar to the hornpipe, a reel has contrasting A & B sections that are repeated (sometimes growing faster and faster). In contrast, the tempo of a reel is often much faster than the hornpipe and/or its melody is more heavily embellished (i.e., fiddled).

Photo Jul 29, 8 08 47 PM (1)“I’m honored to have Sam and Anne perform this suite with me. Working on the intricacies of the music and working through my own learning process on the harp was a joy thanks to their dedication and energy to their individual parts.”

— Jason McKinney

“This is the toughest movement of the suite,” Jason confesses. “Between the tricky embellishments written in the flute and clarinet parts and the muffling technique required in the harp part to create a pianistic effect between each chord, there is a good bit of challenge to getting this reel in motion. While not exactly like a fiddler’s bow strokes (watch a fiddler play this tune here), I think the energy and effect are similar.”

We look forward to sharing this one-of-a-kind foray into Scottish folk music with you at our upcoming concert: Summer Fantasies, September 30th.

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Don’t miss Summer Fantasies
Friday, September 30th, at 6pm
Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road
Frankfort

Admission is free.

New Voices: Laura Hood

There’s an undeniable pleasure and pride that comes with reviving classic works written by the masters, but to select a piece of music which has little or no performance history and bring it to life presents a unique opportunity for the musician and the audience. Our May 1, 2016, concert entitled New Voices will be a program full of new music — all written within the past 20 years by living composers.

Compiling and researching the music for this concert has been a rich and rewarding experience for me and the members of Manitou Winds. Since the composers who created the music we’re performing are alive and well, we’re able to correspond with them, learn firsthand about their unique approaches to composition, and ask probing questions about their work. This more personal connection unlocks a new dimension of the musical experience.

Not only is our concert made up of very recently composed music, our audience will actually hear two premieres featuring the composers as performers. One of these premieres is a remarkable, Laura 01refreshing quartet written by our own Laura Hood (b. 1961).

Although she’s never had a single lesson in composition, Laura has always had a penchant for writing songs. Though a horn player through-and-through, her favored composition medium has always been voice and guitar in the singer-songwriter and folk style rather than classical horn. When the lyrics won’t come to her, she simply makes the piece instrumental!

At our summer potluck and mini concert back in 2015, Laura and her guitar regaled us with a solo performance of one of her beautiful songs (with lyrics!) romanticizing our four seasons in Northern Michigan. Having outed herself to the entire group as a composer, I hoped it would only be matter of time before she was brave enough to put some of her music on paper and slip it into the hands of her fellow Manitou Winds members! To my delight, she presented me with First Flight in January 2016 and gave me a guided tour of the score.

Wings of Wonder

Laura composed First Flight to honor her friend Rebecca Lessard, founder of Wings of Wonder, a raptor rehabilitation center and sanctuary based in Empire, Michigan. WOW has a tremendous impact in Northern Michigan — rescuing countless birds while continuing to house those who are Rebecca Lessardunable to be returned to the wild. Beyond the life-saving force the organization provides with the help of its many volunteers, Rebecca’s efforts to spread the word about these majestic creatures through community outreach in schools and community events makes her a local hero.

Right away, I loved the unmistakable folk vibe that emanated from Laura’s guitar scoring. By adding in flute, clarinet, and harp, Laura’s piece became something truly unique — a combination of timbres that is rare if not completely brand new.

Without being prompted, the next thing I noticed in the music was that it seemed to be telling a story — there was a dialogue between the flute and clarinet, an interplay between all Rebecca Lessardfour parts which seemed to be painting a picture worth thousands of words. A picture not revealed by the one-word titles of the movements.

Laura explains, “Many of the birds are clinging to a tiny thread of life when they first arrive at WOW. Movement one (Waltz) represents the tender care each new avian patient is given.” Rather than the typical steady, dance-like feel we would associate with a waltz, the music begins with a very thinly-scored but hopeful tune that grows and swells as the movement progresses (as the bird begins to heal and grow stronger).

As I learned more about WOW, I uncovered the sad fact that not all of the birds survive their trauma and move on toward recovery. Some are tragically beyond repair and are humanely euthanized. Perhaps more touching, though, are the birds who do recover but are permanently disabled, living Wings of Wonderthe remainder of their lives sheltered in the loving sanctuary WOW provides. Many of these birds are often taken on roadtrips for outreach programs Rebecca provides in the area.

Movement two (Allegro) begins with an energetic, eager guitar ostinato propelling us forward. Laura was inspired by WOW’s 100ft flight pen which offers space for the recovering raptors to begin spreading their wings and gaining endurance. “This is depicted in the running passages and soaring lines of the flute and clarinet,” Laura explains. “Like the flapping of an eagle’s wings, the music eventually ascends until it rises into the sky with majestic glory.”

Not only was this composition a departure for Laura because it required her to completely score and notate her music in a fixed form, but she had never before written for winds or harp! It became a learning and teaching experience for the whole quartet as we discussed the particulars of articulation and phrasing. We’re excited that Laura plans to write more pieces for this unique quartet.

First Flight

Rehearsing this one-of-a-kind work has been a treat for all of us — a chance to break away from the more traditional sounds of a classical chamber ensemble, allowing ourselves to immerse in a completely different acoustic. We are grateful that Laura has bestowed upon Mantiou Winds this unique treasure of chamber music telling the miraculous story of broken wings mended by loving and caring hands. We hope you’ll join us in May as Laura’s piece receives its premiere.

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Don’t miss New Voices
Sunday, May 1st, at 3:00pm
Frankfort United Methodist Church
537 Crystal Avenue
Frankfort

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Benzie Wild Rose Society’s music scholarship program.

New Voices: Bonnie L. Cochran

There’s an undeniable pleasure and pride that comes with reviving classic works written by the masters, but to select a piece of music which has little or no performance history and bring it to life presents a unique opportunity for the musician and the audience. Our May 1, 2016, concert entitled New Voices will be a program full of new music — all written within the past 20 years by living composers.

Compiling and researching the music for this concert has been a rich and rewarding experience for me and the members of Manitou Winds. Since the composers who created the music we’re performing are alive and well, we’re able to correspond with them, learn firsthand about their unique approaches to composition, and ask probing questions about their work. This more personal connection unlocks a new dimension of the musical experience.

Many composers have the uncomfortable (or some would say blissfully ignorant) task of writing music for instruments they do not themselves play. In terms of music written for full orchestra or wind ensemble, it’s especially understandable considering the number of instruments represented. The most successful of chamber music composers, however, often write music featuring at least one of the instruments they know intimately. Bonnie L. CochranSuch is the case with Bonnie L. Cochran (b. 1975) whose catalog of compositions explores the many voices of the flute.

Bonnie grew up in Georgia and began composing music around the age of 12, but did not formally study composition until attending college and university where she eventually studied with John Heiss, John Clement Adams, Larry Bell, and Ronald Byrnside. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music and Religious Studies from Agnes Scott College (Decatur, GA) and a Master of Music in Flute Performance from Boston Conservatory.

Perhaps the biggest impetus for her composing in recent years has been the formation of the Amaryllis Chamber Ensemble; an ensemble which she founded. The ensemble (a mix of violin, viola, cello, harp, and Bonnie’s flute) performs workshops and outreach programs as well as special events and concert appearances in and around the greater Boston area.

While searching for music for our New Voices program, finding Bonnie’s music was a happy surprise. The flute is capable of so many modern special effects and extended techniques (too many to list here!) that a large swath of modern flute music tends to explore these extra-musical sounds and effects rather than drawing the listener in with an intriguing melody. Bonnie’s music manages to be undeniably modern and yet unquestionably musical and so I knew her Suite for Flute & Piano (2003) would be an excellent fit for our concert.

The suite contains three movements and Bonnie says the melodies and especially the forms within the work evolved into their present form over the course of 6-8 years.

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

— William Blake (1757-1827)

Movement one (A Dying Rose) was inspired by Blake’s “The Sick Rose” — a text which Bonnie says both fascinated and haunted her from the moment she was first introduced to it. She says she originally intended the theme to be a piece for vocalist and piano however she gave into the urge to play it on her own instrument and so she can’t hear it any other way.

Movement two (Meditation) is “reflective in nature, a little sad, yet hopeful,” says Bonnie. Like many aspects of programmatic music, the colors and inflections of the harmony — though interpreted as exactingly as the composer penned them — can sometimes strike the performer or an audience member in different ways.

Sam ClarkSam Clark, Manitou Winds’ flutist, said that the title of “Meditation” originally seemed odd to her since the chromatic melodic lines drawn by flute seemed to suggest anxiety or distraction. Once she was in rehearsal with Susan Snyder, our guest pianist for New Voices, she realized the movement does reach a state of meditative peace in the last few measures with the aid of colors added by the piano.

In contrast to the more enigmatic and somewhat somber themes in the first two movements, the final movement of the suite (Little Dance) is “a light-hearted romp” according to Bonnie. While the first two movements of the suite explore the dark and breathy bottom register of the flute, the third movement travels higher and higher as the dance progresses. Sam and I agree that the third movement is both graceful and spontaneous — not unlike the dancing of an exuberant, young ballerina in training. Oh — and there is a surprise ending: one last flourish as the flutist graces up to a high A (the very highest note in the entire suite).

Three contrasting scenes combined into one fascinating little suite… we look forward to sharing Bonnie’s remarkable piece with our audience, this May.

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Don’t miss New Voices
Sunday, May 1st, at 3:00pm
Frankfort United Methodist Church
537 Crystal Avenue
Frankfort

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Benzie Wild Rose Society’s music scholarship program.

Our Virtual Potluck: Part VI

Potluck

The table is set, the buffet dishes are in place, the napkins are neatly folded, the kitties are on their best behavior. It’s time for the Manitou Winds Virtual Potluck!

IMG_3102With everyone here and all the dishes assembled and in place, it’s clear we’re a group with lots to share and contribute! Now that we’ve all discussed the weather and how we feel about winter in Northern Michigan, the conversation could go anywhere!

If you could magically play any instrument without having to take lessons, what instrument would you pick up?

Sam: “I’d love it if I could magically play the piano.”
Jason: “I’ve always wanted to play viola; altos secretly have all the fun.”
Anne: “I’d love to play the cello. I love the rich sound, and… well, I just think I’d look really cool playing it!”
Laura: “I would love to play the violin so I could fiddle.”
Christina: “I’ve always thought the cello would be neat to learn. It’s the same range as the bassoon, and it has the best sound of all the stringed instruments to me.”

So, in magical-musical-fantasyland, Manitou Winds would maybe be more like Manitou Strings?! I wonder if there are any string players out there who wish they could play a wind instrument. Somehow I doubt that!

Photo Aug 24, 7 47 42 PMIn a contest to determine who among us has the most pets, Laura is hands-down the winner. “We’ve got one very big and old chocolate lab, a cat who lives in the barn, two horses on our farm, two horses who live at another farm, and pigs and chickens in the summer months (they’re in the freezer now!),” says Laura.

Comparing our woes with our separate instruments is also fodder for conversation…

Christina says, “Fingerings for bassoon can have up to all of your fingers down for a single note — your left thumb operates 6 keys all by itself… and the reed…”

“Reeds are probably the worst thing about playing clarinet,” says Anne. “A reed can either make or break you!”

“Don’t even talk to me about reeds,” interrupts Jason, putting away his reed knife.

“Staying in shape on the horn is probably the most challenging thing,” says Laura. “It’s a very physically demanding instrument, so if you take too many days off, it takes a while to get back into IMG_8209shape.”

“On the flute, it’s so hard to get a good, solid tone throughout the whole range of the instrument,” says Sam. “You need to have the right embouchure for your individual mouth structure, but also tons of air support to direct the air correctly and overcome the ‘wasted air’ factor.”

“You’ve got wasted air?” says Jason, “I can’t get rid of my air fast enough… turning beet red, over here.”

Needless to say, each of us chose our instruments in spite of the challenges they inevitably bring. In the hands of knowledgeable composers and arrangers, these quirky instruments of a wind quintet can actually form a very unique and uniform sound — the better qualities of each instrument shining through.

Manitou WindsIn our rehearsals, we’re currently working on music for our spring concert. The theme, “New Voices”, aims to explore music written only within the last 20 years. We enjoy highlighting the work of lesser-known composers and so programming new music was a natural way of accomplishing that.

But, to take it a step further, we wanted to demonstrate for our audience that new music isn’t necessarily something to be feared — even though we can all agree that older, familiar music is more comfortable. In order to bridge the gap between old and new, we sought out composers who incorporate modern techniques and sounds into their music, but who also value intriguing melodies and rich harmonies.

In the coming weeks, we’ll begin to share more with you about the music on our program and the composers who penned it.

It looks like everyone cleaned their plates and had their fill… but not too full, I hope! To top off this potluck feast, I’ve got a wintry dessert to make sure no one goes home hungry…

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Pear & Gingerbread Trifle
Serves 8
This recipe is right at home on a wintry Northern Michigan potluck table — our local pears are excellent and for this recipe you can use fresh or canned. The gingerbread can be baked and then frozen months in advance. Except for the whipped cream, all the components can be prepared days in advance and then assembled just a few hours before serving.

Gingerbread Cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pear-Gingerbread Trifle1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup warm water

Pear Filling:
2 pounds ripe but firm Bartlett pears (or 2 15oz cans of pears in light syrup)
1/4 cup pear preserves or jam
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

Custard Cream:
2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs plus one egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the Gingerbread Cake: Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Place flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt into a large bowl and mix well. Place oil and sugars into a separate bowl; beat until creamy. Add molasses, beaten egg and then the warm water, mixing after each addition. Blend the dry ingredients into the wet ones, stirring well.

Pour batter into a lightly oiled 9-inch cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool completely. Tear into small pieces or cut into cubes and set aside.

To make the Pear Filling: In a large , heavy skillet, heat pears over medium high heat. Add jam, sugar and spices and cook until the mixture boils and begins to thicken. Remove from heat, cool for a moment or two, and then stir in the balsamic vinegar and brandy. Set aside to cool.

To make the Custard Cream: Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring frequently, just until bubbles begin to form around edges of pan. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. When the milk is ready, slowly pour half of milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time. Then stir this mixture back into the hot milk. Cook for ten minutes, whisking constantly, but do not allow to boil. The custard will thicken as it cooks, and thicken further as it cools. Remove from heat, add vanilla and brandy to taste.

Pour finished custard into a sieve set over a clean bowl and let it fall through, removing any lumps. Use back of spoon or spatula to help all the custard go through sieve. Cover with plastic wrap, laying the wrap directly on the surface of the custard so it does not develop a Woodwind Gourmetskin. Chill for at least two hours.

To make the Whipped Cream: Using chilled beaters and bowl, whip cream until it starts to thicken. Slowly add sugar and then vanilla, beating until cream is thick enough to form peaks on beaters when removed.

Assembly: In a deep bowl, a large glass trifle bowl, or individual serving dishes, layer the ingredients in approximately half-inch layers this order: 1) custard cream; 2) gingerbread pieces; 3) pear filling; and 4) whipped cream. Continue to layer, using a spatula to press down, or swirl creme as needed, until the serving dish is filled. Be sure to end with a hefty layer of whipped cream! Refrigerate for at least two hours and up to 8 hours before serving.

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Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:

Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds

Series II: Composers & Coffee

Series III: Notable Breakfasts

Series IV: Our Virtual Potluck

Our Virtual Potluck: Part II

Potluck

The table is set, the buffet dishes are in place, the napkins are neatly folded, the kitties are on their best behavior. It’s time for the Manitou Winds Virtual Potluck!

You can put your coat over there and head over to warm yourself by the fire. I think I hear our next guest arriving…

Sam ClarkIt’s Sam Clark, our flutist!

Yes! It’s cold outside! Born and raised in Michigan, Sam has lived in Northern Michigan for 35 years and counting. “I don’t mind the snow at all — love it. But, the constant cloudiness is a drag,” she says. The clouds don’t stop Sam, though. She’s likely to be out cross-country skiing, hiking, or camping with long-time partner, Bill, whether there’s sun or not!

“While through-hiking Zion National Park (over 70 miles) once, we went through the gamut of weather conditions and saw some amazing, strange scenery. The desert environment is very different — surreal to this Michigan girl, but I absolutely loved it,” she says.

Like most zephyrous flute players, Sam is adventuresome. Although, Sam says she doesn’t really agree with most of those flute princess“musical stereotypes” that are the stuff of legend in practice rooms and green rooms.

“There are usually reasons for stereotypes in general,” she says, “but I’ve conducted and performed with musicians of many facets and can’t say I’ve been able to categorize any of their personalities based on their instruments. For instance, flutists are generally construed to be girly-girls… which I’m definitely not!”

From stereotypes to superstitions… Sam has something of a lucky charm in her flute case. “Well, it’s not really a superstition, just a comfort,” she explains, “My swab handkerchief was worn onstage by a dear departed friend at the Old Town Playhouse in 1985. I smile Sam Clarkat the thought that he’d appreciate me swabbing my spit with his costume!”

Active in the outdoors and on the music scene, Sam has a long history with Traverse City’s Old Town Playhouse wearing many hats — from the stage to the orchestra pit to the boardroom. In 2015, she conducted her 16th musical production with the theater in a highly successful run of Shrek: The Musical.

Why would she join a chamber group on top of everything else she’s built into her busy schedule? “I like the intimacy of the communication and connection of the personalities and musical characteristics of Manitou Winds,” she explains. “I love trying out new pieces — particularly those that Jason finds, arranges, or composes for us.”

Whether you’re a talker or a listener, a leader or a follower — it all comes out in rehearsal! In Manitou Winds, five personalities as unique as our five different instruments have to make a concerted (ahem) effort to collaborate in order to be successful. For chamber music, this is often a matter of verbal and musical communication with lots of non verbal cues thrown into the mix as well. Something truly musical happens when those independent elements come together to create a unified sound.

Manitou Winds

If afforded an ounce of spare time, other than doing more music and outdoor recreation, Sam says she’d probably do more reading. “I’d also like to get more involved learning about animals and working with rescue and veterinarian organizations,” she says, “and maybe learn how to cook!”

NEO Trio

Actually, Sam can cook, she simply doesn’t have time very often. She’s much more likely to cook while sharing the kitchen with Bill. For today’s potluck, she’s brought a tasty lasagna to share. As semi-vegetarians, she and Bill consider this lasagna a special treat for those occasions when they have a carnivorous craving…

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Spinach & Turkey Lasagna
Serves 8
Sam says, “My trumpet-playing boyfriend improvises (yes, he’s primarily a jazz musician) while cooking, and is very good at it. This is one of my favorite meals for the two of us to snuggle up to in winter.” Using whole wheat lasagna, lower fat cheeses, and lean ground turkey, it’s a tasty, lighter version of a comfort food classic.

Woodwind Gourmet1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 large carrot, chopped finely (app. 1 cup)
1 celery rib, chopped finely (app. 1/2 cup)
1 dried bay leaf
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground turkey
2-3 tablespoons mixed dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme & marjoram)
32 ounces tomato sauce
6 cups chopped fresh spinach (or 10oz frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry)
a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
16 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
1 egg white (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
9-12 whole wheat lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Make the meat sauce: Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan or a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the crushed garlic; cook, stirring constantly, for 30-seconds or until very fragrant. Stir in the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, and a small pinch of sea salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened and are just beginning to brown (app. 5-8 minutes). Add ground turkey and herbs, season lightly with salt and pepper; cook 5-7 minutes more, stirring to break up any large chunks. Stir in tomato sauce, spinach, and pepper flakes Turkey-Spinach Lasagnaand bring to a low boil. Lower heat, partially cover; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Make the cheese filling: In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, half of the shredded mozzarella, and the egg white or egg substitute; season lightly with salt and pepper.

To assemble: In a 13×9-inch pan, spread approximately 1/4 cup of the meat sauce (be sure to remove the bay leaf). Cook the lasagna noodles (3-4 at a time) in the boiling salted water for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove noodles with tongs or a slotted spoon and layer atop the thin layer of sauce. Spread 1/3 of the cheese filling atop the noodles. Top with 1/3 of the meat sauce. Repeat to form three layers. Top with the reserved shredded mozzarella.

Bake at 375-degrees 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is lightly browned. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:

Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds

Series II: Composers & Coffee

Series III: Notable Breakfasts

Series IV: Our Virtual Potluck