by John Newell
On January 29 Rolfe Richter, Passamaquoddy flute-maker, storyteller and performer, returned to the Eastport Arts Center’s Sunday Afternoon series. The audience was delighted to hear his playing. For the past ten years Richter has been engaged in making flutes and he gave a very engaging presentation of his building process.
Richter demonstrated the different types of Native flutes, playing a number of the instruments in his personal collection (both his own creations and those of other flute makers). It was fascinating to hear the range of tonal colors. One important variable is the choice of wood: the audience heard how the sound of a flute made with Peruvian walnut differs from one made with western red cedar. Richter also explained the techniques that players use to obtain effects like trills and vibrato.

Traditionally the flute has been primarily a solo instrument. He demonstrated how the native flute is now often used with electronic equipment to create effects such as reverb and shimmer. Richter also explores combining the flute with other instruments. He introduced the audience to the RAV drum made in Russia. It is a beautifully resonant steel drum that has ornate “tongues” cut out of the metal to produce the different pitches. It is played with the hands in a variety of ways to create different effects.

The climax of the program was a performance by a quartet of brave on-the-spot volunteers. Dubbed the Winter Pajammers, they performed on percussion instruments to accompany Richter on a small high-pitched flute. Kudos to Stephanie DiPalma (hand drum), Reggie Stanley (chimes), Rena Newell (rattle) and Nancy Tintle (RAV drum)!
Ending the program with a solo piece, Richter demonstrated how his works are intimately bound to nature and story-telling; they come from the heart. This is also obvious in his CD Dreamwalk; each piece is accompanied in the printed notes by a short, very poetic text.

Sunday Afternoons at the Arts Center programs are held in Eastport Arts Center’s cozy downstairs Washington Street Gallery, amidst rotating exhibitions. Admission is by voluntary donation; proceeds are shared equally between the presenters and EAC constituent group The Concert Series, which offers year-round programming run by volunteers. No one is turned away for lack of funds.

Find the full 2023 schedule and more posts about upcoming and past programs here: