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Grosse Pointe Park

Big talents to shine in small concert setting

December 5, 2012

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Detroit Symphony Orchestra flutist Sharon Wood Sparrow will perform with several of her DSO colleagues during a chamber music concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at First Christian Reformed Church of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Park.

GROSSE POINTE PARK — Audiences used to watching flutist Sharon Wood Sparrow perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will get to see, and hear, a different side of her musicianship during an upcoming concert.

Sparrow, of Grosse Pointe City, will be playing the Mozart Flute Quartet and other pieces during a DSO Neighborhood Chamber Recitals concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at First Christian Reformed Church of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Park. The intimate venue will showcase the virtuosity of the musicians, and will give audiences a rare opportunity to see Sparrow play piano — her first instrument — as well as flute.

She was also asked to put together the program, an accessible series of works that should be familiar to listeners. It includes Haydn’s Trio No. 1 in C Major, “London” for flute, violin and cello; Schubert’s “Ave Maria” for cello and piano; and Beethoven’s Serenade in D Major for flute, violin and viola, which Sparrow said is “rarely played.”

“It’s uplifting,” she said of the program. “It’s all really fun music.”

Besides Sparrow, the program includes Shanda Lowery-Sachs on viola, Sheryl Hwangbo on violin and Peter McCaffrey on cello. Sparrow said Hwangbo and McCaffrey are fairly new to the DSO.

“Since it’s a small venue, it’s a good opportunity for the audience to meet these new players,” Sparrow said. “I think people are going to love the concert, because the music is great and the players are great. When you go to a concert like this, there’s more of a personal connection.”

She said the church has “a great piano” and is “just the right size for a concert like this.”

The program also includes Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” featuring Hwangbo, and Villa-Lobos’ “The Jet Whistle,” which Sparrow called “really challenging for both the flute and the cello.”

Also challenging for the musicians, who all have busy performance and rehearsal schedules with the DSO, is finding time to rehearse together for this concert. Lowery-Sachs, a Huntington Woods resident, said they often met to practice after DSO rehearsals.

“It’s going to be a really nice mix of music,” she said. “Each instrument is featured in different combinations.”

For musicians, there’s a big difference between playing with a full orchestra and playing in a small chamber ensemble.

“I love both of them,” said Lowery-Sachs, but she added that “there’s a lot more variety of what we get to do” in a chamber concert.

“It’s such a different feeling than playing with a full orchestra,” Sparrow said. “You have so much more freedom to express yourself.”

String players, in particular, need to play as a unified group in an orchestra, where there are many of them and they’re expected to perform as a unit.

“You’re also interacting directly with the other players,” Lowery-Sachs said of chamber music concerts. “You don’t have a conductor (to follow). You can make decisions amongst yourselves. And the product is all on you. … It’s rewarding in a different way and challenging in a different way.”

Lowery-Sachs said she and Sparrow will be introducing the works to audiences, as well as performing,

“I think it makes it more enjoyable and personal,” she said. “You’ll also get to know a little bit more about each piece.”

Sparrow has been named the acting assistant principal flutist for the DSO’s 2012-13 season. She became the DSO’s second flute in 1998 — a position she is now tenured in — and also served as the principal flute. A graduate of the Julliard School and Mannes College of Music in Manhattan, she has worked with the Chicago Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony and Hong Kong Philharmonic, among other groups, and she has taught master classes across the United States, Canada and France. She still teaches out of her home, as well, but now also has a flute studio at Oakland University.

The Syracuse, N.Y., native is happy to be playing a rare concert for her neighbors in her adopted home in the Pointes, where she raised her children — daughter Hannah, 20, a vocal music major at the University of Michigan, and son Zack, 18, a film studies major at Central Michigan University. She’s also thrilled to be performing with the new DSO players — who are “so full of energy” — and Lowery-Sachs.

“We’ve been best friends for years,” Sparrow said. “We’re really looking forward to playing together.”

The First Christian Reformed Church of Detroit is located at 1444 Maryland, near Mack. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children and students, and can be purchased at the door or in advance by contacting the DSO at (313) 576-5111 or

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