Dr. Conor Nelson’s flute recital captures audience Wednesday

Morgan Smith

Yes, the recital was fantastic, and you should go to one if you ever get the chance. Specifically, go see one at the UCA’s Organ Recital Hall.

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Dr. Conor Nelson plays the flute in the UCA Wednesday evening. (Photo credits: Cameron Bumstead)

Walking in, you are immediately greeted by what looks to be a cross between a theater and a church. On the stage is a huge pipe organ which dominates the view. It and an aged piano on wheels are bathed in soft sunlight coming through the unfortunate un-stained glass windows. There is an empty chair and a lonely stand with sheet music centerstage. In all honesty, the room seemed dated and had a used feeling, like a high school gym floor. It certainly deserves renovation more than Eddy Hall did.

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The audience consisted of restless and excitable middle aged couples, some students who were required to be there, and the rare few who actually wanted to come. Myself and Cameron Bumstead, a Collegian photographer, were the only ones brave enough to venture even to the second row from the stage. I guess the prospect of a lone man waving around a golden pipe is intimidating.

The recital began with no nonsense. The flutist, acclaimed musician Dr. Conor Nelson, strode towards center stage, dressed in decidedly purple business casual, as spry as any 40-something-year-old man could be. He gave us a few words about the music about to be played, calling it one of Bach’s “much more optimistic pieces.”

And the performance began. And it was truly a performance in every aspect. Nelson embodied the music on the page completely, moving along and almost dancing to the music. Music, by the way, which was spectacular. Now, I’m already an avid fan of classical music, but anyone could get pleasure from such a performance by seeing someone so completely fluent in their craft, playing high difficulty pieces.

The first piece, which was Sonata in E Major for flute and continuo by J.S. Bach, was overwhelmingly upbeat, and I had to stifle laughter at such a happy and joyful performance from Nelson. And directly afterwards came an incredibly haunting piece, Ballade pour flûte et piano by Frank Martin. The piece made me think of a child running away, running from some dark force which cannot be escaped.

It was no wonder I thought this, as the piece was written in Europe in 1939, in the midst of WWII. I strongly encourage you to look it up online and listen to it yourself, but to hear it in person, seeing the intensity with which Nelson played such a fast paced piece, in almost constant forte, was particularly unsettling, and recalled images of WWII documentary footage and death camps.

The recital itself was only 45 minutes long, and felt shorter. Nelson wasted no time, giving short 30 second anecdotes in between pieces, and accepting our enthusiastic applause very graciously and briefly.

Collegian Reviewer Morgan Smith can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter at @MDSFilms.