Amy Likar and Rena Urso of Alcyone Ensemble p/c Jack Paulus

One day during the 2009 orchestral season, flutists Amy Likar and Rena Urso were sitting in a rehearsal in their orchestra, the Oakland Symphony and each got the brilliant idea of putting together a chamber ensemble. Many hours were spent brainstorming over several pots of tea, tossing around creative ideas and names for their new ensemble,  repertoire they’d love to stick their teeth into, and where they would like to perform. Most importantly, they asked one another; what contribution could they make to the chamber music world as flutists that everyone else wasn’t already doing? A conversation with their favorite San Francisco collaborative pianist Miles Graber was all that was left in order to seal the deal; just like that, the Alcyone Ensemble was born.

The Alcyone Ensemble is not your average two-flute-and-piano ensemble. This group really thinks outside the box and continuously strives to push creative boundaries. Seriously, how many 2 piccolo and accordion groups have you heard perform recently? If you’ve been to an Alcyone Ensemble concert, then chances are you’ve heard one!

Rena and Amy performing trio sonatas of JS and CPE Bach at the Annual OEBS Bach & Brew.

Some memorable performances include Trinity Concerts in Berkeley, CA, the Annual “Bach and Brew” for the Oakland Symphony (pictured above), the National Flute Association’s Annual Convention’s in Las Vegas, Chicago, and most recently at the 2021 virtual convention, and for the San Francisco Music Thursday’s at the Center for New Music.

What else makes this collaboration unique? Amy and Rena are both Licensed Body Mapping Educators (Association for Body Mapping Education) and travel all over the world presenting workshops, lectures, and masterclasses.

Rena, Ian Clarke & Amy at the NFA Convention in Las Vegas

Perhaps their favorite collaborations, though, are those with living composers. Showcasing new and exciting works of the flute ensemble repertoire is something Alcyone Ensemble is passionate about.  In 2013, the group ran a successful crowd sourcing campaign and commissioned a dynamic new work by the brilliant New York based composer Daniel Felsenfeld entitled “Blister and Wow.”  This 3 movement, 11-ish minute work is scored for two flutists and piano, but here’s what makes this work special: Amy and Rena each play piccolo, flute, and alto flute! Blister and Wow, indeed! (Side note: Miles is grateful that he only has to play the piano, 1 pianist, 2 hands!). Another recent commission is a beautiful three movement work for two flutes, cello, and piano, “Suite for Piano Quartet” by fellow Body Mapping Educator, Portland based pianist/composer Lisa Marsh.

Miles, Amy, Rena, and Danny after the premier of Blister and Wow.
Miles, Amy, Rena, and Danny after the premier of Blister and Wow.

As much fun as it is to introduce new works to their audiences, Alcyone also loves to keep the classics of J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach and Doppler in their regular rotation. Rena and Amy enjoy performing Baroque period works on their modern flutes with wooden head joints – their way of giving a nod to the style and colors of the beautiful Baroque flute with the flexibility, ease, and accessibility of our modern Boehm system flute.

Amy & Rena at the Biennial Andover Educator Conference at Iowa State University.

Alcyone Ensemble receives fiscal sponsorship from InterMusic SF and is honored to be a part of their affiliate program. If you would like to contribute to future commissioning projects or concerts, please click here to make your tax deductible donation. Be sure to choose “Alcyone Ensemble” in the pull down menu.

Alcyone is very much looking forward to a bright season ahead! 2021-22 will be filled with new projects and performances. Hope to see you soon!

For more detailed info on Amy, visit her at www.amylikar.com

For more detailed info on Rena, visit her at www.renaurso.com


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