Four show how to blow with the flow

1st March 1996 at 00:00
It was a measure of the professionalism of Just Flutes, an ensemble of four young Scottish musicians, that when they ran a workshop for about 50 Lothian pupils in the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, the fact that they were hardly older than their charges did not prevent them establishing such authority that not a moment was wasted.

After demonstrating such exotica as the baroque and alto flutes and performing a few short ensemble items, they immediately involved the whole company in a sequence of physical exercises to enhance posture, flexibility and breathing which broke the ice and made the adrenalin flow.

Each member of the quartet took a turn to introduce an aspect of technique. Everyone took part in learning a tune by rote; a slight timelag in the near unison of the massed performance had the hypnotic quality of Gaelic psalm singing. In a remarkably short time, breathing, tonguing, tone, articulation and dynamics were explained, demonstrated and practised.

The informal approach dispelled nerves and reticence by combining party games and serious application. Suggestions were made to alleviate the tedium of learning scales; particularly effective was the group playing of scales in canon, producing some intriguing harmonies not usually associated with this drudgery.

After the break, the assembled numbers were divided into four groups according to standard and sent away to prepare a short piece which was later performed in a short concert.

The least-experienced played a semi-improvised item created on the spot in response to instructions and hand signals from the leader. Entitled Enchanted Forest, it contained rhythm, dynamic shading and colour, worthy of a written-down composition, revealing what an inspiring musician can achieve from committed pupils. This was a morning of music-making very well spent by all who participated.

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