Editor’s note: Some weeks back we ran an announcement for the official Guinness Book of Records: World’s Largest Flute Orchestra Challenge to be taking place in Belfast on the 13th September 2014. Billed by the organizers as “one of the most exciting flute events ever to take place in the UK”, the goal of the meeting was twofold: to set a new world record for the number of flutists playing together, while raising money for a number of charities. Two participants sent reports and pictures of the event and video clips can be found on You Tube.
The first report is from Joss Campbell, herself a flutist and a member of the ensemble Festive Flutes — http://www.festiveflutes.co.uk
Saturday, 13th September at The Kings Hall Complex in Belfast was the setting for a very special day for flautists from all over the globe. I met one lady who had travelled all the way from Alaska, to be a part of the occasion, all coming together for charity, in an attempt to claim a Guinness World Record for the World’s Biggest Flute Orchestra.
As a member of Festive Flutes, this is the second time I have had the privilege of working with massed flute groups in Ireland, having performed in the Relief of Derry Symphony two years previously, at the Maiden City Festival, in Londonderry. Getting to know the players of the flute bands involved and the wonderful Trad player and human being, Marcas O’Murchu, was musical food for my hungry soul and the experience we all had with the Big Flute Challenge was every bit as special. Mel Orriss, of Wonderful Winds, worked her ever present magic with a captivatingly clever composition/arrangement entitled Towards the Blue Horizon which was specially commissioned for the event. Mel successfully integrated British folk tunes into an exquisite maritime themed work featuring flutes of all shapes, sizes and genres for players from grade 1 to professional level and it was everything we could have hoped for. We experienced all the emotions of life in her work from tears to laughter, as is always the way when Mel writes for massed flute forces!
There is something very special about playing with the flautists of Ireland. Those I meet seem to have grown up surrounded by fluting, the whole family play, it is their way of life and their knowledge is passed on from generation to generation and they feel their music in such a way that I have yet to find anywhere else in the world. I was so very privileged to be a part of this wonderful event playing with Festive Flutes, Stephen Clark, Marcas O’Murchu, Patrick Davey, Richard Murray and the many hundreds of flautists involved.
The day was in full swing by the time I arrived at the venue, having flown in from Heathrow that morning. The hall was a buzz of flautists aged from 7 to 74, Just Flutes were there with a stand supporting the event, together with Wonderful Winds, an interesting mini flute museum from Erne Music Supplies and all the fun of the fair with a dress up photo booth and Granny Shaw’s popcorn booth to keep us all going throughout the day. Shortly after my arrival, we were all treated to a fabulous performance of Ian Clarke’s
Tuberama performed by Stephen Clark and Aine Lambert before the opening warm up session led by Festive Flutes’ Sarah Murphy. The sound of 500+ flutes playing together was formidable and the excitement around the hall was electric. I was grinning from ear to ear and I continued to do so for most of the day in spite of my 4am wakeup call!
‘Towards the Blue Horizon is a suite of four folk songs, two Irish, one English and one Scottish, which celebrates the differences and similarities of the classical, folk and band traditions. It has moments of simplicity, sadness, joy, rousing tunes and plaintive airs and facilitates the vast dynamic range and huge palette of colours and textures that are only possible with such a large number of diverse instruments. It is scored for Traditional Flute (including 2 solo parts played by Marcus O’Murchu and Patrick Davey), Solo Flute quartet (performed by Festive Flutes, Sarah Murphy, Liz Walker, Joss Campbell and Stephen Clark who kindly stepped in for Mel Orriss who was shadow conducting), Melody Flute in Bb (high pitch), Piccolo, G Treble Flutes Parts 1-3, C Flutes Parts 1-4, Alto Flutes Parts 1-2, Bass Flutes Parts 1-2 Contra Alto Flute, Contrabass Flute and Double Contrabass Flute. This massive group
of flutes was directed by Richard Murray, Director of Music at the Royal Air Force Music Services, who set about managing the rehearsal with incredible organisation and clarity and was supported by shadow conductors dotted around the hall. His contribution was invaluable and without him the performance would not have been the success it was.
After our world record attempt, we were treated to further playing from Stephen, who played the soundtrack from the Bourne Identity from his upcoming album A Night at The Movies and Siamsa from his current album Explosive; the Ballygowan Concert Flutes who played us the Klezmer Carnival and finally, the fabulous playing of Trad flautist Patrick Davey.
The day was only possible because of the vision of Glen Houston and his team of helpers. There was talk on the day, and has been since, that we all need to do this again. I sincerely hope that it may happen and if it does, please do try to join us. It really was such a tremendous experience and one that I will remember with a warm heart for a very long time. If you would like to donate to the nominated charities of this event there is a link on the website The Big Flute Challenge 2014. The current total raised for the nominated charities at the time of writing stands at an incredible £9,100 – wow!
Joss Campbell, September, 2014
Also in attendance was Emma Wells of London’s Just Flutes
It was a very well organised day in Ireland, everyone was really fired up and ready for a good day. It had been well-publicised on social media and with leaflets and flyers, and most participants had bought a T-shirt for the day so everyone looked the part. Although the turn out was not high enough to break the record I really don’t think this mattered at all, people really were just happy to have a day of fluting amongst friends and new faces too.
The piece of music, written by Mel Orris of Wonderful Winds, was incredible; really well thought out and a good mix of complex and simpler parts meant that everyone from young to old, beginner to advanced were catered for. It was fascinating to see so many conductors (six, I think) trying to work together and make it work. The traditional Irish tunes were beautiful, and worked brilliantly for the range of instruments. It was also great to see a mix of all types of flute from piccolo, to traditional Irish flute to sub-contrabass being used to their full potential. The record attempt itself was built up to with a full on countdown and the atmosphere was really exciting.
We really enjoyed ourselves catching up with people, and its always good to be able to take products over and introduce new things. Kind regards, Emma
Video clips of the event can be seen at:
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