Exciting, busy times

I'm really happily busy at the moment. I'm mostly busy with planning stuff for Flutewise. Next year will be our 30th anniversary. It doesn't seem possible that I've been running Flutewise for 30 years. It's been a fantastic 30 years and I'm hoping the next few years will be as good or even better! The main plan for celebrating 30 years is ENORMOUS and I'm not sure it will happen in 2018 0r 2019 or even later, but it will be worth waiting for. I'll write more about it when I can.

But other, smaller events are all being booking in. They are really, really exciting. I'll do my very best to update the website on Monday or Tuesday of next week and hopefully you will reserve your place at one or more of these events.

On January 14 we will be holding a Flutewise event at Kent College in Canterbury with Abbie Burrows and Gareth McLearnon.

During the weekend of 3-4 February we will be having a Flutewise weekend in Jersey with Mike Mower and Cathy Hare (this is waiting to be confirmed but I'm really hoping it will happen). It would seem a lovely excuse for families to have a weekend in Jersey and send their young flute player along while they explored the island or just relaxed.

On 4 March we are going to be back in Tonbridge for our annual event at the Schools at Somerhill. This time it will be with Abbie Burrows and Gareth McLearnon.

Just after Easter, 3-6 April, it will be our residential course at Woldingham. This is really exciting as Jerry Randalls will be one of our resident teaching staff and he will be working alongside Flutewise Apprentice Jess Cooling to compose a flute choir piece to celebrate our anniversary. Course members will also be involved in this composition. I'm also thrilled that pianist, Chris Baxter will be with us.

Dates for our course in Croatia next summer are also firmly in the diary. Get in touch if you want to come. I've asked my friends at Villa Soulavy to reserve all 7 apartments they have available for only any Flutewise families as it is so much fun for us all to be together. Hurry if you want one, at least 3 have been booked already.

I'm busy this weekend. I'm off to London, tomorrow for the ABRSM conference where I'm really looking forward to seeing Ana and Blaz Pucihar who are visiting from Slovenia and on Sunday I'm off to the Barbican to hear Adam Walker and the amazing LSO. Maybe I'll see you at one of them.

A new academic year

Did you have a fantastic summer? I did. The highlight had to be our course in Croatia. It was magical.


Now it's the start of the new academic year and, as far as my work with Flutewise goes, a time for lots of planning. I'm very excited about the next year and beyond because it will be 

the 30th anniversary of Flutewise

Can you believe I've been running Flutewise for 30 years?! I can't, but it's true. It has been such a pleasure and so much fun over all of these years and I'm hoping I can make the next year a real 'party' year with lots of events to celebrate this achievement. There are a number of possibilities for events we are researching and, even if I manage to pull just a tiny few of the ideas off, it will all be good fun and very educational and inspirational for flute players.

A few dates are already confirmed - we've got a day at Kent College, Canterbury on Sunday 14 January; our residential course at Woldingham will be from 3 - 6 April; Croatia dates are fixed for August next year and there are more in the pipeline. 

Do keep an eye on our website for more dates and if you have an idea for an event, and/or would like one in your area to help celebrate 30 years of Flutewise, please let me know and we'll see what we can do.

Flute Roots Day

Very exciting news!

Flute Roots are hosting a fundraising concert for Robin Soldan to help him raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK on September 24th.

If you know Robin and would like to catch up with him, he will be there!

Calling all ex-pupils of Robin - come along and either play in the flute choirs or perhaps play in Erithacus 2.

If you are an enthusiastic flautist of grade 2 or above, come and join us in a flute choir.

Or even just come along to the concert at 3pm to be entertained!

This is going to be a brilliant afternoon of fluting, together with friends, old and new.

Please book your players/concert tickets in advance.


Fantastic Day

Every flute choir member in our competition won a goody bag with a Haynes pencil, a Beaumont cleaning cloth and this adorable Azumi bear

Every flute choir member in our competition won a goody bag with a Haynes pencil, a Beaumont cleaning cloth and this adorable Azumi bear

I think it is fair to say that everyone involved in our Flutewise Live! 2017 on Sunday 16 July really enjoyed themselves. I'm still recovering! It was quite a lot of hard work, but well worth it.

During the morning of the event we held the final of the Flutewise/ABRSM Flute Choir Competition. It was the very first time of doing this and I learnt a great deal. There were 4 groups performing in the two classes, Open Class and School Age Class. They all performed amazingly and I know they all worked extremely hard to be there, not just with their playing but also, for some of them, raising the funds to get there. Groups came from all over the country, which was amazing. The Open Class ensembles performed first to our judges, Gareth McLearnon, Ana Kavcic Pucihar and Blaz Pucihar. They had to play Gareth McLearnon's Flutewise Theme and then a piece of their own choice lasting no more than 4 minutes. We heard the following groups:

    •    Chichester Flute Choir directed by Julie Twite

    •    Glasgow University Flute Club directed by Frances Barnett

    •    Bedfordshire Woodwind Academy Flute Ensemble directed by Liz Childs

    •    Classic Flutes, East Sussex directed by Sue Gregg

For the School Age Class we heard:

    •    Les Six, Yorkshire directed by Nikki Warrington

    •    Hampshire Flute Choir directed by Carrie Hensel

    •    Funky Flutes, Hampshire directed by Sarah Finch

    •    Loughborough Flute Choir directed by Jo Kirkwood

The School Age Class performed The Dolphin from Luna's Magic Flute by Blaz Pucihar and Walk Like This by Ian Clarke.

After the performances the judges put their heads together to work out the winners. They had given each group marks out of 20 for 6 different categories - Ensemble, Intonation, Dynamics, Tone Production, Accuracy/Interpretation and General, meaning each group could score a maximum of 300 marks. They also each gave written feedback on each category. It was a relief  for them to agree on everything!

We didn't announce the results until later in the afternoon, so you need to read on about what happened next before I tell you!

We had a lunch break and then the afternoon event started with a sublime performance from Blaz Pucihar (pianist and composer) and his flute playing wife, Ana Kavcic Pucihar. They played three pieces from Blaz's Flute at Play collection; Flute at Play, Dreamy Flute and Erica at the Playground. Then they played two pieces from their flute tutor book, Fluting Stars, they were If I met a Martian and Idaho Cowboy. They finished their recital with a new piece that is on the new Grade 7 syllabus, Moonlit Blue.

After this Louise Matthew led everyone in a huge warm up. It was great to hear everyone playing together. Then it was Gareth McLearnon's turn to teach everyone his Fanfare which he wrote for a Flutewise event in 2013. We had experienced huge problems during the morning with the projector but I was so relieved that thanks to the hard work of Joleigh and an emergency dash to the shops, the projector was working for the afternoon and everyone managed to read the dots!

John Holmes, the chief ABRSM examiner then gave a fascinating talk entitled Hallmarks of Distinction! Helping you do the best in your next exam.

Sight reading is an essential skill we all need, not only to get through those exams but to make us into a really good musician and to help us develop these skills, Abbie Burrows and Clare Jefferis gave an entertaining, interactive presentation.

We then had a break and everyone had the chance to explore the travelling flute shops. We had huge displays from Just Flutes, Top Wind and Wonderful Winds. We were really grateful for their support.

One of the highlights of the event for me happened next. It gave me that wonderful 'tingly spine' sensation. Gareth Davies welcomed all the flute players onto stage to take part in a Star Wars Playalong. It really was quite magic. Gareth had arranged the main theme, Cantina Band and the Imperial March for us with the backing of the LSO none the less!

The Wrong Grade Exam was next. You really needed to be there to understand the genius and hilarity of this. Abbie Burrows put it together and not only was it brilliant and funny but it was very educational. Some professional players took Grade exams and got things terribly wrong!

There was the very naughty boy who hadn't done any practice played by Gareth McLearnon. He took Grade 4 and even tried to bribe the examiner (John Holmes) with sweeties! It didn't work.

Gareth Davies was the next candidate attempting Grade 1 but he was so very, very nervous.

Clare Jefferris had entered Grade 7, after proudly announcing she'd taken a grade exam every term. She was very badly prepared as you'd expect.

Ana from Slovenia then arrived late to take her Grade 3 and she played a very lovely piece composed by her husband, Blaz who was the exam pianist for the event. It hadn't occurred to her to check the syllabus as the piece wasn't on it! However it was reassuring to know even if you do play something not on the list, you won't necessarily fail, although it isn't a very good idea.

The highlight had to be the next candidate, taking Grade 2 and playing Wouldn't it be Loverly?, it was Darth Vader! The piece was hilarious but problems occurred when the examiner asked for scales and Darth Vader got a bit cross. So cross that he MURDERED the chief examiner! There is a video, I will try and work out how to post it.

During the afternoon there had been some separate workshops for parents and for flute teachers. Parents enjoyed exploring the beginnings of learning an instrument with Abbie and Clare and how to help their child prepare for an exam with John and Ana gave a workshop for teachers about sound production followed by Louise exploring the new music on the syllabus with them.

We ended the day with a lovely concert. The two winning flute choirs performed after everyone played Gareth's Fanfare. We then had a selection of favourite pieces from the new syllabus. There is some gorgeous music and we experienced divine playing:

GRADE 1 - Brahms - Cradle Song (A2) - Gareth Davies  

GRADE 2 - Trad - Loch Lomond (C3) - Abbie Burrows             

GRADE 2 - Offenbach - Can-Can (A1) - Simon Williams

GRADE 3 - Trad - Irish Washerwoman (A2) - Gareth McLearnon  

GRADE 4 - Handel - Allegro (A2) - Abbie Burrows

GRADE 4 - Trad - Mexican Hat Dance (C3) - Clare Jefferis

GRADE 5 - Verdi - Violetta's Aria (A3) - Gareth McLearnon 

GRADE 6 - Gaubert - Madrigal - ClareJefferis

GRADE 7 - Poulenc - Cantilena - SimonWilliams

GRADE 8 - Faure: Fantasie - Gareth Davies

If you play like any of our performers in your next exam you will do exceedingly well.

It was a really lovely event and I'm grateful to all the performers mentioned and all of the people behind the scenes who made it possible - Lorna Brown, Joleigh Saunders, Elisabeth Saunders, Tomoko and Peter Watson, Sue Burrows, Pat Daniels, Lizzie Sinnett, Mark Goodwin, Jane Dennison (and anyone else I've forgotten!) Also enormous thanks go to the staff from the travelling shops and everyone who gave prizes for the competition. Oh yes, the competition! The winners? Well they were all winners in my opinion. I really do hate competitions as I like to encourage everyone just to take part and do their best - and have fun. I think we all did and everyone taking part in the competition won a goody bag containing a booklet from Flutewise, a Haynes pencil, a lovely cleaning cloth from Beaumont Music and an amazing teddy bear from Azumi! But there were other prizes. The results were:
Open Class

1st Prize Bedfordshire Woodwind Academy Flute Ensemble directed by Liz Childs. Mark 277/300 Prize Guo G treble flute

2nd Prize Classic Flutes, East Sussex directed by Sue Gregg. Mark 269/300 Prize £150 Gift Voucher from Top Wind

3rd Prize Glasgow University Flute Club directed by Frances Barnett. Mark 254/300 Prize £30 Gift Voucher from Wonderful Winds

4th Prize Chichester Flute Choir director Julie Twite. Mark 244/300 Prize Chocolates

School Age Class

1st Prize Hampshire Flute Choir director Carrie Hensel. Mark 267/300 Prize £300 Gift Voucher from The Vibe towards a low flute

2nd Prize Loughborough Flute Ensemble director Jo Kirkwood. Mark 262/300 Prize £150 Gist Voucher from Just Flutes

3rd Prize Les Six, Yorkshire directed by Nikki Warrington. Mark 256/300 Prize £30 Gift Voucher from Wonderful Winds

4th Prize Funky Flutes, Hampshire director Sarah Finch. Mark 242/300 Prize Chocolates

Congratulations to all. Everyone was a winner! 

Now I'm having a bit of a rest before I put my mind to planning rather a lot of events for the 12 months coming. Watch this space.

A week to go!

It's a beautiful sunny day and I'm sitting in my very stuffy office working on stuff for the event next Sunday, 16 July. Do I mind not being out in the sun? Not at all! I'm so honoured to be able to use my time and my various skills to be able to bring this fantastic event together. I feel very, very lucky. Lucky I have the support of so many amazing people.

As usual, Abbie and Gareth McLearnon are being key people along with the folks from the ABRSM, including the Chief Examiner, John Holmes and Louise Matthew. Abbie has encouraged Clare Jefferis to be involved (not that I think she took any persuading). We are also very lucky to have the wonderful composer/pianist, Blaz Pucihar and his wife, flute player, Ana Kavcic Pucihar coming all the way from Slovenia. Simon Williams, Lorna Brown and Joleigh Saunders are also involved and I really don't think I could do without them.

But today I've just had some news that has put the icing on the cake so to speak - Gareth Davies (principal flute London Symphony Orchestra) has offered to come and play! Can you believe that?! It makes a totally amazing line up.

It is going to be a very special event. I know all the players in the flute choirs in the final of our competition are really excited. If you haven't booked your tickets yet, hurry up, you don't want to miss this one.

Photos below from left Clare Jefferis, Abbie Burrows, Blaz Pucihar, Gareth McLearnon

Ana Kavcic Pucihar, Gareth Davies, John Holmes, Louise Matthew


ABRSM releases new Woodwind Syllabus

Read about the new ABRSM Syllabus that we've all been waiting for. I'm lucky, I've seen the new books and I love some of the new features. 


ABRSM has today (6 July) released a new Woodwind Syllabus for candidates who will be taking exams from January 2018 onwards. The syllabus features revised sight-reading tests, new scales and arpeggio requirements, and refreshed repertoire for Flute, Clarinet, Saxophones, Recorders, Oboe and Bassoon. The full syllabus is available to download fromwww.abrsm.org/woodwind.


Pieces to inspire woodwind players

A broad selection of inspiring pieces has been carefully selected to offer variety and new challenges to teachers and learners alike. There are more pieces than ever before to choose from, with each list expanding to contain at least 10 pieces. 

Philippa Bunting, ABRSM’s Learning and Qualifications Director said:

“We’ve listened to feedback from teachers and candidates to help us select pieces for our syllabuses that are exciting, imaginative and inspiring to play and teach. Some popular pieces from the current syllabus remain, while lots of new works have been introduced including an increased number of famous classical melodies and colourful, appealing pieces from films, TV and musicals. For example, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? might be a good choice for a Grade 2 flautist with a sense of humour. Grade 5 saxophonists can slink their way through The Pink Panther and Grade 6 clarinettists pour heart and soul into Pete Churchill’s new take on Blue Moon.” 

Revised sight-reading and scales

The syllabus features newly designed sight-reading tests and scale requirements which reflect the needs and experiences of teachers and students and encourage and support progression.

Philippa continued: “The new sight-reading tests have been written in a range of familiar and accessible styles, to allow candidates to demonstrate their musical intelligence. Scale requirements for all instruments have been rationalised, with a general reduction in the number asked from Grade 3 onwards. This allows candidates and teachers to focus on accuracy, fluency and sound quality rather than on memorising a large number of different patterns.”


ABRSM books and recordings

ABRSM has introduced Saxophone Exam Pieces for Grades 1 to 5 for the first time and published Clarinet Exam Pieces and Flute Exam Pieces for Grades 1 to 7. All the books contain an attractive choice of music, including new arrangements and original pieces commissioned for the syllabus.

In response to feedback from teachers, ABRSM has published a new Exam Pack format. The Exam Packs, which are excellent value for learners, are available for Flute, Clarinet and Saxophones at Grades 1 to 5 and bring together the selected exam pieces (along with piano accompaniment and audio download codes), scales and arpeggios and sight-reading material in one convenient place. 

Recordings of every piece in the Clarinet, Flute and Saxophone books will be available as audio downloads, along with a selection of pieces for Clarinet and Flute at Grade 8, and Saxophones at Grades 6 to 8. New sight-reading and scale and arpeggio books are also available for woodwind instruments for Grades 1 to 8. 


ABRSM will add to its Practice Partner series with apps for Flute, Clarinet and Saxophone in September. The apps are useful motivational tools for students to use in practice in between lessons and will be available for Grades 1 to 7 for Flute and Clarinet and Grades 1 to 5 for Saxophone.


For more information about the Woodwind Syllabus and supporting materials, visit www.abrsm.org/woodwind.   

Flute Choirs from everywhere!

I'm so excited about our event on 16 July at the London Oratory School. It's going to be amazing. In the morning we will be holding the final of the Flutewise/ABRSM flute choir competition. I can hardly believe we have flute choirs from so many different parts of the UK - Hampshire, Sussex, Leicestershire, Bedfordshire, Yorkshire and even Scotland! The finalists are:

In the Open Category
Chichester Flute Choir
Glasgow University Flute Club
Bedfordshire Woodwind Academy Flute Ensemble
Classic Flutes, East Sussex 

In the School Age Category
Les Six
Hampshire Flute Choir
Funky Flutes, Hampshire
LES Flute group, Loughborough

I know they have all worked so very hard to get there, not only musically but trying to raise the money to cover the cost. They really are all winners.

I hope you come and support them - and enjoy our fantastic afternoon event which will help you do amazingly well in any exam and also make you laugh so hard!

Glasgow University Flute Club

Glasgow University Flute Club


It's a busy time here in my Flutewiseland office. Like all things in life, some are going exceptionally well and others not so well.

Bookings for Flutewise Live! on 16 July are really impressive. If you are planning to come along I advise you to book your tickets soon. 

What is not going well is Abbotsholme. It's almost certainly to do with the date change. I really, really want to make this course happen as I don't want to disappoint the youngsters who have already booked and we have such a great time every time we go there. I've managed to find a bit of money, so I've got 5 places at a hugely reduced cost that I can offer to deserving young flute players. If you know anyone suitable can you get in touch immediately? Or if you have any other ideas about spreading the word I'd be grateful. The course at Abbotsholme is 4.00 pm on Thursday 27 July to 4.00 pm on Saturday 30 July and we have a few children who will be travelling by train from London with a member of staff.


Flutewise at Abbotsholme - help needed

I hope you are enjoying this fantastic weather. I am, but I'm having a bit of a worrying time about our summer residential course at Abbotsholme. Through no fault of  my own, I've had to agree to slightly different dates for our course. You can imagine what this means! I really, really want the course to go ahead as it is always an absolutely wonderful experience for everyone involved and I don't want to disappoint the young flute players who have already booked. 
The course is now Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 July. It starts and ends at 4.00 pm. It is aimed at all young flute players from the age of 8 upwards and there is the opportunity for people aged 16+ to be involved in Flutewise Apprentice training. Abbotsholme is a wonderful venue in the heart of the countryside, near Alton Towers. We always have a lovely time there. As well as fantastic musical work, we enjoy exploring the grounds (there is a farm!) and the food is excellent.
If you are a young flute player, are you interested? If you are a flute teacher, can you please spread the word? I can offer discount on prices to encourage people if bookings are received by 30 June. Please email me or phone me if you want to know more.
If you are a flute teacher and would like to be involved and can encourage 3 or more young flute players to come along, please get in touch and we can explore the possibility.