Composed by Catherine McMichael
For C flute, alto flute, bass flute, and contrabass flute
Published by Camellia Music
Includes score and parts
Practical, to the point, but fanciful, Dr. Ruth Maurer wanted a piece to feature contrabass flute with small flute ensemble. Although the initial conversation about a theme centered on the plains and landscapes of western Colorado, one comment she made resonated and became the focus for the piece. “It should be a love song,” she said. That was the starting point for Contra Songs.
The three songs, Work, Love and Play, all feature contrabass flute, accompanied by flute trio. The tessitura of the upper flutes is kept in the lower register to blend better with the contrabass, which is the soloistic voice most of the time.
Work start with the traditional call-response that one associates with soldiers, laborers and prisoners the world over. It turns into the classic blues midway through the piece.
Love is a through-composed melody that exploits the entire range of the contrabass, using it as a solo voice and also as the bass to some beautiful harmonies.
Play challenges the lungs of the contrabass player with quick lively figures full of accents and articulations. It's a game of tag between the low flute and upper flutes.
Mindful of the limitations of a piece written for contrabass, in that there are very few contrabass flutes out there, the piece was also adapted to work with a more traditional flute quartet instrumentation; so the bass flute takes the contrabass part, alto takes bass, C takes alto and C and piccolo share the C part from the original instrumentation. Keys are the same and there are virtually no changes in the music from the lower to higher version. – Catherine McMichael