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Source: University of Canterbury

16 June 2021

Ōtautahi Christchurch’s music community is thriving, with a vibrant School of Music and progressive symphony orchestra both helping to attract innovative international musicians.

  • Flautist Hannah Darroch and percussionist Justin DeHart join forces for a special concert of innovative new work on 27 June.

Ōtautahi Christchurch’s music community is thriving, with a vibrant School of Music and progressive symphony orchestra both helping to attract innovative international musicians.

A case in point; two of the city’s bright musical stars who will join forces for an electrifying programme of new works – Hannah Darroch and Justin DeHart: Works for Flute and Percussion, on Sunday 27 June, 2-4pm, at the Great Hall, Christchurch Arts Centre.

“I met Hannah shortly after she moved to Christchurch from Montreal to join the CSO [Christchurch Symphony Orchestra] as principal flautist, late last year,” says Dr Justin DeHart, who is Senior Lecturer Performance – Percussion at UC’s School of Music.  

“I connected with her enthusiasm to play new music, improvise, and to actively contribute to the community. There is quite a bit of repertoire for percussion and flute, but I have not played a lot of it myself, so I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to put something together.”

Darroch is similarly enthusiastic about their collaboration. “I’m really looking forward to performing a stack of new repertoire with Justin,” she says.

“We put a lot of thought into the programming; making sure we covered some seasoned favourites, along with quite recent works that are new for both of us. With contemporary music the rehearsal process is often an adventure when it comes to interpretative decisions, so I’m also really looking forward to that process with a musician of Justin’s skill-level and care.”

Dr DeHart moved to Christchurch in 2017 to teach music at UC and found the music scene inspiring. “I was excited to be a part of the rebuild of the city and to have the opportunity to build the first percussion programme in the country as a full-time percussion instructor. I was inspired by the percussion music I discovered here – various taonga pūoro, Phil Dadson and From Scratch, Strike Percussion, and music by Gareth Farr and John Psathas – to name just a few.” 

Flute and percussion might not seem natural bedfellows, but they were “likely some of the first instruments to be played by humans: aerophones (hollowed bones, bamboo), idiophones (rocks, tree trunks), and membranophones (drums)”, Dr DeHart says.

“There is something primal about the sound of breath flowing through an object to create sound, and percussion has the same primal aspect connecting us with a time long ago in the early stages of human development. Almost every culture has developed their own unique versions of flutes and drums and have a tradition of musical repertoire for the combination.”

The upcoming programme will give audiences a sampler of the different possibilities for the two instruments, particularly with Darroch bringing three different flutes – C-flute, piccolo and alto flute – and DeHart amassing a collection of a five-octave marimba, seven wood blocks, multiple gongs, bells, antique cymbals, a brass bowl, various other metal idiophones, four drums, a tin can rattle, a guiro, a temple-block, and “some special surprises” onstage. 

“Our programme aims to strike the balance between presenting beautiful music with rich harmonies, melodies and rhythms, alongside more adventurous works that bring the listener into the 21st century by exploring current international trends in the genre,” Dr DeHart says.

At least half of the programme will be Aotearoa New Zealand premieres.

“It’s a programme that really shows off the range of sounds that are possible when flute and percussion instruments combine, with everything from the more subtle and timbral alto flute and marimba combination, to some quite percussive alto flute sounds in Amy Williams’ Cineshape I combined with bass drum and crotales, the C-flute playing seven quarter-tones with corresponding percussion sounds, and even piccolo and woodblocks in unison,” Darroch says.

“There’s plenty of beautiful melodic content, especially in Gareth Farr’s Kembang Suling and Lou Harrison’s First Concerto for Flute and Percussion.

“We’re also adding in one solo work each – Justin’s is by UC colleague Mark Menzies, and mine is a new solo work I commissioned from New Zealand composer Chris Gendall last year. Chris’s work steps into the delicate sound world of the pūtōrino, using a lot of breathy sounds, pitch bends, wide vibrato, microtonal notes, and percussive sounds.”

For more UC music concerts go to: The School of Music at University of Canterbury | University of Canterbury. Many are free.

Dr Justin DeHart

From Sacramento, California, Dr Justin DeHart is a Grammy-nominated performer of contemporary musical styles, from classical to pop, from world to electronic. Justin is a current member of Los Angeles Percussion Quartet (LAPQ) and his musical resume includes performances with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, pipa master Wu Man, and various pop legends, including Cheap Trick. His debut solo album entitled Strange Paths on Innova Recordings (music by Brian Ferneyhough, Iannis Xenakis, Michael Gordon and Stuart Saunders Smith) was lauded as “mesmerizing” by Percussive Notes for his “palette of sounds and intricate weaving of lines.” Justin was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for music studies in India and his talents have been featured at music concerts around the globe. Read more here:

Hannah Darroch

Hannah Darroch returned to New Zealand in 2020 to take up the position as Principal Flute of the CSO after four years living in Montreal, Canada, where she completed a Doctor of Music degree at McGill University and taught flute, chamber music, and orchestral excerpts to undergraduate and graduate woodwind students at McGill. Her varied career has included orchestral and small ensemble playing in a range of genres – recent appearances include concertos at the International Conference on Mixed Music Pedagogy and the IRCAM Forum in Montreal, a free improvisation clinic at the 2020 Jazz Education Network conference in New Orleans, and an invitation to tour for Chamber Music New Zealand with her Montreal-based duo partner, award-winning guitarist Steve Cowan. Read more here: Meet the CSO | CSO