This blog post is a sort of retrospective for 2017: With many performances, concerts in India and a new recording, Third Culture, my year has rushed by. This year I continued to honour my love of French music in a collaboration Monet’s The Flowers of War. Alongside David Pereira (cello), Tamara-Anna Cislowska (piano), and Christopher Latham (violin and director), I presented French works from WWI composers Ravel, Boulanger, and Debussy against projections of Monet’s paintings of the era.
Two days ago I again performed French music – Claude Bolling, Piaf, Poulenc, Faure, Michel Legrand, Offenbach & more in a flute Cabaret Parisien at Sydney’s fabulous Live Music venue, The Camelot Lounge completely with a packed-out, wonderful audience specialising in sophistication & standing ovations…It’s said in Australia that I started the tradition of taking Fine Music out of the concert halls and into night clubs, so it was great to return momentarily to my early cabaret years in this gem of a venue. The encores: amazing to hear the Aussie audience (knowing the words in French!) of the national anthem, La Marseillaise, joining in with my piccolo, piano-accordion and piano arrangement!
Tomorrow I play a Flute & String quartet arrangement of the Ravel and Faure Pavanes (the last concert of the year for The Live at Lunch Concert Series.)
My strong personal ties to France & French music are always there. Thinking about it, there’s an pertinent connection for me: when I studied in Paris many of my musical colleagues were studying composition with Nadia Boulanger, sister of composer Lili Boulanger; my flute teacher, Jean-Pierre Rampal, often performed with the harpist Lily Laskine, who knew Debussy…so the lineage is immediate for me (esp via my flute teachers: Jean-Pierre Rampal, Alain Marion and Raymond Guiot). The style of these French flute Masters has philosophical and musical links to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and to many French composers: personally linked to Debussy, Ravel, Nijinsky, Poulenc, Bolling, Stravinsky, my professeurs de flute treated the flute as a popular voice. The Rampal flute style is emotional, technically brilliant, warm and compelling. It cradles the listener in the vocal line of the music. I’m devoted to keeping this wonderful musical philosophy alive through my work, and I love sharing this legacy with my audiences.
Regarding Monet: I grew up wanting to be a painter. I was eleven when my mother first took me to Paris for a mind-blowing few days. We visited many art galleries and I was mesmerised by Monet’s work – especially Le Train dans la Neige and Soleil Levant, which appeared to me as child as if viewed through water – with a Neptunian connection. I have always felt connected to everything in a way that I describe as ‘of the ocean’.
The sense of being unified with the world is magnified when one is underwater. Even though we are air-breathing creatures, we originate from the sea- so music and (especially) Impressionistic art resonate within us with the memory of water. I love the effects, the implications of light and water within visual art. Monet is my hero, and my passion is Paris: Impressionism, Symbolism and La Belle Epoque.
Where would we be without France? As a French flutist, I’m devoted to French music. I adore the Parisian love affair with the human voice, reborn in the Opera houses of the 19th century and the voice-based melodies of Chopin, it is a passionate, communicative, lyrical tradition. And French music of La Belle Epoque has such imagery… with its harmonic and melodic narrative, it evokes nostalgia for classical mythology and more: it’s the sound of a ‘Paradise Lost’, fulfilling an innate longing. The boundaries of Romanticism having been truly pushed, we are provided with a more abstract and therefore perhaps even deeper sense of connection.
In a time of escalating conflict, how important it is to reflect: Art and Music remind us of the finesse of humanity – of the most inspiring aspects of our species. They call to us to praise and protect beauty in all its manifestations. For me, French music is a reminder. When I think about that which France represents regarding: Culture, the Arts, Politics, freedom of expression, democracy, equality, etiquettte, manners, language et tout – it’s the greatest honour to have been awarded le Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters). Vive La France!