Octet brings triumphant end to eighth festival concert

Andrew Shermoen

Both a trio and an octet took the stage for the eighth concert of the Sunflower Music Festival June 16.

While a program of only two songs may seem like a small concert, audience members were shocked and thrilled when it was revealed that one of the pieces was an hour long epic.

The concert began with a trio of musicians performing Arnold Bax’s “Elegiac Trio.” The piece was composed after Bax, while visiting Dublin, personally witnessed the Easter Rising take place. Not only was Bax shocked by the executions and aftermath of the Irish revolt against their British rulers, but he also lost people who he was friendly with.

The piece features harp, flute and viola. Rita Costanzi, the harp player for the Sunflower Music Festival is a notable harpist who has traveled all around the world sharing her love of music and talent with anyone who listens. She has performed several one-woman shows and her original show of this caliber which debuted 2007 in New York City was an award winning performance that also found her traveling and taking the show to perform in Australia.

The octet performed next. Made up of several familiar Sunflower Music Festival performers, the octet performed Franz Schubert’s epic piece “Octet in F Major.”

Written for Archduke Rudolf of Austria, Schubert’s piece is a monster. Featuring six movements over a fast-paced and demanding hour worth of playing means the musicians needed to be at the top of their game to perform the octet to the best of their ability.

“I’m not sure what his intentions were, but I think [Schubert] was trying to kill some violinists,” said Charles Stegeman, violinist, at the special musician “talk-back” section that took place after the concert.

A Q&A of sorts allowed attendees of the concert to ask musicians all sorts of questions about the music and their experiences. Costanzi was asked about the connection between the harp and Ireland.

“It’s kind of their national instrument,” Costanzi said. “The harpist was once the most revered member of society. We’ve fallen a bit from that stature. It’s been said that a great harpist had three jobs: to make people laugh, to make people cry and to make people sleep. I’ve done all three, so I must be pretty good.”

Michael Strauss, the violist of the evening’s octet, responded to a question about why composers seem so intrigued by his instrument of choice.

“Viola is the closest to the human voice,” Strauss said. “Its alto is natural to men and women and the position in the orchestra allows conductors and composers who played to observe the entire orchestra.”