Review: Solo Flute Repertoire with Geoffrey Collins

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Geoffrey Collins and Pranav Gilder

With the reopening of the South Australian border, Adelaide-based Geoffrey Collins was able to return to Sydney. He was most delighted to be able to undertake a face-to-face masterclass with three fortunate UNSW students on Wednesday 21 October, back in the Australia Ensemble UNSW's home, the Sir John Clancy Auditorium, under strict COVID-Safe guidelines.

5th year Bachelor of Music student Rachel Woolley, 3rd year Bachelor of Medical Science and flautist of the UNSW Orchestra Pranav Gilder, and 1st year Bachelor of Engineering/Masters of Biomedical Engineering and UNSW Wind Symphony member Sabine Seeto, each had opportunity to work through a piece of flute repertoire under Geoffrey’s guidance.

Geoffrey was able to focus on technical skills and tone, providing examples and techniques for improvement and development, and encouraged the students to investigate a deeper understanding of the historical context of the composers’ work. While obviously an exciting and positive opportunity for the student performers, it was something of a relief for Geoffrey to be back on the Clancy stage and making an impact in the musical realm.

Rachel Woolley and Geoffrey Collins Flute MasterclassRachel Woolley

My name is Rachel Woolley and I started playing piano at age 6 and flute at age 8. I have two weeks left of my Bachelor of Music degree at UNSW! I was a member of the UNSW Wind Symphony in 2017 and a member of the UNSW Orchestra in 2018-2019 playing both flute and piccolo for both ensembles. 

The Music

The piece I chose to play at the Geoffrey Collins masterclass was the first movement of the Sonata for solo flute by Rudolf Escher.

I chose this piece as it has contrasting sections including long legato phrases to fast double tonguing moments. In the long legato sections, Geoffrey discussed where and how to place the breath to achieve great projection. He also demonstrated how to use the breath to achieve the best crescendo and decrescendo whilst moving across registers.

I loved how he demonstrated this with great ease! Amazing! Very inspiring! 

The Masterclass

This was my second flute masterclass with Geoffrey Collins at UNSW, with the first being in 2016. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity as after both times I have felt so inspired and encouraged to keep pursuing a career as a flute player. Geoffrey provides the perfect balance of fun and helpful constructive criticisms during the masterclass. 

I believe it is so important for students at UNSW to have the opportunity to perform at a masterclass. Not only does it provide a great experience, it allows students to receive feedback and ask questions in order to better your craft. Thank you to the Music Performance Unit at UNSW for allowing me this opportunity. 

Sabine Seeto and Geoffrey Collins Flute Masterclass

Sabine Seeto

I’m studying a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (Honours)/ Masters of Biomedical Engineering and currently in my first year. I have been playing flute for 8 years now and joined UNSW Wind Symphony at the beginning of this year.

The Music

At the workshop I played the first movement of Reinecke’s Undine Sonata, and even though this wasn’t a solo flute piece, I think there were a lot of aspects about the piece that could be worked on and that I could get some advice about to make it shine.

The Masterclass

I learnt a great deal from the workshop, as I haven’t been taking private lessons throughout 2020, it was quite insightful to get feedback on my solo repertoire.

Geoffrey taught a lot about interval training and practicing individual notes or pairs of notes to ensure the flow of whole phrases.

We also had discussion on interpretation of the piece and how to approach playing it, which contrasted with many things I had been taught by my previous teachers, so it was quite interesting to see how Geoffrey’s ideas differed to my initial understanding of the piece and to evolve my own interpretation of the piece and improve my playing.

I think as a non-music student who is passionate about music and performance, it can often be hard to find the time and resources to improve our playing outside of an ensemble rehearsal or individual practice environment. These masterclass opportunities provide a great gateway to getting professional advice, as well as performance opportunity which is really beneficial and would highly recommend. 

Pranav Gilder

My name is Pranav Gilder and I am in my third year of a Bachelor of Medical Science. 

I have been playing the flute for about 12 years. While at UNSW I decided to take a Performance General Education subject to keep my flute playing up. I was offered principal flute in the UNSW Orchestra this year but unfortunately due to COVID19, we weren't able to continue rehearsals. 

The Music

The piece I played in the masterclass was Syrinx by Claude Debussy. I decided to prepare this piece because I was focusing on my tone and this was a good piece for exploring the use of expression and different colours.

The Masterclass

Geoffrey was incredibly insightful and he offered ideas that I hadn't even thought about or put too much time into.

The main feedback I received was that I needed to have done more in-depth research into the history of the piece in order to play it accurately. Whilst this piece was written in the French impressionist period, Geoffrey said that I can't be too liberal with my rubato and playing around with the tempo, rather, as per Debussy's instruction, I needed to have played it quite strictly in time since he wrote out the expression precisely as he wanted it.

Apart from that, Geoffrey picked up issues with my technique that I hadn't even noticed so that was really helpful and it encouraged me to work on that.

As a whole, it was an incredibly positive experience, Geoffrey gave all three masterclasses in an engaging, anecdotal way with a lot of stylistic knowledge of all three works so that he could focus on finessing the pieces brought to him. 

It's important for people to attend these masterclasses for the simple reason that it keeps the flame of music-making alive and encourages you to explore different parts of your musical toolkit that you may have otherwise failed to do. It is an excellent opportunity to perform live, especially in the current health climate where performance opportunities are limited, and it was also very helpful to get a totally different perspective on both the piece and your playing.