Andra Bohnet - flute
Adrian Duncan - guitar, mandolin, vocals
Robert Holm - piano
Wilbur Moreland - clarinet
Beth Orson - piano
David Hughes - bodhran
“A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle Earth…”–Gandalf
While attending the Boxwood Flute Festival in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in July 2002, a curious announcement was made at lunch one day by Terry McGee, the flute maker in residence, and Adrian Duncan, another festival attendee, about the unveiling of a newly discovered missing link in flute evolution at a talk that afternoon. Even though I didn’t have much interest in old flutes at the time, their teaser for the presentation had both an air of mystery and a sense of humor and I was intrigued enough that I decided to attend. The flute unveiled that afternoon was Clinton #50, which was a curious combination of the simple system eight-keyed flute of the early 19th century with a unique, but rather brilliant mechanism to correct its intonation issues.
After the talk, we all got the opportunity to try the flute, which made its way first through the hands of the festival artists/instructors and eventually to the students. As soon as I started playing the flute, every head in the room turned! Something about it and me clicked, and I was able to make some pretty nice music on it immediately. I think it was because, as a classically trained player fluent in the modern flute, and also a budding Irish flute player, I carried the right mix of technique and chops and was not put off by the mechanism. Later that evening, at the nightly Irish music session, McGee and Duncan bought me a beer or three and asked me to be a part of their project which was to take a new look at the flutes and flute makers from the tumultuous 19th century from the points of view of a modern flute maker (McGee), historical researcher (Duncan) and artist/performer/teacher (soon to be me).
It\'s been almost six years since that fateful toast! So who was John Clinton (1809-1864) and why had I never heard of him before? Looking at Clinton\'s biography, you would have thought he would be one of the most prominent figures in the history of the flute. A native Irishman, he moved to London as a young man and had a successful career as a musician. He was the Professor of Flute at the Royal Academy of Music in London, published well over a hundred compositions, arrangements and instructional books for the flute, had a fine reputation as a performer both on flute and piano and founded a successful, although relatively short-lived, flute manufacturing company featuring instruments of his own design – a brilliant career by any reckoning.
But at that time there were SO MANY rival flute makers competing to put out the next big thing that they libeled and slandered each other in a way that would make any modern American political campaign seem genteel. In these kinds of professional verbal slugfests, it is often the last man standing who has the final say, whether he was right or not. The ultimate victor in the flute design controversy was the German Theobald Boehm (1794-1881), who developed what is essentially the modern flute in 1847. But Boehm’s instrument was not universally accepted for another 50-75 years. Clinton died relatively young after being in the flute making business for just over a decade.
However, we were so impressed with the quality of the flute we encountered that we wanted to learn more and find out the real story of this interesting man (the fact that he was Irish didn\'t hurt either!!!). We wanted to see, from an objective point of view, if Clinton\'s music and flutes were worthy of a more prominent place in flute history. So we worked on finding extant examples of flutes manufactured by Clinton & Co. and got them playing. We scoured the historical records and Clinton family documents to get a better picture of his life. And we searched the globe for Clinton’s compositions and treatises.
When I was recruited for this project, it was with the idea that I would make a recording of Clinton’s music performed on his flutes. Being familiar with a lot of the music written in the 19th Century by flutist/composers, I was skeptical of finding music that might prove interesting, especially to non-flutists, fully expecting a canon of pedestrian, potboiler air and variation type works with little musical substance. The opposite was the case, Clinton’s music turned out to be absolutely delightful!!!! It was tuneful, interesting and contained quite a bit of variety. Filling a CD would not be a problem at all; instead it would be hard to decide what could not be included!
So here is the resultant CD, 75 minutes of Clinton’s music played on seven different flutes designed by Clinton and for the most part manufactured by Clinton & Co. This project became a labor of love combined with missionary zeal and I hope it will demonstrate that the music of John Clinton is worthy of inclusion in the flute repertoire and that his flute designs were also deserving of respect. It has been a privilege to be able to spend time with these instruments and to rediscover this music. Enjoy the results!
- Andra Bohnet
With an abundance of riches to choose from, several deserving works ended up on the cutting room floor. My objective was to present a variety of works from throughout Clinton’s oeuvre that would showcase his compositional style, be appealing to a general audience and also highlight the personalities of the individual instruments.
1. Le Bijou de Salon: Andante and Allegro for Flute and Piano, Op. 53 – This charming work was dedicated to a pupil of Clinton’s and was the one work on the playlist that I could play easily on all of the flutes. The opening Andante is a fine example of Clinton’s melodic gift and the subsequent Allegro is equally delightful. (#5009)
2. The Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow/The Legacy/Noresnkeesta/The Skittish Maid – Clinton published Gems of Ireland, 200 Airs: Containing the most Popular of Moore’s Melodies, all the National Airs, and the Celebrated Melodies of Carolan, Connolan & c. collected from the most Authentic Sources and Arranged for the Flute, Op. 45 in 1841. It contains standards of the Irish traditional repertoire but also many other tunes that were new to us. What is unique about this collection is that Clinton arranged the tunes for the flute specifically, adding articulations and dynamics and often changing the keys from those standard in traditional Irish music. Clinton’s versions of the tunes fall into what would be a typical classical flute range, while traditional Irish flute playing uses only the lower two octaves of the instrument. We arranged four sets of tunes from Gems for this CD. Our approach was to present each tune once in Clinton’s version and then to contrast that with a more traditional Irish approach. (#4940, guitar 1830)
3. Cavatinas or Songs Without Words for Flute and Pianoforte: No. 6 in D, Op. 97, No. 3 – Clinton wrote twelve Cavatinas or Songs Without Words in four series of three each. They are all delightful, but we especially liked this one, which reminds us a bit of a Polonaise. (#50)
4. Dolly, the Dancing Dairy Maid – Known also as a fine pianist, Clinton composed and arranged several works for piano. He teamed up with Jacob Bueler on several songs, most notably in a series Comic Songs for the Drawing Room. Many of them have intriguing titles, but this was among the best and Adrian was definitely the vocalist to bring it off. The song is based on the traditional tune Off She Goes, with words by Bueler and piano accompaniment by Clinton. In this performance we varied the arrangement by adding a flute obbligato, which we liked so much that we added a second flute as well! (#113 x 2)
5. Grand Duo Concertante for Flute and Clarionet with an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte, Op. 43 - This is the longest work on the program and one which was very favorably received on its premiere in 1839, being described by the contemporary commentator William Annand as a work which would “long be popular and does the author great credit, for the subjects are well chosen.” Clinton debuted the piece at the Hanover Square Rooms in London on May 13th, 1839 with his lifelong friend Henry Lazarus, a leading clarinetist in London at that time. There are several sections – Introduction, Tema and Two Variations, a lovely Adagio and a spirited Rondo waltz finale. The work is extremely well written and virtuosic for all three instruments and we really enjoyed both rehearsing and recording it.
(Grad Hole Boehm)
6. La Polka du Salon: Bagatelle for Flute and Pianoforte Concertante, Op. 85 - This brief work shares the melodic duties between the flute and piano, great fun all around! (#262)
7. Lough Sheeling/Saint Patrick was a Gentleman/Peas Upon a Trencher/Sports in the Hay Rick/Burn the May Bush – Another set of tunes from Gems of Ireland, an air, a march and some polkas. We couldn’t help but love these tune titles, especially number four of the set! This set was recorded at A-444 to accommodate the Flute for India and Adrian spiced up the arrangement with some mandolin. (Flute for India, guitar 1850)
8. Napolitaine Fantasia for the Flute with Pianoforte Accompaniment – Clinton did not apply opus numbers to works he deemed as arrangements. Napolitaine, the subject of this work, was a song composed by Alexander Lee, published in 1850 and made popular by the Christy Minstrels, a troupe of which was active in London from 1857 on, so this would one of Clinton’s later works. The introduction, contrasting middle section, and coda are definitely original Clinton material, all of which provide a nice setting for the delightful tune. (#4940)
9. The Cry of Gallen/I’m the Boy for Bewitching Them/Charming Judy Brallahan/The Lasses of Sligo – More tunes from Gems of Ireland, an air and three slip jigs. A case can be made that slip jigs are the sexiest tunes in Irish music, so we couldn’t resist having David add some groove with the bodhran. (#113, guitar 1830)
10. Second Grand Trio for Three Flutes, Op. 9: IV. Finale: Allegro moderato – This is the earliest work on the recording, probably dating from the early 1830s. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I could only include one movement of this rather expansive work, but when I initially read through it in its entirety with two other flutists, we all had great fun playing it because Clinton moves the leading melodic material between all three parts so nobody is stuck with all of the boring, supportive stuff. This work would have been composed for the eight key flute so I decided to record it that way, using a different flute on each part, all of which used standard eight key fingerings. Since the lead voice moves around you can keep track of the parts this way – Flute 1 (#50) is placed center in the stereo field, Flute 2 (#113) is to the right and Flute 3 (Flute for India) is to the left. This track was recorded at A-444 to accommodate the Flute for India, but all of the flutes were fully capable of playing there as London pitch of the time often was as high as A-452.
11. Paddy Jonah, or The Whale that Swallowed an Irishman – Another Clinton/Bueler epic with a totally irresistible title, especially given Clinton’s Irish origins! The melody is credited to Bueler, but it has the feel of a traditional nautical air. As before, we took the liberty of adding a flute obbligato, which we all agreed spiced the piece up very nicely. (#262)
12. Eulalie Fantasia for the Flute with Pianoforte Accompaniment, Op. 118 – This is Clinton’s last known musical composition and one of his most impressive. Since he almost certainly wrote it initially for his own performance, it provides clear evidence of his considerable powers of execution, even at this latter stage of his life when he was increasingly troubled by the physical challenges that soon laid him low (necrosis of the ankle, which eventually led to amputation and an untimely death at age 54). Although it follows the standard air and variation format, it is a far better example than most of this rather overworked genre. The piece is based upon a well known song by Stephen Foster, which was published in 1851.The dramatic introduction and the gorgeous andante middle section appear to be original Clinton material and add tremendous depth to the piece, although the main theme, according to a reviewer of the time “was probably the most correct and refined melody Mr. Foster has ever written.” Although the song itself has a very melancholy text – “Bluebirds, linger here awhile, O\'er this sacred grass pile, Sing your sweetest songs to me \'Tis the grave of Eulalie” – Clinton’s treatment of it in the variations is quite sunny, as is most of his music, the majority of which is in major keys. This work was most likely written in part to popularize Clinton’s music in the U.S. He wrote at least one flute method specifically for the American market and had a number of his compositions published there. His flutes also appear to have reached the U.S. in significant numbers as several can be found in older, well-established American instrument collections. (Grad Hole Boehm)
13. Girls Have You Seen George?/The Hare in the Corner/The Fingalians Dance/Captain Paddy – This final set from Gems of Ireland brings the CD to a close and includes the only reel in the book, which is preceded by an air, jig and a march. For our grand finale we decided two flutes were better than one! (#50 and #5009 with guitar 1850)
The seven flutes on this recording represent different Clinton designs and models that were produced by Henry Potter and Clinton & Co. during a fifteen year period. It is impossible to date them with absolute accuracy, but sources of the time as well as the serial numbers on the instruments themselves are helpful in establishing a chronology. With any historical instrument, the restoration process raises questions of how much can be done without compromising its historical integrity. Our philosophy with these flutes was to get them playing well, but not necessarily to “like new” specifications. Thus, the recording contains some key noise, which can be heard due to the close proximity of the microphones, but we felt this recording arrangement best brought out the tonal nuances of these fascinating instruments.
1. Clinton-Potter, #50, 1851 - This is the instrument that I encountered at Boxwood in 2002 and hooked me into this project, designed by Clinton and manufactured by Henry Potter of London. It was mentioned in very favorable terms in the Report of the Jury on Musical Instruments from the 1851 London Exposition, but has since been completely neglected in literature on the flute. The flute is cocus wood with the standard eight key fingering system and a conical bore. The mechanism relocates several of the standard finger holes for better intonation. This flute is a joy to play, even in tone and intonation throughout the range, responsive and very ergonomic. (collection of Adrian Duncan)
2. Clinton & Co. eight key, #113 – This flute is cocus wood with the standard eight key fingering system and a conical bore. The only addition to the mechanism is the Brille, which corrects the intonation of the C#. This is the most “Irish” sounding of all the flutes, we likened the tone to rich, dark chocolate. This flute is a bit less ergonomic than #50, the G# key is awkward to reach and for my smallish hands, the spread of the right hand finger holes caused some distress after long periods of playing, but it was worth it because the sound was so fantastic! (collection of Adrian Duncan)
3. Clinton & Co. Equisonant, #262 – This flute is an early example of what is known as Clinton’s Equisonant mechanism, which departs from the eight key fingering, most significantly with the dual purpose left hand thumb key which can be used for Bb or C natural and with the forked right hand fingering option for F natural. It is also of cocus wood, which has been stained black, with a conical bore. The embouchure hole on this flute is quite small and almost round, very different from the other Clinton flutes in the collection. This results in a brilliant and responsive third octave, but a slightly more difficult low register. The flute is extremely ergonomic and the intonation is excellent. (collection of Adrian Duncan)
4. Clinton & Co. Flute for India –This is a truly innovative invention by Clinton & Co., a flute suitable for the climatic rigors of the Indian subcontinent. Wooden flutes don’t fare well in subtropical heat, as they are prone to cracking, so Clinton’s metal version, silver plated brass in this case, of the conical eight key was the answer to this problem. Add to this a brilliant mechanism of mounting the keys for easy maintenance in the field and the built up fingerholes for ergonomics and this flute holds its own with any standard eight key of the time. There are no mechanical modifications to correct the typical eight key intonation flaws and this was the only flute of the seven that didn’t fare well at A-440. We recorded the tracks where it is used at A-444.
(collection of Helen Valenza)
5. Clinton & Co. Equisonant, #4940 – This is the gold standard of the Equisonant system flutes in our collection, a beautiful cocus wood instrument with conical bore and the fully mature silver mechanism. The flute has excellent intonation and is fully responsive throughout the three octave range. Unlike many wood flutes of this era, this instrument has an unlined head joint which gives it an exquisitely beautiful tone quality. I have played this flute in several concert situations and it never fails to draw compliments from listeners. (collection of Adrian Duncan)
6. Clinton & Co. Wooden Cylindrical Equisonant, #5009 – This flute combines the Equisonant fingering system with a cylindrical, as opposed to conical, bore. It is also cocus, but with a lined head joint. The tone holes are extremely large, and the mechanism is made of German silver. The size of the keys results in a rather noisy mechanism, which is quite apparent on the recording. This instrument lacks the right hand Bb/C lever that gives an alternative to the left hand thumb keys, so there are fewer fingering options than on either #262 or #4940. The flute has a robust sound and excellent intonation, but perhaps due to the cylindrical bore, does not have the magical character of #4940. It is quite ergonomic and has Boehm style foot keys.
(collection of Helen Valenza)
7. Clinton & Co. Graduated Tone Hole Boehm System Model – Is this flute an enigma or did Clinton cave in to the inevitable? This instrument is silver with the standard Boehm mechanism, a seamed tube and cylindrical bore, and beautifully made. It most probably dates from 1862, only two years prior to Clinton’s untimely death. Clinton won a Prize Medal at the 1862 London Exhibition for his patent of the principle of graduation of the sizes of the holes on the flute to improve regulation and uniformity of tone. Clinton made flutes with graduated holes using both his own Equisonant fingering system and that of Boehm, of which this is an example. Louis Lot, the fine French maker, adopted a less extreme variant of this idea after encountering Clinton’s flute. This flute plays beautifully! It is light, responsive, flexible and the intonation is impeccable. In my opinion, it is favorably comparable with the best Lot flutes of the time. I would be comfortable playing this instrument in any modern performance situation. In fact, Scott Speck, conductor of the Mobile Symphony, where I serve as principal flutist, requested to hear it in the orchestra after hearing me play it in recital!
We were excited to be able to use period guitars to compliment the flutes. The first is an original six-string 19th Century salon guitar, without label, but almost certainly a Coffe-Goguette made in Mirecourt, France in the 1830’s. The second is also French and unlabeled, dating from about 1850, contemporary with the Clinton flutes. Both instruments were superbly restored by Gregory Brown to fine original playing condition. The mandolin is a late 19th century Italian instrument.
Andra Bohnet is a flutist who embraces a rich variety of musical styles with both virtuosity and sensitivity. In the classical realm, she holds the post of Professor of Music at the University of South Alabama in Mobile where she teaches flute, music history and literature, and chamber music. She is the principal flutist with Mobile Symphony Orchestra where she has been a featured soloist on several occasions. Her chamber ensemble for flute and strings, the Silverwood Quartet (www.silverwoodquartet.com), has released six CDs, performed throughout the United States and in Japan and specializes in exploring popular and world music in addition to the classical repertoire. Also the group’s primary arranger, Andra’s creative charts capture the musical essence of styles ranging from Irish traditional to Tibetan Chant and alternative rock and roll. She also performs on Irish and other folk flutes with Mithril (www.mithril.us), a high-energy Celtic/world music band, which has released four CDs and is currently being featured with symphony orchestras around the U.S. for “Celtic Christmas” and \"Celtic Celebration\" pops concerts. Andra performs and records on flutes of all shapes and sizes well as Celtic harp. Outside of music, she is a Master martial artist in Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan (which is the closest she can get to being a Jedi knight), loves to read sci-fi and fantasy (having hobbit ancestry) and spends way too much time in front of her Mac.
Adrian Duncan was born in Adelaide, Australia and educated in England and Canada. He currently lives in Coquitlam, British Columbia, where he worked for 31 years in the environmental protection field while at the same time maintaining an active musical career. He has performed and recorded in all styles with many instruments, but is most active these days in Celtic music with the band Skystone, where he plays guitar, mandolin and flute in addition to singing. A prolific and talented songwriter as well, his original material can be heard both with Skystone and the underground phenomenon Dangerous Dick and the Duckbusters (www.cancaver.ca/music), a band which reflects one of his other passions, caving. Adrian is President of the Vancouver Island Cave Exploration Group and introduced Andra to the karst in between recording sessions for this project.
Robert Holm is Professor of Music at the University of South Alabama, where he teaches piano, keyboard skills, accompanying and serves as faculty accompanist. Holm has performed as soloist and collaborative artist throughout the U.S. and Canada and has been a finalist and prize winner in several international piano competitions. In addition, he is the principal pianist for the Mobile Symphony Orchestra where he has been frequently featured as a soloist. Holm has released several recordings featuring sonatas by Beethoven on period instruments and music of Mozart, Scarlatti, Liszt, Brahms and Ravel. He also serves as pianist at Dauphin Way Baptist Church and has recorded CDs of original arrangements of hymns and sacred Christmas music.
Wilbur Moreland is a transplanted Yankee who has lived in the South for the past 36 years, 33 of which were spent in the School of Music at the University of Southern Mississippi where he taught clarinet, saxophone, music theory and woodwind pedagogy. Moreland retired from USM in 2005 but stays busier than ever as principal clarinetist in the Mobile, Tupelo (MS) and Meridian (MS) Symphony Orchestras and Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Mobile.
Beth Orson lives in Vancouver, BC and is a professional musician, currently serving as Assistant Principal Oboe and English Horn in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. She is also in demand as a piano accompanist, in which capacity she appears on this CD since Clinton didn’t write anything for the oboe that we could find!
David Hughes is a composer/percussionist indigenous to coastal Alabama. When not performing with Mithril he can be found pondering nothing in particular.