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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

PREVIEW | Meet Canada's First Flute Quintet: Charm of Finches

By Michael Vincent on January 22, 2016

Charm of Finches
Charm of Finches (Photo: SangEun Jenny Jee)

There should be some award for the most inventive name for an ensemble. I think Charm of Finches, Canada first (and only) professional flute quintet just might win that accolade.

We had a chance to chat with Toronto-based flautist Terry Lim, about the new group and what makes them sing.

Tell about what Charm of Finches is all about?

Charm of Finches is comprised of five professional flutists based in Toronto. As colleagues and friends, the members of Charm of Finches (Laura Chambers, Terry Lim, Amelia Lyon, Kaili Maimets and Sarah Yunji Moon) have been swooping in and out of each others’ lives for more than a decade. Our shared connections include hometowns, high schools, universities, training orchestras, and now Canada’s professional arts landscape. We are active soloists and chamber musicians in our own right, with a collective performance history covering Canada and the US, as well as Asia and South America, and performance venues stretching from the forests of Haliburton, Ontario to Carnegie Hall. After our successful debut recital at the 2015 Canadian Flute Convention, we received overwhelmingly positive support from the international flute community, which led the city’s five busiest flutists to stay together as a serious chamber ensemble, striving for the highest standard in flute quintet performance.

How did you come up with the name?

In music the flute is often cast in the character of the bird. Classically speaking, one thinks of the flute part from Peter and the Wolf, or Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This idea kept resurfacing in our brainstorming session when we were trying to come up with a name. First we thought, “what does one call a group of birds”, a murder? As in a murder of crows? True, as musicians we often wear all black, but that didn’t seem like quite the right vibe for an ensemble like ours. Through the magic of Google, we discovered that a group of Finches is called a Charm, and that seemed like a perfect fit. It was the first name in two months of constant back and forth that got immediate affirmation from everyone (which is an impressive feat with five opinionated artists), and so our name was hatched.

Feb 4th is your first ever show in Toronto. What can people expect to hear?

The program we have chosen for our February concert has something for everyone. The repertoire we have chosen covers some of the oldest music written for five flutes, music written just within the last decade, orchestral classics (arrangements of all-time favourite orchestral works, including Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé and Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune), contemporary Canadian repertoire (Hetu’s Sérénade and Charke’s Raga Terah), even a pop song. It will be an evening of musical excellence, and good friends making music together. We are excited to have the chance to share the official start to our journey as a chamber group with a community that has already been so supportive and welcoming,

What is the repertoire like for Flute Quintet?  I imagine there must but a lot of arrangements required?

As an ensemble, we are drawing inspiration from all the corners of music we can reach, exploring as many facets of our instruments as possible and pushing the boundaries of what five flutes are capable of musically. So yes, that includes a lot of arrangements, but it has been difficult to find music, specifically written or arranged for five flutes, as opposed to flute quartet or flute choir. Luckily, we found a few fantastic works for five flutes, arranged by flutist Rie Schmidt and Gudrun Hinze. We also have recently commissioned a beautiful arrangement by Canadian composer Sean King of Jacques Hetu’s Sérénade. A UK-based low flutes player and arranger, Carla Rees also has arranged Amy Beach’s Theme and Variations for us. We are also dedicated to commissioning works from Canadian composers as there are currently only four Canadian works written for an ensemble of five flutes. We are excitedly awaiting a new work from the talented composer, Riho Esko Maimets. He is uniquely qualified to write this work, as in addition to honing his craft at some of the top music school in the world, he also spent his formative musical years listening to Kaili practicing (he`s her brother).

You’ll be playing Derek Charke’s Raga Terah (also a flute player). Tell us about the piece.

Derek is a Canadian composer and flutist, and he has written many pieces for the flute including a popular series of flute ensemble works such as Raga Cha, Raga Saat, Raga Nau and Raga Terah as well. Raga Terah is not based on an authentic Raga, but rather attempts to create a meditative character. ‘Terah’ is the English translation of the number thirteen in Hindi. Similar to the other Ragas, Raga Terah plays with several polyrhythmic patterns that define the rhythmic flavour of the piece. Many sounds are created with a technique whereby the flutist must enunciate the word ‘cha’ to produce the desired ‘toneless’ and rough sounding effect. All we can say is that it’s a bass flute killer piece (NO RESTS).

Charm of Finches will be making their official debut performance on Feb 4, in Toronto at Victoria Chapel. Don’t miss it.

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Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent has worked as a senior editor for La Scena Musicale and web editor for Norman Lebrecht. On January 21, 2014, he went to lunch and left as the publisher of Musical Toronto. Later that year he found himself as a freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star, the former employer of his favourite author Ernest Hemingway. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
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