Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Meeting Sir James Galway

When I was eleven years old I started playing the flute because my best friend at the time started playing the flute the year before and I thought it was really cool.  My parents rented an Artley for me and then when I was 15 invested in a professional model Gemeinhardt.  

For the first ten years of my musical education, my flute and I were not far apart. My life revolved around my band friends and activities. I was a music major (flute performance - I never had any aspirations of becoming a band director!) when I started college, 

and met my husband (euphonium and tuba) in the marching band at the University of Utah.

In the late 70's, when I first became aware of music around me, Jean-Pierre Rampal was the big name in recorded flute music. Then James Galway started making his way into the record stores. Most people would have heard him first in John Denver's 'Annie's Song'. When I was in high school I bought my first cassette tape of Galway. (I just looked on iTunes to confirm the name of this album, but it looks like the pieces were absorbed into other compilations.)

In addition to marrying a band geek, we've raised four band geeks: 

two flutists,

a French horn player 

and a percussionist

(and we are getting ready to get our youngest set up with her first instrument - another flute.)  
We have also acquired a son-in-law band geek who plays french horn with the 
UMW Symphony Orchestra.
And THAT's how I found out that James Galway was coming to Fredericksburg!

I will admit that once I was married with small children and began moving around the world with my USMC husband, there were years that I didn't even know where my flute was.  I didn't really start playing with any regularity until we moved to Fredericksburg and Mike retired from the Marine Corps. We became charter members of the Fredericksburg Community Concert Band and some friends and I started up the 

Fredericksburg Ayres (Fredericksburg's Finest Flute Ensemble!)
Marla Snyder, Kristine Clifford, Julie Lauver and moi

So for the last 15 years my life has been flute enriched again, just in time for Sir James Galway to come into my life and re-energize my love of my flute. 

In addition to the concert, those with VIP tickets were invited to a question and answer session the morning of the concert.  Unfortunately the lighting was horrible and my pictures did not come out.  I didn't have any good questions to ask (- until after the session then I thought of a great one, but I'll have to keep it to myself I guess...)  

A Few Nuggets From Galway
  • Get into a practice routine which starts with long tones, moves through scales, etudes then a nice piece of performance music. (He still does this!)
  • Your embouchure should be relaxed - not 'smiley' like band directors tend to teach their beginning flute players (and I will be conscious of as I start my newest flute player on her flute adventure.)
  • Three pressure points: lip, right thumb and left crook in the index finger. These three points will support the flute.  The fingers should be relaxed and natural.
  • The keys should be 'stroked' not 'hammered'.  
  • When practicing the long tones, practice playing these at a variety of dynamics, especially pianissimo and maintain intonation throughout. He said when playing pianissimo, you are not lessening how fast the air is blown, you are lessening how big the airstream is.   This really made me stop and think, because we are always told to 'support' those soft notes, but what does that really mean? Well, Sir James just told me!  
After the concert, which was just amazing, the VIP ticket holders were invited to a reception to meet him.  

Marla Snyder, moi, Sir James Galway, Sue Cosgrove

My dear husband was the great photographer, and his only question for Sir James Galway?  "What's your favorite beer?"
His response? 

Guinness, of course!

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