Day 92 – December 31st – Farewell 2014

I was rather hoping that we have at least some sort of New Year celebration at the flute studio, but Trevor has decided to go for routine instead! So New Year is “cancelled” until Friday, and we instead have class tomorrow with Roussel’s Joueurs de la flûte and the flute solo from Beethovens Overture ‘Leonore No.3’ on the menu. I’ve played the Roussel before, and we’re each only required to prepare two movements, so I’m feeling a bit more relaxed about tomorrow than in some previous weeks. Though I haven’t worked on the Beethoven in years, it’s not too bad as excerpts go, and hopefully I’ve targeted the things that Trevor’s most likely to pick holes in!

That left me freer to practice a lot of technique and studies today, and I feel like I’m making some progress with the notes in my two Altes studies for next week. The main criticism of the two I played on Monday was that they were too slow, and I’m keen for that not to become a theme. I am noticing some big improvements with speed though: my Taffanel and Gaubert-style scales this morning were much quicker and more even than a few weeks ago. When I think about the phrase shape rather than the notes, I tend to make fewer mistakes.

Mental practice today was focused on the dreaded Bohem study no. 1 (from Trevor’s Complete Daily Excercises), which I am trying to memorise. The problem now is that I know the pattern quite clearly, but tend to forget to make the descending half of the second bar diminished, and then fall over myself when it becomes a dominant 7th in the third bar. Once again, it’s about getting it into the fingers and not thinking too much about it. I’ve been trying to really focus on the physical sensation of playing the arpeggios, and am even imagining myself doing it in my usual place in the studio room as an extra barrier against nerves. I’m hoping that slow and steady will get there eventually – I can play it slowly from memory on my own, but it needs to be faster and more secure.

Since it’s the final hours of 2014, I feel like I should take a step back and reflect on the year. I’ve crammed quite a lot in:

Way back at Easter, I competed at the Aussie marathon kayaking championships, winning a bronze medal in the ladies open K1 and coming fourth in the ladies open K2 with my lovely sister…

…submitted the final copy of my thesis to the Melbourne University library…

…finished off my Masters degree with an epic recital in late June. A new commission from my lovely friend Andrew Aronowicz, Jolivet’s crazy flute and four percussion concerto and much more besides. For the music, but most importantly for the people I was honoured to be able to perform with, it’s a concert I won’t forget in a while! …

…packed up my lovely flat and life at St Mary’s College, and headed off to Europe with a very big backpack…

…spent an amazing two weeks at the SoundSCAPE Festival in Maccagno, Italy playing wonderful music with fantastic new friends…

…traveled round Europe for ten weeks, visiting seven countries, attending the wedding of my wonderful friend Lucia, catching up with friends from my year in Helsinki, visiting my grandparents, hiking barefoot up mountains, cycling in the Loire Valley, trying to speak Italian and German, eating wonderful food and sleeping in nineteen different beds in two and a half months! …

…and arrived here in Kent to Trevor and his flute course.

So 2014 has been a busy one. At the beginning of the year I had no idea where I’d be at the end of it, and I still can’t believe just how much I’ve managed to fit in. As 2015 dawns, I’m still not totally sure where I’ll be in three and a half months time, let alone the end of the year. But I have many musical dreams, some of which are becoming clear goals, and wonderful friends and family who believe in me even when I err. Bring it on.

Day 17 – October 17th – Practise, listen, read, practise

Today was a practice day, and I managed to get a lot done. After a few weeks here, I’m getting better at pacing myself through the day so that I don’t arrive at 3pm a total train wreck after trying to cram everything in too early. At the moment, an idea practice day seems to be:

– Wake up 6:45am

– Out the door for a run at 7am, running for half an hour (I think that’s about 3 miles). I’m still in love with the sky here, it is vast and stunning no matter what the weather or time of day. The mornings always offer me something beautiful, be it a hazy sunrise, sparkling colours or heavy fog.

– After breakfast and a shower, start practise, alternating an hour’s playing with 15 min rest for a cup of tea. This is definitely my best time of the day, and I relish getting through all the various scales and exercises. I feel great if I can get three hours done before lunch!

Playing with the Quena

Playing with the Quena this evening

– In the afternoon, two or three additional hours of practice, but with longer rest breaks of at least 30 min, but often nearer an hour. This is when I’m doing my various listening and reading projects, as well as having some down-time.

– Our walk with Trevor at 7:42pm (yes, he’s that precise!) is a good way to end the day, especially if it’s not too cold. We walk and talk, sometimes about the flute, sometimes about other things.

This evening I was Trevor’s walking partner, and we talked about a range of things; ethnic flutes, his time in Singapore, his childhood during the War. I borrowed a Quena – a type of Andean flute – for the weekend, and I shared my thoughts on playing that with him. It’s a lovely instrument and I’ve enjoyed having a play, but am finding the airiness in the second octave rather frustrating. Trevor’s advice was to “blow harder”.

And finally, because I’m trying to become a well-organised musician with a ‘sustainable artistic practice’ (according to my ArtStart application), I decided it was time to do battle with my tax return. It’s now done, but I would have taken an extra hour of scales any day!

Day 12 – October 12 – Visiting churches


Two of the little village churches we visited today.

Two of the little village churches we visited today, I can no longer remember the names!

It’s only 9:30pm and I’m exhausted! I think three full days of practising has been a bit more tiring that I’d like to admit, and I’m quite ready for bed. Tomorrow’s lesson will be a good change of pace – less time playing and more listening to everybody else.

My work on the Reichert exercises is beginning to pay off – I got through F major to F minor of No. 2 from memory this morning. Once I get into Db major territory, though, things are still a bit hairy! I’ve also managed to increase the metronome a whole four beats per minute with the horrible Pinke Polka, which I think is driving everyone up the wall. I’m now at crotchet = 54 (playing it really well), and am wondering whether I’ll ever make it up the string of metronome markings I’ve written at the bottom of the page to crotchet = 80?

Trevor’s comments of this week have made me start to be more discerning with rhythm. After being very good and going through all my Moyse finger exercises (minor 2nd to major 3rd, it only took 40 min), I made myself go all the way back to the beginning and sort out my awfully uneven semiquavers in the first little group. Pedantic or what?


This church was beside a rather picturesque square with a stately home on the other side. The only problem: the square was full of parked cars!

I have also been trying to sort out playing with more expression, and have been practising both Andersen No. 1 and 2 with a full range of dynamics and lots of feel for the direction of the musical line. Maybe that’s the reason I’m so tired!

This afternoon, Trevor decided that we were going out for ‘a drive round’, which turned out to be a tour of some local churches and farm-come-teas shop. It was rather an odd excursion, and when Trevor sent the email round this morning I was annoyed; I hadn’t planned that into my day! I ended up quite enjoying the churches, and would have liked to spend a bit longer in the churchyards reading some gravestones.


Day 4 – October 4th – Getting in some real practice!

Today was the first ‘free’ day we’ve had so far, free as in no lessons, orientation or Tesco trips. Instead, we had the whole day to practise, and plenty of motivation after yesterday’s lessons.

The figures are as follows:

Total hours: 5

Hours practising ‘warm-up’ exercises from Trevor’s Complete Daily Exercises book: 3

Cups of tea: 4

Episodes of Dr Who: 1 (I have to maintain sanity somehow!)

Feeling in lips: …

Trevor dropped by in the morning to give us some goodies from the bakery and bags of locally grown apples and pears. It was lovely, though we are now rather swimming in apples. I do suspect that he might have had another motive for coming round though; when the first comment on entering the door is ‘isn’t it lovely to hear all those scales’, I rather wonder whether he makes regular visits up to the dairies just to check that we’re practising!


Sunset over the downs

It rained for most of the afternoon, but at about 6pm it cleared just in time for the sunset. Down the road and round the bend, there is a wonderful view out over the downs, and I wandered there along the wet hedgerows. I arrived to see the still-ominous clouds streaked with pink and gold, as if someone had set fire to them.