Day 149 – February 26th – Cloudy with light drizzle

I’m not sure the weather forecast got it quite right for today – cloudy with light drizzle turned into pea soup with lashings of rain by the time it arrived in Elmsted! It was a good day for solid pracitising, and I got in a good five and a half hours…with the help of as many cups of tea!

Like I said yesterday, I had quite clear plans for what needed practising in the Copland Duo, and think that I did quite a good job of sorting them out. It’s a pity that there’s only time in class tomorrow for the first movement, as I really like the piece and would like to prepare it ‘properly’ for something. The second movement (I had a quick play through this afternoon) is stunning. Oh well, another piece to add to my wish list.

Back to doing a full three hours of warm-ups and technique, I was surprised today just how much I got through in the time. I remember back at the beginning of December I was still taking half an hour to get through Reichert No. 2 from memory. Now I can fly through that and quite a few of the other exercises with no problems at all. No. 1 from Boehm’s Twelve Studies is finally there as well, after many painful practice sessions! Both my memory and my finger speed are certainly improving, though I do still get frustrated with myself in class if I can’t keep up with some of the others.

Day 109 – January 17th – Sleet

I had rather hoped to wake up this morning with even a little bit of snow on the ground, but it was just icy and rather grey. Instead, we had half an hour of sleet in the afternoon. Great clumps of soggy wetness that turned to water as soon as they hit the ground. At least it was fun to watch – from inside, snuggled up in my over-sized woolly jumper with a cup of tea!

My painstaking efforts with the Bach E minor sonata are definitely starting to pay off – I’m almost there with memorising the first movement! While it in itself doesn’t seem like much, thinking through all the exercises that I’ve committed to memory over the last three and a half months does make me feel like I’ve achieved quite a bit. The Maquarre exercises are also coming from memory, and I made it through to D minor without glancing at the music this morning. After spending quite a bit of time in flat key territory with them (starting at the top of the page, it works through from C major in descending 5ths), I was really excited to find that the tail end of the circle from A major to E minor felt very easy.

Trevor cancelled our walk again this evening, but my proposal of chamber music was finally taken up and I walked over to the Old Dairy to play quartets with the girls there. We read through some lovely Schmitt, an arrangement of Chopin piano preludes (nice melodies, but my 3rd flute part was rather dull), Ravel’s Pièce en forme d’Habanera for four flutes, and then ended up once again with the Furstenau Op. 88 quartet that we read last time.

I love the last movement of this piece, which is variations on Deutschlandlied (the German national anthem). I can’t find any recordings of the flute quartet on youtube, but there are several of the tune in its original and arguably more pleasing form. It was originally written by Haydn as the slow movement of his Op.76, No. 3 string quartet, the ‘Emperor’. This is a recording of the wonderful Takacs quartet, and though the slow movement starts at 9:35, I’ve just very happily listened to the whole thing through twice!

Day 99 – January 7th – In a good rhythm

After feeling a bit lethargic yesterday, today was really quite wonderful for a whole combination of things. Rather than trying to convince myself that running was a good idea in the dark, I went at the much better time of 9am after my first hour of practice. I ran a long way, right round to the church then up into Hastingleigh the back way and coming back to Elmsted in one big loop. Alas, I didn’t manage to run all the way, as the road was really icy down by the church and then the final hill up to our dairy was a real killer. Still, it was a lovely time of the morning to be out, and I had a great time despite the sore legs.

Muffins - not my prettiest baking creation but still quite yummy.

Muffins – not my prettiest baking creation but still quite yummy.

In the afternoon, I finally got round to baking some muffins, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Grandma gave me a rather nice flexible tray at Christmas, and so I made dark chocolate and raspberry muffins with the hope of taking them to class tomorrow. I’ve got slightly mixed feelings about the result – they taste nice but didn’t come out of the tray terribly well and have misshapen bottoms – but had lots of fun in the process. There is something infinitely relaxing about rubbing butter into flour!

I still managed to fit in a good five and a half hours of practice around all this, and it was much better than last week. It’s my turn to propose a warm-up tune tomorrow, as well as directing the exercises that follow. I think I’m ready! My warm-up tune is the opening flute solo (2nd passing to 1st) of Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye, since I’m currently writing a program note for it for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 Discovery program.

Then there’s all the rest of the things to prepare. Our repertoire for tomorrow is Schubert’s Trockne Blumen Variations, which are monumental as flute works go. While yesterday’s practice on it was rather average, today went quite well. I’m not sure whether it’s my fingers remembering the work I did on it three years ago, all the scales we’ve been doing or a combination of both, but it all felt quite comfortable and I’m not too stressed about playing it in class tomorrow. I just need to remember to be expressive and play dotted rhythms correctly!

Finally, I spent an hour before our walk doing some of my listening project for the week. My chosen topic is the American flautist (or should I say flutist since he’s American?) William Kincaid, and amoung Trevor’s CDs I found an absolute gem. It’s a retrospective of Kincaid’s career with the Philadelphia Orchestra, originally for radio, with lots of really old recordings of him playing orchestral, chamber and solo works. Despite the presenter being awful (something of an old recordings collector by the sound of it, but really needed a script), the musical snapshot was fantastic, and the background information helped to put it all into context. Kincaid’s playing is stunning, particularly in the orchestral pieces. There was the Entr’acte from Bizet’s Carmen, Debussy’s Après-midi d’une faune, a really rather delicious rendition of the Daphnis and Chloe (Ravel) flute solo. I can easily say it’s the best CD I’ve listened to so far from Trevor’s collection.

Now I’m sitting here with a cup of chamomile tea, listening to David Francey’s Belgrade Train (it’s awesome!) and thinking that it’s days like today that really make the experience here at the flute studio. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a time and space like this again, so need to make the most of it. And of course practice scales!

Day 42 – November 11th – Tea

More composer-naming on the way to Tesco today, and Trevor decided to return to ‘B’. We were directed to the Flute Ark  website yesterday for a rather exhaustive list of composers and flute repertoire, with the clear instruction to have learned some by this morning. While the group is slowly getting better at volunteering information, I think Trevor still got a bit frustrated at the lack of enthusiasm for his game! On the plus side, I now know a lot more repertoire by composers beginning with B.

Otherwise, my practice today was rather scant. A family friend, Beryl, is holidaying near Lyminge, and I walked over in the afternoon for a cup of tea and a catch-up. While four miles is actually quite a long way, I enjoyed the walk over – is was a sunny day and remarkably mild for this time of year. I walked past fields and farmhouses, through a big wood, and up a couple of big hills. Beryl is just the same as I remember her eight years ago, and along with her lovely friends we had a good chat. I was, however, somewhat relieved to be offered a lift back.

In the evening, we rehearsed some of the jazz pieces for our Christmas concert. They’re cute and fun, but I’m worried that as a group we’re not using our rehearsal time very well. Though I know there are still some passages that I haven’t got under my fingers yet, on a group level there are tempo incongruities where there really shouldn’t be at our level. I’m not sure what to do to change this either, especially when several individuals’ foot-tapping is clearly not lining up! Hopefully Trevor will give some guidance on Thursday.


Day 29 – October 29th – Wet Weather Blues

Despite having a productive practice day, I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts. Some of it is probably the weather (low cloud and light drizzle), some also that I’m still not fitting in terribly well with the other students here. With five months still to go, thought, I think it’s better to focus on the positives:

– I had a lovely Skype with a friend in Australia this morning
– Wet weather just makes me want to drink more tea, and I bought some green tea with cranberry this week, which is wonderfully warming
– I made more progress with scales today, and even the melodic minors are starting to sound fluent. Eb melodic minor, the bane of my practice last week, is now sitting really well under the fingers.
– My room smells nice – I’ve been burning the rhubarb crumble scented candle I won at whist a few weeks ago!
– In my humble opinion, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of the Griffes Poem in preparation for tomorrow.
– Next week is bonfire night!