Darroch/Cowan Duo

• Sunday 8th May 2022, 4.00pm Past
• Tauranga Park Auditorium, 383 Pyes Pa Rd, Tauranga map »
Steve Cowan (Guitar), Hannah Darroch (Flute)
New Zealand-born flutist Hannah Darroch and Canadian guitarist Steve Cowan formed the Darroch/Cowan Duo in 2017, performing and recording in a number of Canadian locations prior to making their touring debut with Chamber Music New Zealand in 2022. The duo take us on a musical journey through the Americas including Katherine Hoover’s deeply evocative Canyon Echoes alongside selections by tango maestro Astor Piazzolla and fellow Argentinian compatriot, Osvaldo Golijov.

View Programme Notes

Performing GOLIJOV | Fish Tale

Performing BEASER | "Barbara Allen" from Mountain Songs

Performing BEASER | "Cindy" from Mountain Songs

Performing HOOVER | Canyon Echoes 1. Dance

Performing HOOVER | Canyon Echoes 2. Serenade

In association with Chamber Music New Zealand

Review of Darroch/Cowan Duo:

Concert Review

Darroch/Cowan Duo - Sunday, May 8th, 2022 at Tauranga Park Auditorium

Tauranga Musica, in association with Chamber Music New Zealand recently hosted the wonderful flute and guitar duo of Hannah Darroch (flute) and Steve Cowan (guitar).

The concert included pieces inspired by ancient as well as recent folk music traditions from North and South America. This modern program was a cleverly crafted journey through various musical spaces and moods, invoking vivid images of oceans, travel, flight, snow and dance.

‘Fish Tale’ by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov told the wordless story of fish’s surreal journey. From rippling guitar arpeggios and an energetic flute melody both performers moved into staccato, percussive sounds. This signaled a modern yet accessible approach to the guitar and flute in duo format which continued throughout the afternoon. The ‘Bossa Nova’ harmony and jazz-influenced chord voicings pre-figured later parts of the program.

Jason Noble’s ‘Folk Suite’ (2020) was the most recent composition in the afternoon’s program. Like guitarist Steve Cowan, Noble is a native of the isolated Newfoundland and Labrador on Canada’s east coast.

This six-part suite draws heavily on the Celtic traditions in North American folk music. The musical narrative seemed to encompass the sea, rugged coastlines, sea spray, gulls, folk dances, and the European settlers’ struggles with a harsh environment.

Darroch played flute, piccolo and alto flute during the ‘Folk Suite’. Her intonation above the guitar’s incomplete chords and her ear-catching note bends showed a musician comfortable with both the ancient and modern. Cowan attempts at foot-stomping percussion were, unfortunately, thwarted by the carpet on the stage.

The four-part suite ‘Canyon Echoes’ by Katherine Hoover was inspired by an Apache folktale. Hoover’s chromatic melodies and the dark, flexible timbre of Darroch’s flute conjure images of birds floating, turning above - and diving through - the canyon.

The crying and fluttering sounds of the flute, the rhythmic guitar figures and extended techniques seemed to provide an end to the folktale that was open to interpretation.

Piazolla launched the second half of the concert. Darroch and Cowan took turns with solo pieces before joining together for ‘Café 1930’. The duo have a sympatico approach to rhythm which was evident both in the solo vignettes and the duet.

Joan Tower’s composition ‘Snow Dreams’ provided many images of snow in its manifold forms. The composer wrote that “Many of these images can be found in the piece, if in fact they need to be found at all. The listener will determine that choice.” Darroch and Cowan say that this piece, as well as Katherine Hoover’s “Canyon Echoes” have been the pieces commented on most often.

The final set of pieces returns us to a familiar musical space: rural America. Guitarist Steve Cowan embraces the primacy of the rhythm with more head nodding and movement.

These enjoyable selections from Robert Beaser’s “Mountain Songs” play with the expectations of an audience at a concert of ‘art music’. The music is wry: it acknowledges the importance of this folk style with good humour but doesn’t commit to it.

Hannah Darroch (NZ) is the principal flutist for the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. You can read more about Hannah here: https://www.hannahdarroch.com/

Steve Cowan (CAN) performs as a solo guitarist and as a member of several ensembles. You can read more about Steve here: http://www.stevecowanmusic.com/

- Review by Chris Williamson

Chris is guitarist, composer and teacher based in Tauranga. He has performed throughout NZ and internationally and is a MENZA (Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa) board member.

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