Day 82 – December 21st – Solstice

Something that I never notice in Australia but always in Europe is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The year I was on exchange in Helsinki, it really was a relief to know that the days were going to start lengthening again – it was dark all the time and felt like the sun had been hiding behind clouds for the odd hour or two of daylight we did get! Here it’s not nearly as bad as that, but I am looking forward to having a bit more light in the mornings come January.

This year, it feels like the solstice almost marks the midpoint in our course. We have one more class tomorrow (which seems to be feedback-focused) and then I’m off up to my grandparents in Grimsby for Christmas. Though I’m definitely planning on taking a break from playing for a few days, I will use the time to contemplate strategies for bettering my practice. I know I’m improving with all the exercises and scale patterns – I can do a whole ream of things that weren’t there in October – but I also know that I need to up my game to keep up with what Trevor introduces over the coming months as I still don’t find these exercises easy. One of the important parts is mental practice, and I know I haven’t been disciplined enough with myself about doing it daily. I think there still needs to be more focus in the way I practice with the flute as well. Every time I play through something there has to be a clear goal, and then I won’t waste time playing the same bit too many times.

As for last night’s concert, I really did enjoy myself. We had a good turn out in the village church, and it wasn’t nearly as cold as we were expecting (I had thick gloves at the ready). Trevor got all his playing done in the first half, and I particularly enjoyed his pieces on Bb flute (flûte d’amour) with pianist Robert Scott. Then it was our turn, first the Musical Snuffbox by Liadov (complete with off-stage tweets and hoots from Trevor) and then a jazzy Shuffle by the Seaside (McDowall). Interval came with mulled wine, which was very welcome for hand-warming, and then we got into the jazz pieces proper. Trevor’s arrangements of Autumn Leaves, Tea for Two, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Lullaby of Birdland and The Way You Look Tonight for five flutes and piano seemed to be real crowd-pleasers, and we had a great time playing them. Away in a Manger rounded off the concert, and then it was off to the village hall for a sumptuous supper and general merriment.

Day 81 – December 20th – Concert and Supper

Just got back from our Christmas concert in the village church. While I’d love to give a blow-by-blow account, a combination of red wine and a sumptuous supper might mean that I save that for tomorrow.

I will say this though: the thing that really surprised me tonight was just how much the village has embraced Trevor’s flute studio and turned out in support of it. We had a full and incredibly appreciative church for the concert. Supper was lovely, and it seemed that just about everyone in the village had contributed a dessert. They’ve been doing this for twenty years – as long as the studio’s been running – and for me it was the community atmosphere that really made the night.

We did play rather well too!

Day 80 – December 19th – Rehearsals

This afternoon was taken up with rehearsals for our concert tomorrow. The weather was lovely for our walk to Trevor’s – I can’t believe it’s still up around 10 degrees – and we were introduced to Mr (Robert/Richard?!) Scott who will be playing piano with us. All in all Trevor was rather jovial, and though there were still a few criticisms of our playing he seemed to think the performance would go rather well. I enjoyed the rehearsal, we’ve come to play well together and the jazz pieces are particularly good fun. I just need to remember to be expressive and less strict with rhythm in the beginning of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. 

As for the rest of the day, there seems to be a bit of a feeling of Christmas holidays already. I did a few hours of practice this morning, and am finally feeling that Boehm’s No. 1 from Twelve Studies is coming from memory. The lesson here is almost a silly one, but worth reminding myself of. I know that I don’t have as good an aural memory as some, and had been really struggling to memorise this study despite our playing it regularly in warm-ups. However, once I took the time to sit down and write the chord pattern under each bar, it’s all of a sudden coming easier. Though I wouldn’t have struggled to identify the arpeggios verbally at any time, the act of writing them out has made the whole structure so much clearer, and then hey presto I can almost play it from memory. Something important to keep in mind, as Trevor is going to keep pushing us to play increasingly difficult scale and arpeggio exercises after Christmas!

View down our road at 4pm!

View down our road at 4pm!

Though I’m not totally sure we will be asked for studies in class on Monday, I’m now into the final lap of Moyse’s 24 Melodic Studies, and am preparing no. 22, 23 and 24. I’d played all of them for someone at some point before coming to study with Trevor, but really feel that I’ve learned a lot from preparing them for him each week. They really are the studies when it comes to phrasing, melody and fundamental musical skills, and I still don’t feel that I’ve mastered most of them yet! Once these are done, we’ll be moving on to the 25 Melodic Studies, which I’m sure will continue to reinforce many of the same things. However, I need to remember to revisit this book regularly as well. There are still a lot of things I can learn from practising them, and I need to keep remembering to be my own best teacher and listening observantly and critically to my playing.

Day 75 – December 14th – To-do list

I’ve been so focused on proofreading my flute history paper over the last couple of hours that I almost forgot to write my post!

Due Tuesday, the paper is just about there, and it’s got to the point where I’m just being a bit overly pedantic about things like footnotes and spelling. I’m just about ready for bed now, and will finish off the sections on Renaissance and Baroque flutes tomorrow morning. There’s no class tomorrow; we’re going to Tesco instead since we have a class on Tuesday in preparation for our concert.

In addition to all this, I’m trying to sort out some final Christmas cards and presents, as well as starting to think about my application for the Bang on a Can summer festival in Boston, USA next year. And of course there’s always practice!