FLUTE Member Of The Week
March 22 to 28, 1999
I started on the recorder at about the age of 9. By 12 I had tried the flute, toyed with the oboe, and then gone back to the flute. The flute and piccolo have been my only instruments. The piano passed me by, something I now regret.

I was brought up in Hull on the north-east coast of England, a town where there didn't seem to be any flute teachers. So I borrowed a copy of Otto Langey's 'Flute Tutor' from the local library, learned most of the

fingerings, but managed to get some general advice from Almena Marshall, a retired professional flautist. (Incidentally, she played a Carte 1867 instrument -- the one with all the bells and whistles. I was very impressed!) Much later, after I'd moved to Scotland, I had some lessons from Paul Kingsley, the principal piccolo player in the Scottish National Orchestra.

By the age of 14 and a bit, I was 3rd flute and piccolo in the localamateur symphony orchestra, the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra, and sweating over 'real' music. The conductor was George Weldon of the Halle Orchestra, and he was instrumental in alerting me to a repertoire for amateur orchestras far beyond the standard diet in the 1950s of Beethoven, Schubert, Tchaikovsky and, occasionally, Britten or Walton. For example, I remember playing De Falla's 'Nights in the Gardens of Spain', Gershwin's Piano Concerto, Glazunov's 6th Symphony, etc. It was an exciting time.

I'm now in my mid-50s, the Professor of Phonetics at Glasgow University in Scotland, up to my ears in teaching (hundreds of students), research (mainly on the history of phonetics) and administration/management (tiring but never boring). Even so, I deliberately set aside time each week for music. I play first flute in the Glasgow Symphony Orchestra and piccolo in the Dunbartonshire Concert Band.

For over 30 years, I used a Rudall Carte 'Romilly', which served me very well until the mechanism began to wear out and the noise became a touch embarrassing. I then acquired an oldish silver Gemeinhardt and had a FMG headjoint fitted to it. But a couple of years ago I was able to buy my favourite flute, a silver 'Ravensworth', hand-made by Ewen McDougall.

By contrast, my main piccolo is rather basic: a plastic Yamaha YPC32, but with a McDougall silver headjoint -- and that's what makes the difference. My alto is one you've probably never heard of, called a 'Parrot'. It's an import (long ago) from Shanghai, has a nice tone in the first two octaves, but then goes wild in the third. For two precious years I owned a Moennig bass, but the exigencies of family life (ie a wife and two small children to support), plus a 27% inflation rate in the UK at the time, forced me to sell it. (The first flute I could ever call my own was an early 19th-century 6-keyed Potter, made of boxwood. I still have it and it sometimes comes out of its case, if only to emphasize the changes that Mr Boehm made to the sound of the flute.)

My wife, Jan, is a Church of Scotland minister in charge of the chaplaincy service in a large Glasgow hospital. Our two children have fled the nest. Cary is married to a Hungarian lawyer and they live in Budapest -- and have just become parents of a wonderful wee boy. (Naturally, his Grandad is saving up for a flute with a curved head-joint for him...) Our son, Ken, is about to submit his PhD thesis in sports psychology at Birmingham University.

I can honestly say that I've never stopped playing the flute over the past 40-odd years. Living in Scotland, I might be expected to be a golf fanatic -- but I'm not. Instead, it's the flute that's given me so much pleasure and satisfaction -- and, quite often, comfort, solace, and peace of mind.

Mike MacMahon

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