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Festival: Happy Flute Festival

Happy Flute Festival © Rena Pearl
© Rena Pearl

July 17  19, 2020

‘Smile please!’ Those encouraging words - the catch-phrase of photographers - are not something you are likely to hear much in a flute lesson. Smiling embouchures are not usually the order of the day! But think about how you feel inside when you play the flute, and when you respond to some of marvellous works in the repertoire, and you get a good idea of what this Happy Flute Festival is all about. ‘You must find appy tone!’, declared Marcel Moyse - often - in his quirky, inflected English and William Bennett has never forgotten it. As a young player in Moyse’s masterclasses in Switzerland in the early 1960s, Wibb was bewitched by this mercurial Frenchman who believed passionately in the flute’s powers of expression. ‘Why would you just go poop’, asks Wibb, ‘and make a sad noise? Why would you let lifeless notes droop in diminuendo, so everything sounds out of tune and miserable?’ So, with a landmark birthday somewhere over the horizon, Wibb has decided to march triumphantly towards it flying a flag for the Happy Flute! Joining him in this festival will be a group of great players who are also great friends. Many have been Wibb’s students and all are creative individuals involved in their own journey with the flute, exploring and developing many different aspects of it. ‘I’m very happy’, says Wibb, ‘that so many really musical players are coming to share their love for the music itself, as well as their fascination for the instrument.’ What’s in it for me, you may well be wondering? Well, if you are also someone who is fascinated by the flute, loves music, and wants to make contact with others of like mind, you will relish the opportunity of this three-day total immersion. As well as the sheer enjoyment of listening, there will be many opportunities to learn, either playing in, or watching, a series of masterclasses. The repertoire for those, as indeed for the whole weekend, will be chosen by the participants themselves. ‘If it makes you happy, play it!’ 

Now that last thought set me musing about the flute itself through the ages. In its long and glorious history, what have been the high points, the moments when the instrument itself has been happiest? That will be the theme of the first of our three gala concerts and as I write this I’m busy flute time travelling, listening out for echoes of distant laughter, joy and contentment. We’ll be presenting the results at Friday’s gala concert - a rich hoard of stories and entertaining music. 

One gleeful moment for the flute happened back in the 18th century when it sized up its closest rival the violin and decided (in the words of the song) that ‘anything you can do I can do better’! That was admittedly rather optimistic, but players ever since have continued to hear the potential for the flute to bring its special musical voice to some of the great works for violin – and indeed for other instruments. ‘Stolen gems’ Wibb calls them. Saturday’s gala concert, therefore, will feature Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto shared by three Russian flute players, each taking a separate movement, alongside re-interpretations of violin works by Brahms and Dvorak. Many players are fascinated by the deep, dark textures in the music of Brahms, so we will also hear flute versions of his two clarinet sonatas and a few other pieces. Meanwhile, the many original flute works across the weekend will range adventurously through the repertoire, from Mel Bonis and Sigfrid Karg-Elert to Otar Taktakishvili and Thea Musgrave. Alongside all the solo contributions there will also be appearances of the flute Ensemble Lumiere from Japan and a specially assembled Festival Flute Orchestra of current and former students of the Royal Academy of Music. Not to be missed! 

This is a unique opportunity to hear some of the world’s leading artists 'playing good music happily’. As Wibb puts it: ‘let’s enjoy hearing the flute as a sparkling and singing voice to uplift the music!’ 

For full information, visit the Happy Flute Festival Website.

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