A special reed

When Elizabeth Velez Urie found a lack of published flute repertoires in the Christian gospel genre, she decided to re-create works that feature the instrument.

The 28-year-old Montrose resident, who grew up playing the flute for events in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said she was surprised by the dearth of appropriate music.

“It was very frustrating,” she said. “When I had a performance, I’d have to compose on the spot or had to dig through what was out there.”

She performs for worship services and concerts coordinated throughout the year by different churches. She also plays Christmas music concerts and jazz with another group that performs in Hollywood clubs from time to time, she said.

Velez Urie just released her first CD “Amazing Grace” and is doing a Southern California Christmas concert and CD-signing tour at Borders and independent book stores from San Diego to Bakersfield and local organizations in Glendale and Burbank, she said.

She called the CD “Amazing Grace” because she believes help in putting it together came from above, she said.

“I felt there was a lot of divine intervention that helped make this happen,” she said.

Several selections feature just the flute and piano, and the rest of the pieces are for flute, harp, violin and cello, she said.

“I wanted to get high-class musicians like Jenny Oaks Baker,” Velez Urie said. “She has eight albums on the market and travels all over the world performing.”

Velez Urie made a list of the top musicians she wanted, and all of her first-choice musicians were available, she said.

Oaks Baker, who lives in northern Virginia, performed the violin on the album.

“It’s a very nice selection of tunes on a CD,” she said. “Very calming and very easy to listen to.”

While the musicians were in the recording studio, Greg Hansen, an independent record producer, was working on his own project and Velez Urie asked him for guidance, he said.

“I gave her some suggestions for the CD,” he said. “I thought it sounded nice and told them so. I found her to be a gutsy and talented musician with admirable aspirations and the ability to make it happen.”

Adapting classical material and hymn arrangements for flute is a fresh direction for an instrumental album, he said, and the top names, like Oaks Baker, help a lot.

“What makes her project unique is first, there aren’t many flute albums out there, and second of all, the overall album has an effect on the listener. It’s a positive effect. More than peaceful and interesting, it’s musically mature.”

The CD was released four weeks ago, and since then Velez Urie said she has received e-mails and phone calls from people all over the country who have told her they have been moved to tears by the music.

Three of the 12 selections on the CD are “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “Amazing Grace” and “Be Still My Soul.”

“It has music that pretty much all Christian denominations are familiar with,” she said.

It also includes four classical pieces, including “Going Home,” which is based on Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.”

“It’s played at funerals and in movies when one of the characters is having a funeral and played by the military a lot too,” she said.

One of the things her parents taught her was to give back, she said, and so she is sharing her good fortune with others by giving free concerts, including a concert for a prison and nonprofit organizations and shelters for homeless.

She encourages anyone from the community to go to her website and e-mail her if they would like her to perform at their event, she said.

The flutist performed Tuesday morning for the Business Networking International organization that meets every Tuesday at the Burbank Holiday Inn. Member Grace Farenbaugh heard her perform and was impressed.

“She is clearly a world-class professional, and I very much enjoyed listening to her,” Farenbaugh said.

Velez Urie knew performing Christian gospel music was her calling after one Christmas concert two years.

“A woman came up to me and she looked at me with tears in her eyes; she said keep doing this,” she said. “It just solidified in my mind I am making a difference in the world in my own way, and I’m on the right path.”


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