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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Ellis and Parker’s Bittersweet Two performs at Biltmore

Charlotte Ellis (left), Sandra Parker (center) and Art Ellis (right) perform  at Willard Memorial Chapel, Auburn, New York.
Charlotte Ellis (left), Sandra Parker (center) and Art Ellis (right) perform at Willard Memorial Chapel, Auburn, New York.

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | November 28, 2018

Charlotte Ellis, flute, and Sandra Parker, harp, have performed separately at Biltmore for years. This year, they perform as a duo, Bittersweet Two.

Ellis has been a part of Biltmore Estate’s Candelight Christmas for nearly 30 years.

“I remember so clearly the excitement of the Wildwood Dulcimers when we made our audition tape yes, tape and were accepted to perform in the Winter Garden of Biltmore House in 1989. The Wildwood Dulcimers was a group of mountain or lap dulcimer players, with whom I played flute, founded by Carolyn White and quite popular in the Tri-Cities then and in the years following. We played at Biltmore for several years in the Winter Garden, the Oak Sitting Room, the Halloween Room and both the second and third floor living areas.

“After that, Bittersweet Celtic Ensemble (Celtic harp, violin, flute, guitar) began playing there, and sometime later Trillium and Morningstar Flute Ensembles enjoyed performing at Biltmore,” Ellis sayd.

Since Biltmore redesigned their music format, she has performed solo flute and with several duos. The duos are Bittersweet guitar/flute (with her husband, Art); Bittersweet Two Celtic harp/flute (with Sandra Parker); Dogwood Duo violin/flute (with Susanna Hauk); and Concordia Duo cello/flute (with Bethany Dawson).

Parker has been performing at Biltmore for 10 years. “It is always such an exciting experience. Seeing the Biltmore House decorated for Christmas or in the spring when the house is filled with flowers is just amazing. It never gets old. It is such an honor to walk into the house with my harp and be allowed to go down into the beautiful Winter Garden to set up for the performance. We alternate performing one-half hour sets with a choir during the Christmas events. The Candlelight Christmas tours require advance tickets. I highly recommend seeing the house during these beautiful holiday evenings.

“Charlotte and I don’t get a chance to play together that often, though over the years, we have played quite a few times together for many types of events. Sometimes we are joined by her husband, Art, and perhaps a violinist. We play a mix of Celtic, traditional, contemporary and original material. Charlotte is a very talented composer, and we play several of her beautiful melodies when we play together. I will often add a vocal to one of the tunes we perform. We don’t really stick to one type of music. We hear pieces that we love and incorporate them into our repertoire,” Parker says.

Their Biltmore performance includes old tunes from around the world, some of them quite familiar and some rarely heard, as well as Ellis’ arrangements of her favorites. She particularly enjoys composing music that uses the alto flute in combination with another instrument. The mellow sound of the alto provides an interesting change from the familiar C-flute and is especially suited to minor sounding and more haunting melodies.

“I find it particularly rewarding to provide background music for the special evening that so many people enjoy as they tour America’s largest privately owned home, and to interact with the guests who stop to listen or ask questions. For me, playing at Biltmore is pure magic and one of the most special experiences of my life and to have done so for nearly 30 years seems like extraordinary good fortune,” Ellis says.

They perform Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. Ellis performs Dec. 27 at 6:45 p.m., Dec. 30, Dec. 31 and Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. as a solo flute. Jan. 1 at 6 p.m., she performs with her guitarist husband Art.

About Charlotte Ellis
Ellis has a business degree from the University of Tennessee in economics. Her bakery, Flour Fancies, has provided a 20-year career for her as “The Bread Lady” in the Tri-Cities area. She is writing a book about those experiences and recipes. But music is the love of her life.

“Performing and composing occupy more and more of my time and bring me more and more satisfaction. How fortunate I am to have a wonderful flute teacher Heidi Ehle of Jonesborough and a very patient husband. It is especially nice that Art is also a musician and that we have the opportunity to perform together,” Ellis says. She has toured in Britain, China, Australia and New Zealand with the Veterans Administration National Medical Musical Group. She holds membership in the National Flute Association and is a former flute instructor.

She founded Morningstar Flute Ensemble in 2006, which has performed in several U.S. states and in Hungary. Plans are under way for the group to play in Switzerland next summer. This ensemble includes the family of flutes from the baby piccolo to the huge 6-foot tall contrabass flute and has provided the incentive for her to compose for flute quintet.

A trio from this ensemble (Hayley Goad, Erik Peterson and Charlotte Ellis, joined by pianist Donna Hathaway) give a free public concert of Christmas music at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, at First Broad Street United Methodist Church, Kingsport, Tennessee, followed by a reception.

The program includes three of Ellis’ arrangements for flutes and percussion. For more information about this concert or Morningstar Flute Ensemble, contact Ellis at 423-323-4933.

About Sandra Parker
Parker has been performing and entertaining in the region for many years. One of the highlights of her musical journey was having music from her CD “May Morning Dew” chosen for the soundtrack for a video that was put together to honor the life and achievements of fantasy artist Charles Vess.

She has just released a new CD called “Call of the Faerie,” which was featured in November on “Celtic Clanjamfry” hosted by Jack Beck on WETS — FM 89.5 and on the public radio show “Harpestry” hosted by Valerie Green in Lafayette, Louisiana. “Call of the Faerie” is comprised of harp and vocals as well as some narrative and takes the listener on a magical journey into the realm of Faerie.

A native of Southwest Virginia, she developed a love for traditional ballads at an early age. Her influences are Joan Baez, Connie Dover and Loreena McKennitt. She plays Celtic harp and guitar and sings many traditional songs as well as original and contemporary songs. She has played at many venues though the years including The Barter Theatre, The Paramount Center for the Arts, The Rhythm and Roots Festival in Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee, the Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival, Shakespeare and Friends Renaissance Festival and the Virginia Renaissance Festival. She also plays for weddings, art galleries and private events.

About the director of Cantemus Women’s Choir

Topics: Music