That wasn’t written for me, but I’m going to do it anyway!

Donald Zook

By Donald Zook
Over the past 30 or so years, I have played hundreds of concerts with music written specifically for my primary instrument, the flute.  Recently, though, I was thinking it would be a neat idea to have a whole concert of music that was never intended to be played by woodwind instruments, but performed on woodwinds.  It opens up a whole realm of possibilities!  Thus, the concert Gone with the Winds: That wasn’t written for me! was conceptualized.

I told my fellow South Shore Conservatory (SSC) woodwind musicians they could pick pieces they have always loved to listen to but never had the opportunity to play.  The challenge, of course, is that our instruments have more limited range and capability than other instrument families. String instruments, for example, have a more extensive range than woodwinds; plus they are capable of playing more than one note at once.

When we transcribe a piece, we are particularly sensitive to what the composer had in mind.  Generally speaking, any piece of music can be transcribed and played on another instrument. Yet the result is not always the same. Some transcriptions I have played I will probably never play again, while others worked out so well it sounds better than it did on the original instrument for which it was written.

All the pieces we’ve chosen have that hum-ability factor about them and are recognizable.  You won’t be able to mistake the Carmen Suite selections that trumpet player Andrew Moreschi will be performing, nor Louis Armstrong’s Struttin’ with Some Barbecue performed by saxophonist John Vanderpool.  As for me, I chose L’pres-midi d’un faune by Debussy, a piece originally written for a full orchestra.  I thought it would be particularly challenging and fun to re-create Debussy’s piece for just two instruments (flute and piano) instead of 60.  I am particularly excited to hear clarinetist Gita Brown play a work written by J.S. Bach.  The clarinet was just invented in 1690, right around the birth of Bach.  There are absolutely no pieces written for the clarinet in the baroque era, so it will be delighted to hear what Bach missed out on.

This is not the first time this cast of musicians has performed together in concert. In particular, I have played with SSC pianist Sarah Troxler many times before.  I’m sure she’ll agree we make a wonderful team.  She is a very creative and sensitive performer. It is the first time I will have the honor of playing with clarinetist Peter Bianca. I am excited to discover what ideas he will bring to the performance of Franz Doppler’s Andante and Rondo.

I invite you to join us on Sunday, October 15, 4 pm at 64 St. George Street in Duxbury, or October 22, 4 pm at One Conservatory Drive, Hingham, for Gone with the Winds: That was not written for me!.  Relax, close your eyes and let the winds faculty spark your imagination with musical possibilities.

This is the first of five Conservatory Concert Series (CCS) productions in CCS’s 2017-18 season.  Admission is free.  For more information about this and other SSC performances, visit

Donald Zook is Chair of SSC’s Woodwind and Brass Department, and Director of Chamber Music at South Shore Conservatory.

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