A Flute Concerto That Expresses What It Means To Be Human

Jun 24, 2018

An instrument dating from ancient times, the flute turned out to be the ideal voice to express what was in the heart and mind of composer Samuel Jones. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on his Flute Concerto, premiered this season by The Philadelphia Orchestra.

On Sunday, July 1st at 1 pm on WRTI 90.1, The Philadelphia Orchestra performs Jones' Flute Concerto with soloist Jeffrey Khaner.

Composer Samuel Jones

When writing the work, Jones was grieving from the recent death of his brother.  The concerto begins with a lament, using a progression of notes with a falling half step, which he calls 'the Phrygian sigh.' "It’s that dee ah, dee ah," he says, singing. "In every culture, it’s an expression of grief.”

Grief is part of being human; so is the desire to play, laugh, and dance. 

Jones wanted to show the beautiful virtuosity of the flute, especially when played by Khaner.

“The second movement is sort of a waltz, which is sort of playful and a little twisted,” says soloist, Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Flute Jeffrey Khaner.  “It’s fun and funny  … There are spicy elements you might not expect that make it so much more interesting and playful.”

Jones wanted to show the beautiful virtuosity of the flute, especially when played by Khaner. He also wanted to tap into the role Philadelphia has played in the evolution of this country. 

And so the concerto explores human yearning on a larger scale, in the third movement referencing tunes of social change, from the days of revolution through the Civil War and civil rights era to the present.  “Recognizing with the choice of these pieces," says Jones, "we are still struggling to make this a more perfect union."

Jones imagined a military field review. The drum major of the field review reminded me of Martin Luther King’s saying:  “If you want to call me a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice. So the flute plays the role of the drum major.”