The Dahlia Flute Duo to sync up with Prince George's County
The Baltimore-based Dahlia Flute Duo more than lives up to its flowery name. After all, its founders Mary Matthews and Melissa Wertheimer are best buds.
"We shop together, we cook together, we do everything together," says Wertheimer. In fact, the pair is so in sync they've even begun to sound alike. On the telephone, each takes turns chiming in with "This is Mary," or "Melissa, by the way," to differentiate the Dahlia sound bites.
Performing as The Dahlia Flute Duo for the last three years, the flautists met during their first week as master's students at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.
"We lived in the same apartment building," says Matthews. It was a Peabody Showcase performance at the annual Baltimore Book Festival that initially, fatefully, brought both musicians together.
"We played a few pieces and almost immediately [clicked,]" she continues. "We thought, Let's keep doing this.'"
Since then, the chamber duo has performed at venues like the Academy Art Museum, the Candlelight Concert Society Outreach Series and First Night Dover.
"Every concert we gave, it seems we met someone new who [could book us] for another performance," says Matthews.
The Dahlia Flute Duo is also a staple of sorts at Baltimore's Walters Art Museum, performing regularly for First Friday events and the museum's Adult Lecture Series, as well as hosting assorted music recitals.
On Wednesday, the duo's fan base will expand again when Dahlia makes its debut at Prince George's Harmony Hall Regional Center as part of the venue's Afternoon Tea series. It is the latest in a full schedule of appearances booked through September and stretching from Maryland to Flagstaff, Ariz.
According to Wertheimer, the duo's biggest break came in 2009, when Dahlia was awarded a Yamaha In-Residence Fellowship from the College Music Society. Three Peabody Career Development grants would follow, as well as a Creative Baltimore Artist Grant, co-sponsored by the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Office of the Mayor of Baltimore City.
Such funds, say the partners, allowed the duo to broaden its audience, while providing additional networking opportunities. Similarly, Dahlia's nonprofit status under the New York City-based service organization Fractured Atlas allowed for the acceptance of tax-deductible donations, further enriching their work.
Dahlia's cumulative successes were recently validated in a big way. In August, the duo will perform as part of the National Flute Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
"Although it's called the National Flute Association, it's really become an international organization over the last few years," says Wertheimer. "It's the top honor in the flute community. ... It means that we're recognized as [highly skilled musicians] by our peers."
The duo's reaction upon discovering they had landed a spot at the prestigious convention?
"We ran around our apartment for a while," says Matthews.
"We scared our cat," says Wertheimer, who recalls the notification came via an early-morning e-mail.
"Mary knocked on my door, and I was like, I'm sleeping,'" she laughs. "She said, Come out and read this e-mail now!'"
For the convention, the duo is planning a recital called "Hoover and Higdon," employing composer Jennifer Higdon's "running the edgE" for two flutes and percussive piano. Katherine Harris, a fellow Peabody grad, will serve as accompanist.
But first, for Wednesday's Harmony Hall performance, the duo will churn out a complete repertoire of selections baroque, romantic, classical and contemporary for piccolo, alto flute and flute. Works to be featured include "An Unsubstantial Territory" by Baltimore educator Linda Dusman; selections from "Children's Corner Suite" by Claude Debussy as arranged by Wertheimer; and "Grande Valse Brillante" by Frederic Chopin as arranged by Matthews. Also on the program will be "Glances, Gazes and Stares" by Joshua Bornfield, the first of three pieces written specifically for the duo.
Performances like these provide ample opportunity for audience interaction a trend sadly dying out among their contemporaries, says Wertheimer.
"They come out, and it's like there's a glass wall between the stage and the audience," she says. "But that's what we love to do."
For Matthews and Wertheimer, walls imaginary or otherwise have no place in chamber music. That being said, it seems nothing could ever keep these two apart.
"When we perform together, we bring out each others' strengths," says Matthews. "We're a team. We motivate each other. As musicians, everyone has those days where it's hard to get motivated to get up [and get to school] and get to practice and perform. We do that for one another. And it's the most fun, too."
"That's the goal of chamber music," says Wertheimer. "Working together."
-When: 2 p.m. Wednesday
-Where: Harmony Hall Regional Center,
10701 Livingston Road,