Day 171 – March 20th – Eclipse

Back to class today, and while warm-ups went well, studies weren’t great. The problem wasn’t as much my lack of practice as that I got nervous about it and about being up in front of Trevor again. Rather than addressing the problem of the nerves, he did the usual and just continued to push. While I was ‘passes’ on Andersen no. 17 and three more Drouet studies, Trevor still isn’t happy with the trills in Altès no. 25, and I have to keep working on it for another class. 

There was a solar eclipse over England today, though it ended up being too cloudy to see anything at all from where we were. We all piled into Trevor and Dot’s living room for a bit to watch it on TV, which for me was actually the best part of today’s class! 

This evening, four of us watched an old film of Marcel Moyse teaching and talking about his life. It was fascinating – he seems to have been such a lively old man who was excited about life and music. 

Day 160 – March 9th – Practice, practice

After a weekend with some free time, today was the day for pulling out all the stops and doing some serious practice. Not only do we have studies for class tomorrow, but also several pages of Doppler’s Airs Valaques each. Throw in flute history project and our weekly trip to Tesco, and I feel like I’ve been on the go non-stop since 8am!

It’s my turn to do the tune in class tomorrow, and I spent quite a bit of time this morning on Greensleeves making sure that it was both expressive and rhythmic. I keep getting distracted by trying to achieve a homogeneous tone across the whole flute range and through the different keys – I’ll play the tune in G minor and get it sounding really good, and then moving up to G# minor find that it sounds totally different! While I do like the idea of each key having its own character even in equal temperament, I don’t like it when certain notes stick out for all the wrong reasons. For the purposes of class, though, expression and good use of dynamics is key.

Studies are a bit hit and miss this week. I’ve got a handful of the Drouet set sounding quite good, but am still struggling with Altès no. 24 and all the mordants. I feel at once so close to and so far from finishing this book. There are only 26 studies, but both nos. 24 and 25 are tricky. While I can play most of no. 25, the second page is full of trills and I know that I need to play each one evenly with a perfectly timed turn at the end. As for Andersen no. 16, it has had a late surge of improvement, but I’m not totally sure whether that will all carry into class tomorrow. We’ll have to see.

Day 139 – February 16th – Studies and more studies

Once again a mixed bag in studies class today. I started out by accidentally modulating in the warm-up tune The Ash Grove, which wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm but got through the rest of the morning unscathed.

Rather unusually, I ended up playing last in the day. They Moyse studies were ok but not fantastic, and Trevor spent quite a bit of time analysing my articulation. On the up side, it was analysis along the lines of making my tongue move faster and not solving rhythmic problems. Andersen No. 14 went down quite well, and while I thought it was a bit harsh to say that it was the “first time in four months” I’d used dynamics, at least they were heard. Altès No. 23 started off too slowly, which was a pain. The Altès studies are duets and Trevor plays the second part. I spent most of the first two pages trying to push the tempo to the one I’d learned it at, but clearly wasn’t communicating this well or something, so then got a ticking off about starting too slowly.

Finally, the Drouet studies. No. 6 was fine, then No. 7 a disaster because I started out too slowly and Trevor was decidedly unimpressed. Things went downhill from there, and while I was allowed to play both No. 7 (at the correct tempo) and No. 8 (another slow study) everything was commented on venomously.

As always, I have to learn from the mistakes and comments, and also work with renewed vigor on my articulation this week. However, it is a little disheartening when I know I’ve done a lot of hard work, and the final impression of the class is once again a negative one.

Day 131 – February 8th – Spring?

Spong Wood

Spong Wood

Today was a bit of a cramming day before our studies class tomorrow. I say cramming because it really does feel like I have more music than time to practice it in what with all Trevor’s studies that he keeps throwing at me. Of the new Drouet set, I’ve managed to prepare nine, which I’m pretty happy with. That, along with two of the Moyse 25, Altès No. 23 and 23B and a couple of the Bach variations are all sounding quite good. I’m a little more dubious about Andersen No. 14, which sounds ok after I’ve spent twenty minutes or so working on it, but tends to fall apart rather horrifically the first time I play through it. It’ll be a little under-tempo tomorrow, in the hope that playing expressively and with good line is a better goal.

Spong Wood

Spong Wood

In the afternoon, I went back to Spong Wood for a walk. It feels like spring is almost on the way; something in the light when the sun shines, or in the way the air isn’t quite so crisp. There are snowdrops here and there in the village, and I’m constantly on the lookout for my first daffodils of the year. The wood was quiet, and felt removed from the rest of the world. It made me feel calm – studies and scales were for a different space, there I just needed to breathe and be. I think I’ll be going back quite a lot.