Day 179 &180 – March 28th & 29th – Final Feedback

I didn’t manage a blog post yesterday because I ended up staying in Wye for the night with Mum and her friends. As there isn’t much fluting to report any more, I feel ok with combining two posts!

Yesterday morning was feedback class. To be honest, I was expecting some sort of pronouncement on whether Trevor thought we should continue with the flute or give up entirely, as there stories of that happening in the past. It was actually quite civilised and, by the flute studio standards, gentle. Not much was really said that we hadn’t heard before, and it was mostly us who gave each other feedback rather than Trevor.

My main points were:

– Fix vibrato, as it’s to fast and erratic. I’ve known this from the beginning of the course, and know that I need to go back to basics, starting with straight tones for a few weeks and then gradually adding vibrato back in. A few of us got this advice, and were told it would be some of the worst few weeks of our playing, but that the it would work to fix it. The coming months, when I don’t have performances but will have time to practise, is a perfect opportunity to do this, and it will be first on my priority list once I’m back into it again.

– Fix intonation, which is not consistent. This is an interesting one: I have always felt and been told that intonation is a weakness, but when I arrived at the studio in October no mention of it was made at all for the first month. When I brought it up one class, Trevor went as far as expressing surprise that I said it was a problem. Then it has gradually crept back into the feedback I get, and if late (as the nerves have escalated), it has been on the cards more and more. So, I think part of it is to do with nerves, and I need to find a way of controlling my intonation even when nervous. I also need to go back to some basics here, spend more time playing with drones and working on simple tunes and exercises, with piano wherever possible. I still see this as my biggest musical challenge, and the time here has helped to clarify that.

– Relax about things, which I definitely agree with! I play best when I’m a bit up but not terrified, and when I am nervous I do really stupid things like warming up in the wrong key and playing strange wrong notes. Hopefully moving on from this environment will help with the nerves, but I need to work on focused, mindful playing in a broader sense as well.

Otherwise, the feedback I received from the others was mostly positive. I was told I had improved a lot with expression and dynamic range, and need to continue along that path rather than going back to how I played before. I have stopped waving my flute around, and also stopped playing unevenly, which is also good. Interestingly, no other mention was made of rhythm, or at all of articulation. I know that these are two areas that aren’t totally solid, and still need work. Articulation in particular. I’m looking forward to returning to Moyse’s 50 Variations and really playing each variation well.

As for today, I’ve been packing and need to do some more cleaning. I’m still not convinced everything will fit in my rucksack, but am getting somewhere!

Day 174 – March 23rd – Daffodils

These were always my favourite daffodils as a child!

These were always my favourite daffodils as a child!

I’ve been meaning to go and take some more photos of the beautiful Kentish Downs for a a few days now – spring is well and truly here and it is gorgeous. Today was stunning, and I took advantage of an early end to class to go on a long walk up across the fields to Bodsham. My strongest memories of England as a child were of spring, particularly the hoards of daffodils that covered the village. Today’s walk didn’t disappoint!

Class itself went quite well. I’ve always enjoyed the way that Trevor teaches Baroque music, and once again felt like I learned an awful lot from the lesson on the Telemann sonatas. We talked a lot about trills (which must always be measured), but also about ornamentation in a broader sense and relative tempos between movements.

DSCN6264Then came Syrinx, which we were all a little nervous about. We had heard some stories from past students about Trevor being rather picky with this piece, and not liking the way that anyone played it! So we had all been slaving away with a metronome to make sure that everything was correct. It didn’t turn out too badly, though the session did start with us each getting up one after the other and playing it through. My feedback was that I was “slurring all the way through” (so not articulating clearly), that I wasn’t doing all the subito pianos, and that my rhythm was wrong in the second theme. Fair enough, especially with the second theme. I was being rather too enthusiastic with my rubato, and the second and third beats of the bar were almost the same as the first. Whoops!

Trevor went on to tell us about the history of the piece, its writing for the play Psyche, and its performances by Louis Fleury and Marcel Moyse. Originally the piece was called La Flûte de Pan, but the publisher already had a piano piece by that name and didn’t want to confuse his customers.Trevor talked about the ideas he sees in the music, and the way that it reflects the story of Pan in Psyche – it is his last reflection before he dies, and perhaps a remembrance of all the pretty girls he has pursued! Then some of us got up and worked on it a little more. Once again, I felt I learned an awful lot from this session, and it has inspired me to work on the piece again in the near future.


More lambs – they’re everywhere now. This pair were definitely twins. They moved as one, and were quite inquisitive.

Finally, we talked through Trevor’s method books for teaching beginners,and a little of our own teaching experiences. Though the topic isn’t top of my priority list, it’s all good to know.

Back to my walk, and in some ways I’m sorry to be leaving Kent just as spring arrives. While there have been many frustrations about my time here, I have also enjoyed the head space. Before coming away, I would rarely have gone on a long walk just for the sake of it, mostly because I just kept filling my time! Here, I have been on numerous long rambles across the countryside, exploring just about every road, laneway and footpath I could find (along with a couple of un-marked fields) in the area around Elmsted. It has given me time to think, and hopefully also to grow.

Day 153 – March 2nd – Tempo

We had a bit of an unusual Monday class today, and spent the morning working on Doppler’s Airs Valaques rather than studies. One of the pieces on the list for Juliet Edwards’s class on Friday, Trevor was keen to work through it in more detail. Now we all have to learn sections of it by next Monday! The notes aren’t terribly difficult, but there are a lot of them. One more thing on the to-do list.

When we did get onto studies, we rather powered through them. I finished off the Moyse 25 Melodic Studies with only a few comments – mostly that my articulation still needs a lot of work. I got through three Drouet without too much trouble, but Altès No. 24 wasn’t fast enough and I need to do a bit more work on it. The main feedback on my playing today was that I don’t always start out at the right tempo, tending to end up on the slow side even when things are marked allegro. I think some of it is that I’m erring on the safe side and trying to make sure that I get all the notes right! Trevor wants both correct notes and correct (fast) tempos, which I’ll keep in mind when preparing all the studies for next week.

This evening we got together to rehearse pieces for the Bodsham Primary concert. While it was only a first read-through, it was great to notice how much our intonation has improved as an ensemble since December.

Day 132 – February 9th – Rant

Not much to report today, as it was a rather confusing class. Having prepared a whole lot of studies, Trevor only heard five of the Drouet. They weren’t note perfect, and while I agree that they should have been, they also weren’t terrible. Trevor then went on a long rant about playing written dynamics and accents, then said that was enough and he didn’t need to hear any more.

While I know that I could have playing with greater dynamic contrast, once again, I didn’t think I was doing a bad job. The class has left me feeling rather frustrated and deflated because I’d done a huge amount of work over the week, and it wasn’t acknowledged at all.

Day 114 – January 22nd – Studies, studies and more studies

There were only five of us for class today, as it seems like colds are doing the rounds. So far I’ve been ok, and I’m hoping that it’ll stay that way!

As I said in my post yesterday, I was feeling a little trepidation about today’s studies, particularly the two Altès that I’ve spent a lot of time on. By contrast, I’d spent very little time on the Moyse studies, and (unfortunately) not as much as I should have Andersen No. 12! The results were interesting:

Moyse #5 and #9: Good following of notes with my lips, though both could have been faster. After no. 9 we talked a little about my needing to open up the tone in my top register. When I played the study again I did it with a lovely full tone, but need to be doing that all the time rather than just when prompted.

Moyse #8: “Lovely” – just get rid of a few wrong notes. I’d practiced this one a lot at the start of the week, but not in the last few days, and so just decided to go for it.

Then Trevor was a bit mean and made me sightread the next three studies so that he could show everyone what needed working on with them! It seems that he wants me to prepare all these in time for Monday which isn’t going to be much fun.

Andersen #12: Started out well but then I fell apart at the end of the B section where there were some particularly nasty leaps. Trevor didn’t seem terribly perturbed though, which was a bit strange. He just said ‘thank you’ and asked what was next – it seems he could tell I just hadn’t spent enough time on it. Looks like that’s back on for Monday, along with no. 13 which is a whole lot of chromatic scales.

Altès #18: “Some good things about this study, but you’re not bringing out the tune” sums this one up, and I agreed. I had spent so long on the notes and making sure that the articulation patterns were right that I hadn’t thought enough about musical direction. I need to play it again on Monday, which is a bit of a pain, but I do think I’ve learned a lot from this study.

Altès: #19: Fine, though I think Trevor would have liked it a little faster. I can play segments of it up to speed, but my tongue still feels like it’s going to fall off when I try to do a page of triple tonguing at crotchet =100!

Bach Variations #12 and #13: Ok but not tight enough…. I need to being doing little bits of this every day for a few minutes to get it tight enough.

Bach Variations #14 and #15: Trevor seemed quite pleased with these, but then tried to push and see how expressively I could play. The challenge with all these studies is achieving the articulation challenges as well as making them sound musical, and I was almost there with both. A case of attention to detail and then forgetting it and letting the music come through.

With regular class as well as the two masterclasses, we still have five to prepare for in the two weeks. Trevor’s solution to this is to set us even more work, and has asked us to write a cadenza for the first movement of Mozart’s G major flute concerto as well for next Thursday. Looks like I’m spending the evening working!