Galway Recap


Hosted by Dr. September Payne in Collaboration with San Diego State University and San Diego Symphony Orchestra

(Testimonial by Les Parker)

Hundreds of flute students, at all levels of development, were getting a lesson in the elegant basics on a Saturday morning in October at San Diego State University the difference between knowing your instrument and being intimate with it.  Sr. James Galway was giving them the knowledge to make the jump from being a player to being a musician. 

Sr. James is a master at this.

The class that morning  was taught many profound lessons and received valuable references to Sr. James’ mentor, Marcel Moyse,  as he used two of Moyse’s most famous books (De la Sonorite and Excercices Journaliers) to sum up the most worthwhile approach to practicing flute technique. He emphasized the secret to good flute playing is to join the finger technique with the legato. To play seamlessly and a pure legato there are many elements of fingers and tone to coordinate. 

  • Breath – how to hold your breath while expelling it
  • Support – Packing  and compressing the air
  • Smooth finger technique
  • Fast finger technique
  • Embouchure placement, which is connected to hand position
  • Flexibility
  • Air direction

Posture, standing, your foundation, left foot, right foot, arms, playing the flute slightly in front of you, open body stance,
memorization. I know the flute part to any symphony, I even know some of the other instrumental parts.” as he proceeded to play the viola part from a symphony.

“You must know where your “#C” is. It’s like looking for the Holy Grail, except you can’t find the Holy Grail but you can find C#!”   

 “Don’t press the keys down so hard that you can hear them.  Massage them! While using a light touch, keep your  fingers close to home.”

“And while I’m at it, why do flutists slap the keys to get low D out? You can hear it in recordings because the microphone picks it up as an accent. It disturbs the phrase. There’s no ‘Bonk’ in legato!

On vibrato Sr. James said, “We have to get rid of hysterical vibrato….”. Moyse called it cache miseriere.  Everyone! Say Hah. Stronger!  Now Ha-Ha. Now Hah-Hah-Hah…. “. Step two, connect your hah’s and sing them – Aah, Aah-Aah and so on until everyone got it. Pay attention to the style of the music and what it says to you. Let the music dictate the kind of vibrato and the speed of it. Now put the fingers together and tell us a story – don’t just play the notes! You would never hear a great Opera Singer with hysterical vibrato or singing monotone – leave that for the back row of the Sunday church choir, he laughs.

“Memorize everything!”

While marveling at Galway’s ability to connect with the students during that Master class, it struck me; I had witnessed the same thing listening to Dr. Payne work with a beginning student. It is a gift they both possess.