PIFR Blog: Day 7 – Concert day

2nd July 2016

#pifr2016 Day 7

Faculty concert

We heard simply beautiful performances of pieces by Dvorak, Handel, Clara Schumann, Benson, Sarasate (with a surprise piccolo part played by Wibb), Kuhlau (Wibb and Gwen embodied the ballet class in their performance!),  Gaubert, Lachner and Poulenc.   Each of the faculty members had their own unique musical personalities, but they combined perfectly. Having done the work on empathy and compassion throughout the week, I could see this clearly in their performances with Roger Admiral on piano.   They all brought out  different qualities in each others playing.  For  example, Lorna’s commitment to delivering phrases with such beauty and care was evident in the Gaubert duet- both Lorna  and Gwen  matched each other’s contouring and dynamics. Wibb’s  energy (still at the age of 80!), huge colourful sound and mischievousness were also well matched by Lorna and Gwen.  

Skit night

After dinner it was the turn of the students to perform in the form of skits.  After some wine, we were ready to poke fun at our esteemed faculty members.  I was involved in a skit entitled “Mindless Musician”- a parody of the retreat, where we basically portrayed the opposite of the faculty’s teaching and/or behaviour.  Characters included Valley Girl Gwen, Heather, easily satisfied Wibb, tight and restricted Lorna, “Graby”, and victims.  I played the part of Wibb and was happy to see him laughing at my impression of him, making short notes, drunk repeated notes, stressing in the wrong place (“elePHANT”) etc.  

The evening ended up at Mark House, where we enjoyed each other’s company and admired the beautiful sunset one last time.

It really was a most fantastic retreat.  I set out to be more open in my expression and find my confidence, and I believe I found that with inspiration to take away with me for a year of practice and self-exploration.

On the ferry home Chris noticed the fog horn or ship’s whistle sounded a bit forced- we presumed there was some tightening which restricted the flow of air and resonance.  😉

It’s been a “WONderful” week – I’m exhausted but also refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to prepare for my recital in Tokyo this August.

Hope to see everybody back next year! Make sure to check out www.fluteretreat.com and the Facebook page for interviews, recordings and more.

PIFR Blog: Day 6 – the last day of classes

1 July 2016

#pifr2016 Day 6

Heather’s workshop- the tunnel of love

It was the last day of classes today and the day started with a very emotional workshop with Heather.  We participated in an exercise that involved giving and receiving compliments.  Many tears were shed, but I think this helped the group become closer and let go of insecurities and any uncomfortableness.  

Wibb’s class on Moyse 24 Studies

Another great class by Wibb.  By the end of this retreat we got to number 10.  Not bad, considering Wibb’s huge attention to detail and excellence.  It really raised everyone’s level to a new height.  Articulation, stress, colour, atmosphere, length of notes, type of attack – the list goes on.  So many qualities that contribute to vivid music making, Wibb scrutinised every aspect.   

Wibb’s repertoire class 

We heard Widor’s 4th movement and learnt about taking the phrase to the top (“Do a Rampal- take me to the top”), good accents and matching lengths of notes to suitable words: “I hate your guts!”

Next was Schumann’s Romance no.1 where we learnt the importance of tuning up with the sound we want to play the piece with.  Then came the challenge of making music without distorting the stress or rhythm.  Wibb used the 24 studies for this.

In the Bach E minor, Wibb’s incredible knowledge of harmony and phrasing was fascinating to observe.  Everything made sense and brought cohesion to the whole movement.

Wibb told a great story about Martinu in relation to his sonata.  We heard about bell chimes, Martinu as a sick, young boy stuck in a bell tower tending to a sick bird.  Wibb’s story telling invoked a great change in Marie’s playing.  I also wrote down some more exercises for the book! 

Mindful Musician
This workshop spoke of the rituals we can use to either elevate our energy levels or lower them, depending on the situation.  This related strongly to preparing for concerts or auditions where centering the breath and energy can help when we get anxious or need more “sparkle”.

Lorna and Gaby’s class (Solo flute repertoire)

We heard Syrinx and Bozza.  Lorna gave so many great pieces of advice but also demonstrated with such ease and integrity.  Her sound is beyond compare and every note has a strong musical intention.  When asked a question about finding inspiration, she said that the best thing we can do is listen.  Then she played an excerpt from Mahler which moved people to tears- such wonderful artistry that encapsulated the character of the music.  She gave another beautiful quote, which I think makes a great ending to the day: 

Allow the stillness to be there for the inner song to be heard

PIFR Blog: Day 5 – “Excellence is never an accident”

30th  June 2016

#pifr2016 Day 5

Quote of the day from Aristotle:

Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.

It was a quiet start to the day – everybody was basically exhausted (physically and emotionally) from yesterday.  But after Heather’s class, it was amazing how everybody perked back up again.

Heather’s workshop

We learnt more about compassion, including self-compassion.  The first exercise was to find a neutral state in our bodies and Heather got us to imagine a ball in our bodies that massaged us from the inside and that flowed throughout us.  This had a very calming effect on the group.

We then talked about our morning and evening rituals- things that we do before waking up and falling asleep.  We learnt how vulnerability is a strength and how to embrace that using our “I ..” statements.  These affirmations of identity and self can help us with confrontations in orchestras or with nerves.    Heather gave a nice quote about breathing and its metaphor for life in general:

Every time I take a breath, I am not giving and receiving; I am giving, giving, giving

We then talked about the archetype of musicians and how understanding the “board game” rules, we could find common ground with other flute players or musicians by looking at what we want to achieve as artists, even if we may disagree at a more specific level.

Moyse 24 Studies class by Wibb

Today, no.5 was revisited and Wibb suggested some variations to help find good lively sound and rhythm.  Wibb’s strive for excellence and details really struck a chord with everyone.

The quality of Eb2 was discussed and Wibb taught that if the flute is too far rolled out, the harmonics become out of tune and we hear a note that is between a B and a C.  Eb2 needs more focus and be more covered.

For no.6, Wibb suggested this study is by Verdi and harmonized the flute part on the piano, giving the study more drama.  The aim was to find a dramatic sound – not loud, but penetrating.

Lorna and Gaby’s class

Another great class combining the masters of flute and Alexander Technique.  Lorna used some great imagery for the breath.  For example,  letting the sound go like throwing a javelin-  don’t hold it, just let it go.    There was also an interesting concept of blowing out into the in breath, which enabled the in breath to be more automatic and without force.

In the Martinu sonata (2nd movement), Lorna demonstrated how we can trust our airstream to get us over large intervals without involving muscular tension.  “Trust your airstream” is something that will stick with us.

She also talked legato and compared the airstream to great violinist’s bow arm, never losing the connection.  There was a further comparison to molasses – thick and sliding between the notes.

In more animated sections, Lorna talked of igniting the sound and bouncing the air.

Lorna’s technique class

Lorna talked of the dangers of grasping (mentally and physically) or end-gaining  and balance.

An artist should not treat himself like an enemy  (Delacroix)

Once we accept our limits, go beyond them (Einstein)

We worked on harmonics, crescendos and diminuendos and scales- all requiring the supple movement of the lower lip.   At all times, we undertook the exercises with ease and spaciousness.

Thanks for reading and Happy Fluting!