Quartet for flute, violin, viola and cello (1989/1999)

African Journal No 9b
Transcription of "Honey Gathering Song"
Bardic Edition Score BD 0756; Parts BD 0756/1
Duration: c. 6'00"

Première

First performance: Sunday 31 March 2002; Russian Federation; Vladislav Zakharov flute, Members of the Tatarstan State String Quartetperformance details.

Programme note

The Quartet for flute, violin, viola and cello is an adaptation of Honey Gathering Song for flute and piano (or harpsichord). Honey Gathering Song was composed during January to March 1989 as music for a short dance choreographed by Gill Clarke, titled For the Off. (I remember Gill Clarke finished choreographing the last bar and headed straight for the airport and South America to give workshops there — hence the title of the dance.) It was revised ten years later and the first concert performance was given on 28 April 2000 in the Beethoven Room, Grahamstown, South Africa by Anne La Berge (flute) and Michael Blake (piano).

Pieces with titles like Honey Gathering Song are found among the music of the Rain Forest Pygmies, but no direct reference is made to their music in my piece. The first performance of the Quartet for flute, violin, viola and cello took place at the Europe-Asia Festival in Kazan, Tatarstan in March 2002. It lasts about 8 minutes.

Press

Coming closer to home, I especially enjoyed Michael Blake's Quartet for Flute and Strings. This highly evocative work had a real African feel, conjuring up the jungle sounds of insects and birds on the flute with a tropical hum from the violin, viola and cello. It required from flautist Helen Vosloo an intentionally breathy tone in the lower register using lots of vibrato - resembling the sound produced by an African wooden pipe - with occasional leaps into the brighter, purer top register. I also enjoyed watching the composer (seated immediately in front of me) watching his work being brought to life.
Jilly Gooud, Despatch Online, South Africa, Monday 5 July 2004