Flute and Piano Duo at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Recently, my flute and piano duo played for an elegant corporate event at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Our client let us choose a mix of classical, contemporary and jazz tunes, leaving the specific music selections up to us. I enjoyed selecting tunes that would be a great fit for the event.

We began by entertaining the guests with our music as they enjoyed cocktails up on the sky terrace. The hot day had cooled down to a sparkling evening and everyone enjoyed the sweeping views of City Park and downtown Denver that the terrace afforded. After cocktails, we moved inside and continued to play a mix of music for a couple more hours during the elegant candlelit dinner reception.

From the Client:
This is the second time I’ve used Christen for a corporate event. She is a superb musician, and both times I’ve used her the guests commented on how wonderful the music was. I would recommend Christen without reservation. She’s very prompt to respond, is very warm and friendly and professional and her music is absolutely wonderful.

Samples from our Set List:
Ashokan Farewell, How High the Moon, Reign of Love (Coldplay), Clair De Lune (Debussy), Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, My Funny Valentine, Irlandaise (Bolling), Sunshine on my Shoulders, Just the Way You Are

Hire Us to provide wonderful music for your Colorado event!


Solo Flute Memorial Reception Music in Cherry Hills Village

This past week I had the pleasure of playing solo flute for a memorial reception in Cherry Hills Village. The service was held at a beautiful private residence, and the high ceilings and openness of the house had wonderful acoustics for my flute. I played a mix of classical, jazz, and popular music and was also asked to add in a number of traditional Hawaiian tunes to honor the deceased’s love of all things Hawaiian.

I played about 60 different songs over the course of about three hours and it was wonderful way to spend the afternoon. Some of the pieces I played included Romanza from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Mozart), Waltz Op. 69 #2 (Chopin), Adagio from the Flute Quartet in D Major (Mozart), One the Wings of Song (Mendelssohn), Moon River, As Time Goes By, Fly Me to the Moon, (Everything I Do) I Do it For You, Misty, and What a Wonderful World. The Hawaiian selections included Dear Old Honolulu, Aloha ‘Oe (Farewell to Thee), My Waikiki Mermaid, Halona (Beautiful Mountain), and Kawaihau (Hawaiian Rag-time).

Flute and Cello Duo – Live Music for American Cancer Society Fundraiser

Recently, our flute and cello duo provided live music for an American Cancer Society Fundraiser at the Galleria of Stone in Denver. We played for two hours at this elegant event which featured a large selection of wine, delicious appetizers, and a silent auction. Guests were greeted by the beautiful harp music of Star Edwards on their way in, and then enjoyed our flute and cello duo during the reception. We began by playing classical music for the first hour and then we transitioned to popular and jazz music during the second hour. The guests particularly enjoyed a couple of the Beatles songs that we played and told us they had never heard the Beatles played by the flute and cello before.

Selected Reception Music:
Anglaise (JCF Bach), Gigue from Suite #3 in D Major (Bach), Allegro from Sonata in F Major for Flute (Handel), Fugue from Fugue in B minor (Handel), Prelude Op. 28 #7 for piano (Chopin), Sonatina Op.36 #1 for piano (Clementi), To a Wild Rose (MacDowell), Minuetto Scherzando from Toccata #4 (Scarlatti), Roses From the South (Johann Strauss Jr.), All of Me (Jazz Cover), Blackbird (Beatles), Blue Spanish Eyes, Imagine (Beatles), I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles), Misty (Jazz Cover), Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong), When I’m Sixty-Four (Beatles), Imagine (Beatles)

Christen Stephens and Psyche Dunkhase Live at the Galleria of Stone in Denver:

Minuet in G by Bach
Prelude by Bach
Sonata in A Major by Mozart

Add the beautiful music of flute or strings to your next event. Go to my events page to learn more.

Speranza – An American Cancer Society Benefit

On Saturday, September 13, 2014 our flute and cello duo will be playing at the Galleria of Stone for this American Cancer Society Benefit. Tickets are still available so purchase yours today and enjoy some good food, wine, and music while supporting a good cause!

Flute and Piano Reception Music at the 10th Restaurant in Vail

This past Saturday was truly a remarkable experience and I was privileged to be invited to play my flute for the memorial service and reception honoring Jim Vincent. The weather was perfect for the service, which took place in Vail Memorial Park in an idyllic mountain setting. We were surrounded by mountains, tall pines, and large boulders with a bubbling river winding through the woods nearby. When I arrived at the memorial site, I had the pleasure of once again seeing Pastor Tim Wilbanks, who later did a wonderful job presiding over the ceremony.

I played classical music on solo flute for the prelude and after Pastor Wilbanks gave a welcome speech, I honored Jim Vincent by playing one of his favorite songs, “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (Stevie Wonder). At the end of the service, I played “My Way”, a song that Jim Vincent personally requested be played at his memorial service. I really enjoyed the service as various family members and friends stood up and told both humorous and nostalgic stories about Jim Vincent. By the end of the service I really felt like I personally knew Jim.

Afterwards, we all left for the 10th Restaurant in Vail. I drove to Vail Village and took the gondola up to the restaurant. This was my first time up a gondola, and I really enjoyed the ride and the view of Vail Village and the surrounding mountains. When we arrived at the restaurant, Adam Revell was already entertaining the guests with some light jazz on his keyboard. I joined him on my flute and we played a number of popular and jazz selections for the elegant three-hour reception. I was given great freedom with the music selections and I aimed to create a nostalgic and sometimes upbeat mood. The guests really enjoyed the music and I even spied a few of them dancing as they walked by.

We would love to add the beauty of live music to your event. Go to my events page to learn more about our ten different ensembles.

Selected Reception Music:
Cheek to Cheek (Sinatra), Georgia on My Mind (Ray Charles), Blackbird (Beatles), Unchained Melody (Alex North), Annie’s Song (John Denver), Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Jerome Kern), Let it Be (Beatles), Autumn Leaves, I Will Remember You (Sarah McLachlan), Longer Than (Dan Fogleberg), Everything I Do (I do it for You) from Robin Hood, Fly me to the Moon, Annie’s Song (John Denver)

Christen Stephens and Adam Revell Live at the 10th Restaurant in Vail:

Blackbird

Cheek to Cheek
Everything I Do

Georgia on my Mind
Unchained Melody

Views from the gondola ride:

Vail Village:


How to Find Local Wedding Ceremony and Event Musicians

Photo Courtesy of Kern Photo, Colorado Wedding Photographer

If you are looking for live wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, or event music along the Colorado Front Range, you’ve already come to the right place. Congratulations! Visit my wedding ceremony music page or my event music page to learn more about our versatile ensemble selections.

If you are visiting from a different part of the country or world and are looking for live musicians in your area, I have some tips just for you.

Online Search Engines: When using an online search engine, use terms specific to what you are looking for, such as a particular instrument (flute, cello, piano etc.) or a type of group and/or music genre (jazz combo, classical quartet, bluegrass band etc.). Keep your search flexible because you never know when you may stumble upon a unique and talented group that you love but never thought of before. If you are searching for classical musicians, even if it’s not for a wedding, I recommend searching for wedding ceremony musicians, because this is how most classical musicians market their websites.

Most likely, major wedding and event planning websites will appear at the top of your search list. Below those you will hopefully see results for music booking agencies and sites run by individual musicians who play solo or perhaps have formed ensembles with other musicians in the area. If you choose to hire a musician through a major booking agency, you will have many options to chose from and you may be able to get a deal if you want to hire both live musicians and a DJ from the same company. Most booking agencies also provide professional customer service and have lots of resources and equipment. If you hire an individual musician who has formed their own group, you will get personal service directly from the musician you are hiring without having to pay extra for company booking fees. When hiring an individual musician, you will be able choose a particular artist whose work you love and fits what you are looking for.

Wedding and Event Planning Websites: Today’s most popular wedding and event planning websites often have a large selection of musicians for hire and are worthy of a separate mention. One of my favorite websites is Thumbtack.com which allows you to submit a request with your event specifics and receive quotes from local professionals within 24 hours. Another good site is Gigmasters.com. Through Gigmasters, you can also get price quotes from local professionals, and book online using their secure payment service and a 100% money back guarantee. Three other well-known sites are the The Knot.com, WeddingWire.com, and GigSalad.com which are like online bridal and event planning magazines.

All of these websites are paid advertising, and the musicians who appear higher in the listings are often those who paid more for that privilege. Because these musicians paid to advertise, you can be assured that most of them are actively playing and seeking bookings.

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Marie Photography

Venue Recommendations: Most wedding and event venues have a list of recommended vendors either available online or upon request. Each venue has their own set of criteria for what vendors they recommend. Some venues charge vendors to be added to their list for a yearly fee, some include musicians whom they can personally recommend from experience, and some may have their own list of criteria that their musicians have to meet. It’s important to know what criteria your venue uses for putting together their recommended vendor list and that they can personally vouch for the vendors they recommend. Venues also frequently collect and display brochures and advertising from a variety of musicians for your convenience.

Word of Mouth: If you are booking musicians, you are probably also booking other vendors such as a caterer, photographer, florist and event planner. Often these vendors have seen and heard some of the local musicians and can make recommendations for you. It can also be beneficial to contact local universities or local orchestras. If you go this route, you are more likely to get a better price but less likely to get an established working group, which has potential pitfalls.

Bridal Publications and Shows: Bridal publications and wedding shows deserve a worthy mention. Most of the musicians who can afford to advertise in magazines have a high budget, and the size and quality of their ads generally reflects on the size of the company and/or the amount they charge per event. Wedding showcases are also a good way to hear musicians play live, but most venues can only support one or two groups playing at a time, so your selection is limited.

Ultimately, in our internet society, the easiest way to find local wedding or event musicians is on the internet. However, personal recommendations and word of mouth will always be an important way to find vendors who are excellent in their craft.

Visit my contact page to book your Colorado Front Range wedding ceremony or event music today!

Now Offering a String Quartet and a String Trio

It’s time to go traditional, and I am pleased to announce that you can now hire a string quartet or a string trio right here through my website. String music will add a touch of elegance and class to your wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, or your special event. The formal sound and appearance of stringed instruments make them a very popular choice for brides.

If you would like to hire a quartet or a trio but want a more unique and varied sound, you can replace the first violin with the flute. The flute has a smooth sound that contrasts beautifully with that of stringed instruments.

Quartet and Trio Options (I will play the instruments in bold):
String Quartet – 2 violins, viola, cello
String Trio – violin, viola, cello
Flute Quartet – flute, violin, viola, cello
Flute Trio – flute, viola, cello

The Price of Relevance

What is the value of live music? I think this article by Suzanne Mentzer published in the Huffington Post is right on track:

To all who moan about the price of musicians:
A guy calls the musician’s guild to get a quote on a six-piece band for a wedding. The rep says, “Off the top of my head, about $2000.” The guy says, “WHAT? FOR MUSIC?” The rep responds, “I’ll tell you what. Call the plumbers union and ask for six plumbers to work from 6 ’til midnight on a Saturday night. Whatever they charge you, we’ll work for half.”

I saw this on a social media site and it struck a chord, no pun intended. I could not help but think of the situation at hand for many classical musicians in the US.

Roughly talking turkey, there are about 115 orchestras in the US with budgets over 2.5 million, each employing nearly 100 musicians, each with another 5-10 staff members, on average. This does not include ballet orchestras, or orchestras with lower budgets. Opera America, a national service center, lists 150 member companies. The “union” American Guild of Musical Artists lists 6540 members in good standing, comprised of dancers, opera singers (soloists and choristers) and stage managers. Each opera, ballet and orchestral organization also employs stage crew, many of which are members of IATSI, the stagehands union. This is, at best, a blurry picture of the multitude of people who could be unemployed should the classical arts cave.
This does not even include the associated businesses: restaurants, hotels, parking garages for the paying public, instrument and equipment manufacturers, instrument tweakers and tuners..

Every day I read of another orchestra going under or, at the very least, cutting salaries of the players by large amounts. What flotsam and jetsam this will create. These players spend lives – from a very young age – perfecting, practicing and competing to win the positions they have. They cannot imagine life not playing. Musicians have committed to rents, mortgages, college debt, and support families. Some share their talents with schools and communities. They commit to the arts organization and the community for the long haul, unlike in sports where one can be traded or a free agent.

Orchestra, opera, chamber music and solo recitals are pure, without sound enhancement. I like to think of these art forms as being organic- without additives, non-synthetic or processed. Like organic food, it is a bit more costly to produce. It is also not for profit, unlike commercial music.

Like most musicians, classical musicians, bring joy to those who hear them. They touch an emotional nerve; connect with the larger whole of humanity and cultural history; honor those who came before by continuing a tradition of excellence. It is hard to put a price on relevance, continuity, and the historical perspective. Yes, in today’s financial environment classical artists are being discarded.

With a very high-level international singing career I, too, have felt the smack of the economy. The norm for a successful singer is being booked three years out. I have little work this year and nothing after August. I have a hard time being hired. I have dropped my fee to about a third of what it was, which is fine since the business was so good to me. My high powered New York management tells me its the economy.

Like the instrumentalists in those orchestras I have lived as a singer for a long time and it is an ingrained part of who I am. Not a day went by for thirty years where I did not think about the condition of my voice and my body or have music burning into my brain cells. At times I feel like a part of me has been amputated. I do miss making music at a high level, the camaraderie and collaboration with colleagues, and most of all, my part in the continuation of this art form that goes back centuries. I have often felt it a privilege to sing music that has endured and try to do it justice.

As an ersatz writer I have a bully pulpit but I basically preach to the choir. I do not seem to reach the audience that needs persuading that classical music is viable, necessary and human. One way I can be an activist for the arts is to perform. I will continue to search for other ways, as well, for the day when I truly cannot sing anymore.

Last week, The NY Times shared the results of a study: “researchers at Northwestern University recorded the auditory brainstem responses of college students — that is to say, their electrical brain waves — in response to complex sounds. The group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested. And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.”

I have been watching some silent films on TCM. The sound tracks are amazingly operatic in order to help sustain the emotion of the work without text. Listen to a sound track today. Even with the dialogue of the actors much of the music is classically styled and operatically emotional. Why is it so hard then to let this carry outside the movie theater?

My last beef the choice of people to be honored by Kennedy Center this year. All are honorable but not one is a classical musician. This sends a very strong subliminal message. It would have been very cool to have Led Zeppelin honored beside a figure from the classical music world.

As a culture we seem eat up whatever is fashionable, hot, new. Can’t we do that and still keep a foot firmly in tradition, history, context, and more? One need not necessarily cancel out the other.

Romantic Music

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner and spring weddings drawing near, it’s time to start thinking about romantic music to complete the occasion. With the help of friends, I’ve compiled a list of romantic songs, and I hope you enjoy listening to them. What makes a song romantic? Romantic music mirrors four aspects of romance in life – intimacy, time, conversation, and passion. But just as we all experience intimacy in different ways, we all have our personal preferences in romantic music.

Intimacy

Every romantic song has some level of intimacy. Intimate songs tend to be personal and not showy or performance oriented. They frequently have sweeping strings or soulful guitar or piano in the background. Also, most romantic songs fall between the pulse of 60 -100 beats per minute which also happens to be the average heartbeat of a human being. Coincidence? I think not. This gentle pulse is often done with soft percussion, or naturally emphasized in the music. Over this pulse is usually a warm and tender voice or instrumental lead.

Time

Romance flourishes when you give another person your full attention and time.  The following songs are all about the element of time and they do this by drawing out words and spacing phrases:

Can’t Help Falling in Love With You, Elvis

Come Away with Me, Norah Jones

Fascination, Nat King Cole

I Will Love You, Fisher

Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers

Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton

 

Conversation

This is an easy one, because words of love and devotion can be translated directly into music as in the following examples:

Always On My Mind, Willie Nelson

Devoted to You, Everly Brothers

For You, John Denver

I Will Be Here , Steven Curtis Chapman

Longer Than, Dan Fogelberg

Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce

Truly Madly Deeply, Savage Garden

Your Song, Elton John

 

Passion

Passionate songs have energy, intensity, perhaps a faster pulse than the typical heart rate, and often the element of the unexpected. Some of the most passionate songs are classical, particularly from the aptly named “Romantic Period” of music. Following is a wide range of passionate songs:

Everything I do, Bryan Adams

Hello Young Lovers, Stevie Wonder

Libestod from Tristan Und Isolde (Richard Wagner), Birgit Nilsson

Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet, Henry Mancini and his orchestra

Meditation from Thais (Massenet), Yo-Yo Ma

‎Someone to Watch Over Me, Herb Alpert

 

For fun I looked for a song from above that, in my opinion best blends all four categories. The result was a tie between “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers and “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Elvis. “Unchained Melody” frequently uses the word “time” which enhances its slow development, then crescendos with passion towards the end. “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” brilliantly combines all the elements of intimacy, along with slow romantic words.

If you are looking for musicians for your spring wedding or Valentine’s Day, take a look at my ensembles page for music samples with a variety of instrument combinations.