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 162 – March 11th – Spring Air

A more positive day today, helped along by the fact that it’s almost warm outside! I went running in a T-shirt for the first time since September, and also had my window open all day. I ran past fields of lambs (must take some photos) and daffodils ready to break into flower.

As for practice…I didn’t start out in a terribly good frame of mind this morning, but that improved with the day. I’ve noticed lately that my finger movements are becoming a lot smaller and more precise, both in technical exercises and studies. Trevor’s Practice Book 6 exercises really show up the finger movements that are hard – I’ll be going along at crotchet =126 no problem, and then all of a sudden one set comes up that really throws me off. Today I did E, F, G and H, and there were fewer surprises that I was anticipating, though still more than I want. Anything involving both an F# and a Bb is a disaster!

I spent quite a bit of time working on sight-reading, which is much better these days. I still tend to play unrhythmically when faced with a slow movement with lots of turns and grace notes, as the ornaments throw off my sense of the beat. I think I need not to focus on the little notes so much, but it’s hard when they’re small and I don’t know what they are.

This afternoon, Trevor emailed to say he has a cold and there’s no class tomorrow. I have to confess I did a little happy dance – the thought of playing the Hue Fantasie on one day’s practice was not enticing! Instead, I spent the last hour of my practice working on Andersen and Altès studies. I’m adamant I’ll finish the Altès book next week – while there’s a section of no. 25 that’s tricky with lots of quick trills, no. 26 is easy. Getting through the whole book will be a nice sense of accomplishment.

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 152 – March 1st – A bit of whimsy

To go with the start of a new month, today really was beautiful English springtime weather. I spent most of the morning Skyping and didn’t get onto practice until relatively late-on. My technical work was a bit of a mixed bag – some of it went really well and then other bits were sloppy. While getting through No. 4 of Boehm’s Twelve Studies from memory was a struggle, the much more difficult No. 1 was easy.

Since Christmas, Trevor has been introducing more and more variations on his technical exercises in class. Some are relatively easy, like playing page 90 of Complete Daily Exercises alternating major and minor each time. Others are tricky, particularly Taffanel and Gaubert-style scales with added mordants on the descent! The variations on page 96 are positively endless, and at once fun and difficult. I like exploring all the ways we can play around with a very simple pattern, but then struggle to apply it to the last bar of the sequence – the dominant 7th of the next key. I know exactly what the notes should be, but don’t relax enough with them and am constantly second-guessing myself. That said, at the beginning of the course I couldn’t imagine playing most of the exercises from memory at all!

This afternoon, I took advantage of the lovely weather to go back to Spong Wood. I took my flute and zoom (microphone), and, after wading through quite a bit of mud, improvised for a while in a glade. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, and loved the experience. It was sunny, almost warm, and I was alone with the trees and the birds. I’ve recorded the improvisation, and will play around with it in Max 7. Stay tuned for the results!

After that, though, it was back to studies. I feel like Altès No. 24 is finally working, after spending quite a while this week getting my fingers around the tricky mordants, but am not convinced that Andersen No. 16 is ready. Hopefully we’ll spend plenty of time planning our Bodsham Primary School concert and my Moyse, Altes and Drouet studies will be enough!

Day 145 – February 22nd – Stormy Weather and Motivation

As I sit writing this there is one big storm going on outside. It started just after 4pm, just as I’d decided to go for a walk, and looks set to stay for the night. Hopefully my room won’t get too cold with the wind.

After the very late arrival home last night, I had a bit of a lazy morning, helped on by some Skype chats with friends in Australia. To be honest, I could have done with a day off practice all together, and if we didn’t have class tomorrow would certainly have been tempted to leave the flute in its case and go on a very long walk! This lack of motivation to practice seems to be a problem in recent weeks – I feel ready for a break to properly relax and digest all the information I’ve received. I think most of the others feel the same way too, as nobody seems terribly enthusiastic about class! However,  we still have five weeks to go, and so the holiday will have to wait a bit longer.

I decided today to cut the technique practice down a bit and make sure that I had plenty of time to work on studies. The Moyse 25 Melodic Studies still feel hairy, and I know that with more time I will continue to improve on all the various aspects of articulation. For now, I know I’ve worked hard on it for the past week and that I’ve improved, with I need to keep in mind whatever the feedback tomorrow. By contrast, I’m rather surprised and pleased that Andersen No. 15 feels quite good. On Friday I probably would have said it couldn’t be ready in time, but with quite a bit of work yesterday and today it’s sitting quite nicely. Hopefully it’ll sound good in class tomorrow, and my ability to learn things quickly is improving.

Though I spent most of the day lacking in motivation, a CD I listened to this evening has reinvigorated my musical passions. My listening topic for this week is Barthold Kuijken, a baroque flute specialist. One of the CDs I borrowed out is of a live concert recorded in Rome as part of the Flautissimo series, and features Kuijken playing three of Telemann’s Fantasies for solo flute. The performance was beautifully rhetorical – every note had a meaning and the music was just stunning. Then the next track was of Mario Caroli playing Ferneyhough’s Carceri d’invenzione IIb! A wonderful contrast, and testament to the diversity of the flute. It’s the Telemann, though, that will be playing through my dreams tonight.