Miller Wicks NI with a Penny Whistle type fipple?
I was doubtful whether it could be done, and I am very impressed. The Fipple head transforms the Miller Wicks into a very high quality wooden whistle. check the video out here.
There is a new kid on the block and his name is Skip Healy. Well not actually a kid or new, but one of the worlds top fife and flute makers. Skip was a fifer in the KentishGuards Fife & Drum Corps and after 40 years is widely regarded as one of the finest American fife and Traditional Irish wooden flute players makers and educators that America has ever produced. The main reason that Skip gets a mention on here is because he has designed a Bb flute and may introduce his flute into the wider PUL flute band scene soon. This could be a welcome development, watch this space...
For more info on Skip Healy flutes visit his website www.skiphealy.com
Took a trip to Northern Ireland and stayed in Newtownstewart, looked after by the two lovely people behind www.BandParades.co.uk and was put up a local hotel by the RHDFB. It was a great opportunity to hear the band play "Mary Gray" which I wrote for them last year and they played in the Ulster Hall during the Festival of Marching bands concert. They also played Duchess, which was written in commemoration of Prince William's marriage to the Duchess of Cambridge - Kate in 2012.
I visited Castlederg High School, enjoyed a meal in their canteen before hearing the children in the music class perform another one of my tunes which they had arranged seconds, drums and a piano accompaniment by their teacher, David Doonan. It was a pleasure to see a forward thinking school, educating our children with our culture at the fore, using instruments that as Ulster Scots, we play every day Bb Flutes, snare drums, Bagpipes etc) instead of sticking to the curriculum recorders. I made some great friends during my visit and I look forward to a return visit in 2015 if not before.
Trevor Donnell CYLFB, David Doonan and myself at Castlederg high School Feb 2014
With David Clarke, Red Hand Defenders FB Newtownstewart Feb 2014
Not much to add regarding flutes as the makers are busy trying to get bands orders ready for the 12th July. But with the marching season underway it is interesting to see that some bands have decided to upgrade their metal or cheap wooden flutes for a better quality wooden flute. This is a welcome development, I never understood why a band were quite happy to spend £400 + on a snare drum but wouldn't spend the same money on a flute, which lets face it, it the main instrument in the band. The quality of flutes produced by makers nowadays is in some cases far superior than the better flutes of the mid 20th Century. The Hawkes & Son Crown AZ's were always the flute that bands aspired to as they were the best simple system around. The makers are perfecting any tuning irregularities especially between the Bb, F and Eb's and this must be recognised and appreciated by fluters as a step forward in flute development.
I don't usually do this but as from next month I am going to be reviewing a band CD each month, and will post the reviews here on the site, if you want your band CD reviewed, send me your details and I will buy one and also post contact details for anyone wanting to purchase a copy. I hope this will help to promote flute band music to a wider audience as I know people outside the PUL Flute Band scene visit the website looking for information and advice. With over 12,000 hits last month we are still attracting a decent audience.
Finally, I have uploaded most of the tunes from the Fluters Companion Books to the facebook site and made a simple website to help people navigate their way to the tunes and notes. The site is at www.fluterscompanion.com, please use it and give feedback and share it with your mates.
Took a trip to Northern Ireland and visited the workshops of Miller Wicks in Kilkeel with Charlie Muir and John Higgins from Ardrossan Winton FB. It was interesting to discuss some of the developments that have been done to the Miller Wicks over the past few years to improve it further, making it one of the best African Blackwood flutes on the market and being the only flute that is made and assembled in Northern Ireland. Kenny and Paul were busy making a set of 3 key flutes for a band and showed me the drawings for a D flute they are planning to develop later this year.
The Mullan F flute is proving to be a real hit and those bands who have received them have nothing but praise for the instrument. Mullan are also selling their 5 key B flat model with two headjoints, a metal and a wooden one, this is a novel idea and I hope to order a metal headjoint soon to have a look at.
Tony Millyard has continued his success with his G treble flutes and Irish D Flutes and has revamped his website to include audio files demonstrating the sound quality, these flutes are truly amazing and have been played at the beginning of the Queen’s speech this year. The Paraorchestra (put together from disabled players for the Paraolympics) was playing God Save the Queen and Tony's flute got the opening shot. The Flute was made for Stephanie West who has a finger missing and needed a special key to close hole 5. it is great to know that amongst the band community for which Tony is a valued member (Making all flutes and Piccolos for the UVF Regimental band East Belfast, that we have someone as skilful and innovative as Tony, Well done sir.
Peter Worrell has been busy making band flutes over the past few months with another scottish band, impressed with the look, feel and sound of these fine instruments. He has also developed his own model based on the Ruddal Carte concert flutes and it looks amazing, I haven't heard it myself but at a price of £2495.00 Iam afraid it will be a while before will be able to afford one myself. Peter has also produced a fine example of a covered key F flute, as pictured below.
The New Mullan F Flutes are now due in September and will compliment the existing Mullan B Flat Flutes. Mullan Flutes have been working on the design for two years and I am looking forward to see how they turn out. The cost will be approx £250 which is very cheap for an F in African Blackwood, let's hope the inside bore doesn't have protruding pinions and that the keys are more substantial than the B Flat models. Regardless of whether they are cheap, or not at the same standard of the Worrell, Miller Wicks or the Millyard Molem Flutes, there will be lots of bands who will welcome an affordable F flute to accompany their Mullan B Flatsand you have to take your hat off to the Mullan Family for their dedication to the bands scene and commitment to constantly improve their flutes.
With the marching season drawing to a close and the competition season almost over too, I have received a considerable amount of queries from young fluters to have certain tunes written in the highest key possible and the flute makers have also received requests about making their flutes higher pitched. This is mainly form the Blood & Thunder bands chasing the thrill in a 'Blow Off'and trying to stay one step ahead of the competition...To Be Bloody Loud! B Flat Flutes can't get any higher pitched or they would be B and so I have found a B Flute..
I say flute because thats what the Germans call it but it is really a fife. The Sandner Solo B Flute is a 7 hole nickle silver played brass fife with a plastic embouchure set in the head and it is fully chromatic in that you can play all sharps/flat in three full octaves. The B Flat Flutes can only play 2.5 octaves with high A' being the highest note on most flutes with the Miller Wicks still the only flute to achieve a B' easily. The Sandner can play a High B', High C' and a High D''. I have put a video of me playing o and some photos below.
I have just had a new low pitch version of the Worrell Crown from Peter Worrell. The Flute is a six key model and instead of a conical bore body it has an equal bore body and a conical bore headjoint. This does help to create that sweeter tone which is perfect for a solo instrument or a wind band who do a lot of competition. A Full review is posted on Youtube at the following link.
Clifford Rea has a new website where you can visit and enquire about his flutes. The site is basic and does the job, with a great variety of his latest adonised aluminium alloy flutes and his own stock of African Blackwood flutes. He also has a combination of metal and wood B flats which look sexy.
I have been informed that these wooden flutes are made by the same factory in Pakistan that make the Mullan Flutes and the parts are interchangable. The site is definately worth a visit and Clifford is a gentleman to deal with.
The much anticipated covered key Mullan flute has yet to be launched by Erne Music Supplies. I suspect that with such a tricky set up with all that keywork moving about and more to go wrong, the prototype probably needed more testing but I believe it will be out later in the year along with a Mullan F Flute and I will be purchasing one to review.
I will be testing a more mellow sounding, low pitch version of the B flat 5 key flute made to Hawkes and Sons spec. Wheras most b flat flutes have a straight head and a conical bore, this flute will have a straight bore and a conical bored head joint. It will be pitched at 440Hz but definately not made for b7T bands but it will be perfect for a melody band, indoor concerts and solo players. Made by Peter Worrell from African Blackwood with sterling silver keys, silver headjoint liner and stainless steel springs along with his trademark raised lip plate it will retail at £380, a bargain for such a work of art. A Video link will follow in the next week or two.
FLUTES FOR SALE
if you are looking for a flute or want to sell a flute, get in touch and I will list them for sale on this page.
I currently have a Crossett 5 key, a copy of a Miller Browne 5 key and a Wooden un named 5 key flute for sale (Pictures to follow) get in touch if interested
Following on from the success of the first book, I have finally completed the second book. It is available as an A4 peperback and as an ebook which you can purchase and download directly from the publisher. There are over 200 new tunes in the second book although it retains the tutorial and finger chart as the first book. there have been a few modifications to the tutorials but very little, as the feedback I have had for the first book, is that it works well.
Watch this space....
The B flat flute is a great instrument and has been played in the Uk for hundreds of years. Originally brought over to Europe by Swiss mercanaries the fife was used to relay signals to soldiers on the battlefield , before two way radios or mobile phones were invented and was later replaced by the bugle.
The instrument has went through many overhauls and it is as a five keyed flute version that it proves to shine on it's own, reaching two and a half octaves and playable in most keys. It has been played for many years by infantry regiments in their Corps of Drums as the main instrument and although Corps of Drums music is in decline within the British Army, the flute band tradition in Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland and England is still very popular and it is from within the Loyalist Flute Band tradition that I first fell in love with the instrument and after playing in many flute bands over the years in different styles from Blood & Thunder to Melody and Corps of Drums I have decided to put some of this information online so that others who are just starting to learn the instrument may benefit.