“A memory for a lifetime”: More on “Letters from Georgia”

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This is the second in a series of posts from students playing in the Philharmonia’s premiere performances of Kevin Puts’s Letters from Georgia on November 12 in Kodak Hall and on November 14 at Alice Tully Hall in New York. This post is by Martha Chan, who will play first flute in the concerts.

By Martha Chan

I was born and raised in Hong Kong and began learning flute at the age of 6. I am currently a fourth year flute performance major at the Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of Professor Bonita Boyd. My time spent here at Eastman has been incredibly rewarding. Having the opportunity playing principal on selections for this concert tour is extremely exciting.

I can’t believe our first concert is tomorrow! The Eastman Philharmonia is going to give the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ Letters from Georgia in Kodak Hall, along with world-renowned soprano Renee Fleming as soloist. The program also includes Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. They are all amazing works, yet very different in style, making the program interesting. We have been working on this program for almost a month now and have come so far under the guidance of Maestro Neil Varon. I think I can speak for the entire orchestra when I say that we are really excited to share this music with our audiences.

We had our first rehearsal with Ms. Fleming and Dr. Puts two days ago and it was an eye-opening experience. As instrumentalists, we have always been told that we should play the melody as if we were singing. Ms. Renee Fleming is one of the most admired sopranos in the country, and she demonstrates the highest level of artistry and musicianship. Her voice brings me goosebumps and it is absolutely breath-taking. There is so much life in her singing, and her performance is extremely captivating and also very good storytelling. There is a clear plot, a clear purpose, excellent atmospheric control, and a firm belief in everything that is told. Having the composer himself on stage working with us is very helpful too! He gave us a clearer and bigger picture of the piece and I think we can now convey the piece more passionately when we perform Letters from Georgia.

Knowing both Ms. Flemming and Dr. Puts were once students here at Eastman is something really special and encouraging. They were once in our position and they are now two of the most distinguished artists of the century. It’s really nice of them to come back to their alma mater to share their experiences and insight with us. It has been a while since the Eastman Philharmonia has performed outside of Rochester, and I am very lucky and honored to be a part of this opportunity. This is my last year at Eastman and this experience is really special to me. I can’t wait to perform in the beautiful Kodak Hall tomorrow and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on Monday. It is going to be an amazing performance and a memory that will certainly last a lifetime!