FLUTE Member Of The Week
January 11 to 17, 1999
Hello All,

Four years ago, when I got my first computer, I never imagined that it would add another dimension to my life, communicating with other flute players around the world. I feel I have got to know many of you personally. Meeting Wissam Boustany, John Rayworth and Mike McMahon at Wissam's masterclass in Glasgow, and Helen Spielman, Robert Bigio and others at the London Flute Dinner was quite overwhelming. I can't wait to see Larry when he comes to the British Flute Society jamboree next August.


The sound file is from the last recording I made as a member of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Flutes in C major from the Great Vivaldi Wind Concertos CD. I was feeling pretty emotional when playing it because I was about to leave and become a full time mother. I don't think you can tell!

Music was never part of our family life when I was a child and we didn't even own a record player until I was about 13, but my father always used to sing operatic arias in the bath, when on top of a ladder while painting and decorating, when doing the dishes or chopping mint to go with the roast lamb for Sunday lunch. He must have had a good voice because the neighbours used to think it was the radio. I can remember wanting to play an instrument from about the age of 10. We had a large family and very little money, so for a while I used to play on a toy piano, a mouth organ and ...the comb and toilet paper. For those of you ignorant of the possibilities of this combination as an instrument, you wrap a single layer of hard, shiny toilet paper round a comb, put your lips against it and hum. It sounds buzzy like a kazoo, tickles a bit, and is no use at all when soggy.

When I was 12, I discovered that I could get a free instrument and lessons at school. I rushed off to the music department and came away brandishing a flute, the only instrument left in the cupboard. I was very lucky to go to a school with an enthusiastic group of music teachers. We had an orchestra, several choirs and an operatic music society which included many former pupils and gifted amateurs. Amongst the productions put on in my time were: Falstaff, Count Ory, Marriage of Figaro and Amahl and the Night Visitors.

I loved playing and progressed quickly, learning with a dance band clarinettist. My teachers must have detected some talent because they encouraged me to apply for a Junior Scholarship at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. I was successful and studied there with David Nicholson (Principal Flute in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra) for two years and then as an undergraduate for three years. I was lucky to win another scholarship to study with Alain Marion in Paris, and even luckier to be invited to live with his family for the year. I was very sad to learn of his sudden death last summer. He was a great, inspiring teacher. There is a feature on him in the current Pan Magazine, accompanied by many photos. The picture I have in my mind, though, is of him coming downstairs before breakfast in the morning, bleary eyed and wearing a string vest and pyjama bottoms, picking up his flute and playing scales for about 10-15 minutes - all at breakneck speed and absolutely perfect.

When I came back from Paris, I married Andrew, a bassoonist in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and began freelancing in Scotland. I was invited to become a founder member of the SCO and played as assistant principal with my former teacher, David Nicholson. These were great times. I loved touring and seeing the world...USA, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Eastern Europe, Iceland, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and France. Some of my favourite memories are from the times when we were the resident orchestra at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, accompanying such singers as Teresa Berganza, Monserrat Caballe and Marilyn Horne. Handel's Alcina with Raymond Leppard was a revelation. For someone used to the cool wet climate of Scotland, living for 5 weeks in a warm vibrant Provencale city, eating and drinking wonderful food and wine - and being paid for it! - was an amazing experience. It was a difficult decision, but the right one for me, to give all this up when my son Adam arrived.

I developed a home based career, teaching in Glasgow at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, privately, and at Douglas Academy, a school with a specialist music unit for gifted children. More recently, I have been particularly involved in coaching chamber music and orchestral wind sections. Conducting is great fun - making music with all the pleasure and none of the pain. My ambition is to beat 6/8 or 9/8 without hesitation and to be able to get myself and the group in and out of pauses (fermatas) without a hiccup. I love doing this and find it most satisfying and rewarding. I enjoy teaching and am very happy with the life I have chosen. When I have time, I love playing with my computer, gardening, eating good food, walking or cycling in the beautiful Scottish hills and countryside and reading voraciously. Recently I have made a determined effort to lose a lot of weight and get fit, playing badminton and visiting the gym regularly. Let's hope it lasts!

I play on a 60 year old handmade Haynes with a Mike Allen headjoint - gold lipplate and riser, and a Richard August Hammig piccolo.

Favourite Listening:

    Bach ( reaches the parts other composers don't ) especially the Matthew Passion and Goldberg Variations.

    Monteverdi, Thomas Tallis and Richard Strauss

    lieder and operas

Favourite Authors:
    A.S.Byatt, Jane Austen, John Irving, Louis de Bernieres, Tolstoy, Aldous Huxley - in no particular order.

Favourite Gardens:
    Beth Chatto's, Marjory Fish's, Sissinghurst, Inverewe, Arduane.

A corner of my garden

Favourite Plant:
    Violets. Did you know that there are over 350 varieties?

Favourite Parts of the World:
    The island of Skye and France where we holiday most years.

Sheena Gordon


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