Flutes in Tuscany 2019: reflections of accompanist, Sally Birkett

Sally Birkett interview
Accompanist: Flutes in Tuscany for the 4th time

UM:How did you become involved in Flutes in Tuscany?

SB: Liz is the mother of one of my dad’s cello pupils and we have known each other for 12 years. I cheekily offered my services to Liz as an accompanist when she posted a comment on Facebook about her local flute course hopefully being in Italy the following year!
UM: How familiar were you with flute rep before coming on the course?
SB: Not at all, really! I had accompanied flautists a handful of times at Trinity as a last minute favour to fellow students but had not really worked on repertoire with any players.
UM: Wow! How did you cope the first year?
SB: The first year was challenging as a flautist was playing the Dutilleux Flute Sonata! This also came up the following year. I was very much thrown in at the deep end….
UM: How does accompanying flutes differ from playing for cellists?
SB:Balance is slightly different. Playing for cellists requires the pianist to thin out the bass and bring out melodies in the right hand. One generally needs to play less in the right hand and provide a stronger bass when accompanying flautists. Of course, breathing needs to be taken into consideration when playing for a wind player, as for singers. Naturally on a course of this type there are players of different standards, requiring one to be flexible.

UM: How has the course developed in the 4 years?
SB: Guest tutors now attend half the week, giving masterclasses and performing a full recital which is wonderful! 2019 is the second year of the Flutes in Tuscany Young Artist and the recipient Flutes in Tuscany Young Artist Scheme and the recipient plays a full recital. The runners up perform in a lunch time concert in the chapel, which is exciting
UM: What are the ‘unique selling points’ about the Flutes in Tuscany courses?
SB: Well the location is absolutely stunning. The course takes place in Tereglio, a village in the Tuscan hills.
The weather is fantastic and the food is plentiful and amazing! The villagers appear delighted to have their village overtaken by musicians and really bend over backwards to accommodate us all. Another plus is the relaxed atmosphere, alongside sophisticated performances – a really supportive feel for all participants.
UM: Do you get time to experience the surroundings?
SB: Well, in 2018 I was getting married 6 weeks after the course so, somehow, found the tine in my busy schedule to go for a morning run in the hills to ensure I could fit into the wedding dress after a week of amazing Tuscan food! (Luckily the dress fitted perfectly on the big day!)
UM: How many performing opportunities are there?
SB: The great thing is that everyone performs at some point during the week, tutors included! Having the Young Artist scheme is inspiring for younger players, as they hear really top young professionals both performing a recital and taking part in ensembles. Amazingly, there are 2 performing spaces in the village – a chapel at the bottom of the hill and a large church the other end. There is also a further space where masterclasses can take place.
UM: Will you be back in 2019?
SB: Absolutley…! What’s not to like? Glorious music in sunny Tuscan hills…..