The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home; home wasn’t built in a day; home is a shelter from storms. Do I carry home with me or must I return home? Home is where the heart is, right? These were the circulating sentiments presented by flute professor Carla Copeland-Burns with her collaborative chamber recital “What Makes Home, Home?”. Featuring Andy Hudson on clarinet, Michael Burns on bassoon, and Inara Zandmane on piano, the recital brought together the numerous sounds, experiences, and emotions of home.

Our relationship to home can be complicated, but home is often a place many of us hold fondly in our hearts. The selected works from bassoonist and composer Burns brought to life those feelings of homecoming. Originally from New Zealand, Burns’ performance paid homage to his early days in school, to his grandmother’s chickens, and the natural beauty of New Zealand. True to the memories he brought onstage, many of the pieces were buoyant and earnestly happy. Both of Burn’s compositions, E Toru nga Hau: The Three Winds and Two Aotearoa Sketches for bassoon and piano acknowledge that while Burns considers New Zealand home, so do the indigenous Māori people. Using Māori language to title the pieces while still communicating his authentic connection to New Zealand added a dimension of nuance and recognition to both works.

While much of the recital took on a light-hearted and sentimental tone, it was also colored by a degree of severity. Copeland-Burns shared with the audience the foreword of the opening piece for the concert, Homeland, by Allison-Loggins-Hull:

When you are forced to leave your country in order to survive. When the people of your country are completely divided. When your country has been destroyed by a natural disaster. A human disaster. Is home still home?

Although the subject matter is sadly familiar, I wouldn’t describe Copeland-Burns’ performance as sad at all. The performance was longing, it felt estranged, it felt confused and disoriented, but it did not feel sad. Instead of sadness, the powerful gravity and security of home imbued the work with a resilience and sureness. The persisting message felt to me that home is never lost unless hope is as well.

The importance of hope carried over into Copeland-Burns’ second selection, Fanmi Imén: Poem for flute and piano by Valerie Coleman. Inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem Human Family, the piece felt inviting and dialogic as Copeland-Burn’s sparkling and sweet-tempered flute-played eased tensions. With Zandmane accompanying on piano, the two summoned a message for unity amid differences.

Tugging on the familiar heartstrings of homesickness, Ledah Finck‘s solo reed work, if I were only halfway home, added another dimension to the concert’s exhibition of home. Speaking on his own relationship with the piece, performer Andy Hudson recalled the words of Christian mystic C.S. Lewis and English writer Virginia Woolf. Highlighting the experience of the individual, Hudson hoped the piece would draw us toward the sense of nostalgia that would remind us of what we’re looking for in life. Originally from Boone, NC, Finck incorporates the musical sounds of her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Appalachian vocal traditions and instrumental sounds permeate the work and combine with Finck’s own voice. Truly a performer for the moment, Hudson, playing the bass clarinet, enjoyed the adventurous freedom offered by the piece. Dynamic, enterprising, and always vocal, his performance coaxed out the imaginative potential of the audience.

The context of the day in the discussion of home was not lost on Copeland-Burns. She admitted that even though scheduling the performance on the anniversary of 9/11 was a coincidence, she felt an obligation to shape a recital that could help connect an audience to our physical and personal surroundings. As a North Carolina transplant from the Nevada deserts, I’ve been trying to build a sense of home for more than a year now. And like many in response to the country’s volatile national identity, I continue to rethink how much my nation feels like home. But after leaving the concert, I felt empowered to explore my own creation of home. And I also felt certain in the power of understanding the way others find home in their lives.