ArticlesAugust 2017FeaturedIssues

Galway Flute Festival: The Masterclasses

The heart of the Galway Flute Festival are the classes by Sir James and Lady Jeanne. Every day in the mornings and afternoons they both work with their students in great depth, with intensity and enthusiasm.

Each day starts with morning warm-ups with Sir James, the students, the guest artists, and The Flute View together learned from Sir James. He took us through our warm-ups using Marcel Moyse’s, “De La Sonorite”, doing the long tones, tonguing and low note exercises as well as melodies from ‘Tone Development Through Interpretation” at the end of the book. Throughout the warm-up Sir James teaches about sound, breathing and music, sharing with us his experience and brilliant expertise. This years’ theme was “singing," and each day he shared some of his favorite Carlos Bergonzi recordings and showed us how Bergonzi’s approach to singing relate to flute playing, through breathing, a focus on beautiful line and a full sound. We are singers too!! Also sharing his expertise on breathing was Dr. Victor Candia, who shared his thoughts on breathing and rib cage placement when breathing, and more, and we practiced his breathing approach in the morning warm-ups as well.  Every day we felt like we were having a private lesson with Sir James!

After the morning warm-up the master classes begin.

Sir James:

Sir James’ class is filled with talented flutists from all over the world. They’ve come to study with him and are dedicated to learning and absorbing everything they can from the master. The students play music from the standard flute repertoire and he helps them improve their approach to the music, their technique and their connection to the music. It can become very detailed and we follow the scores which are projected on a big screen.

I heard some of the next generations great flutists, some who are already teaching and performing all over the world!   The standard is extremely high, so listening to the class was like hearing a flute concert all day long! Sir James always improves their playing, getting them to hear the one thing they may have missed in their playing or preparation. It’s clear that he loves to teach, he teaches over four hours a day! And he plays for the class too – so we got to hear the master player throughout the day, as he generously showed us how he might play a particular piece. At the end of the week, Sir James shared that he learns from the students too- it’s an exchange of ideas between fellow artists and he thanked all the players in his class.

Lady Jeanne:

Lady Jeanne’s class is also filled with wonderful, talented flutists. She begins the day with a flute technique class where she goes over basics and technical issues with the students. In her class the students get down to the nitty gritty. She fixes a student's position, thinks with them about embouchure, and addresses anything that she sees the student isn’t understanding or finds difficult. She doesn’t miss a thing and I watched as a student started with some obvious flute problems and by the end of the lesson had solved the problem and was playing beautifully. She’s a “flute doctor,” diagnosing exactly what the difficulty is and kindly and gently helping the student learn. Lady Jeanne’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious and the students can’t wait to try what she’s taught them.


--Barbara Siesel

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