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Great Falls Symphony highlights one of its own in flutist Norman Gonzales on Saturday

Show serving as partnership with Great Falls LGBTQ Center, also

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The Great Falls Symphony this weekend does something it hasn’t in quite a while – it welcomes one of its own performers, flutist Norman Gonzales, as the featured soloist.

Gonzales is the main attraction for the “Ignite the Spirit” show at the Mansfield Center for the Performing Arts Theater on Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m. Gonzales has been the principal flutist with the Great Falls Symphony and Chinook Winds since 2012.

In an interview with Big Sky State Buzz, he said he’s overjoyed for the opportunity and can’t wait to perform Carl Reinecke’s Flute Concerto.

“I feel it’s a wonderful opportunity for the people in Great Falls to hear someone who is living here in Great Falls be the featured performer,” he said. “Being able to share that music with the audience and the people I make music with on a regular basis — and to be front and center for it — is an amazing feeling.”

He added that he’s “tickled and flattered that Gordon (Johnson) would choose me to do this.”

Additionally, he said having the local LGBTQ Center partnering up with the symphony for this show has been another exciting element.

Principal Flutist with the Great Falls Symphony Norman Gonzales serves as the soloist in Saturday's show.
Principal Flutist with the Great Falls Symphony Norman Gonzales serves as the soloist in Saturday’s show.

“I had gave the suggestion to the symphony just because I am an openly gay person living here in Great Falls and I’m very much in support of trying to show that our town definitely has diversity and we don’t need to be shy about it,” he said.

In partnering with the center, Gonzales said people can get tickets for $10 off the normal price of admission by getting them there. The center is located at 600 Central Ave., Suite 323.

Getting back to the performance, in describing the piece, Gonzales said he sees it as “little conversations between the flute solos and the various instruments in the orchestra.”

“It makes it kind of metaphorical in a sense that we’re a small town and people talk and lots of conversations happen, meaning a lot of ways we get things out to people is by word of mouth, or by conversations,” he said.

Expanding that idea further, Gonzales said he also feels this piece also represents who he is as a person in certain ways.

The Great Falls Symphony
The Great Falls Symphony

“I love to talk to people and I love having conversations, good conversations, and it’s just extremely expressive in each of the movements in the concerto. They offer a different musical facet of human emotion,” he said.

Jürgen Otten, a German writer for The Berliner Philharmoniker, once described the solo piece of Reinecke’s concerto, saying “the solo instrument soars in an Orpheus-like song that would not only be capable of charming gods and animals but could also captivate Odysseus.”

To prepare for this show, Gonzales said he’s been approaching it differently than others with the symphony in that he’s been taking charge like any other soloist would in his position.

“As a soloist, you’re the boss, essentially, and basically you get to have more freedom in terms of musical expression. So, for this show I’ve tried to always keep that in mind and think about how clear I can be with my expression so the other musicians playing can hopefully easily support me,” he said.

Gonzales also said while he does enjoy serving that role, he said he doesn’t necessarily prefer it to playing in an ensemble.

“I would say that as a principal flutist there always has to be some kind of soloist presence, but obviously when you’re playing in an orchestra or playing chamber music you also have to be flexible and be a team player – there has to be that collaborative spirit,” he said. “When you’re soloing, though, you have to find that right balance between your own personality and conveying the intention of the composer through your instrument.”

Gonzales said this show will be a break from the usual for a different reason, as well in that the symphony will be welcoming a guest conductor – one Robert Baldwin from Salt Lake City.

Baldwin has served as the musical director of the Salt Lake Symphony since 2005. He’s also the director of orchestras and professor of conducting at the University of Utah.

Gonzales said that different wrinkle in having a guest conductor should make for an interesting change, too.

“I’m really excited to get to work with (Baldwin),” he said. “As great as it has been getting to play under Gordon, who’s fantastic, I’m also really excited to try something new as well and see how it works for our overall group.”

Gonzales said that having a different conductor can change the entire tone of the show, no matter who it is. In addition to the Flute Concerto, the orchestra also is performing Antonin Dvorák’s Symphony No. 8.

Baldwin
Baldwin

“When I was in school I would sometimes play in a conducting orchestra and the sole purpose was to work with various conducting students,” he said. “Through that experience, the main professor of conducting would show us how the orchestra’s sound can change depending who’s at the podium and how subtle movements the conductor makes can change the inflection of the entire orchestra.”

Summing up the whole show, Gonzales said he hopes this performance showcases how the symphony “should serve as a reflection of the ever-changing cultural climate of a city. I hope when people come to this concert they see that.”

Finally, Gonzales said after the show they will hold a discussion with the audience in an open forum.

“We always want let folks know ‘hey we’re not just these statues dressed up in all-black tuxedos. We’re human beings and we have opinions about the music we perform,” Gonzales said.

Admission at the Mansfield Center Box Office is $30 per person. There are $5 student rush tickets available before the show begins, as well. You can get advanced tickets online at ticketing.greatfallsmt.net, or by calling the box office at 455-8514.

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