John Swanson

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My father taught my sisters, Edith and Ruth, and me to play the flute when we were in grade school. I enjoyed playing but not practicing - thus I never became proficient. I put it aside after high school but rediscovered the joy of playing in November 2008. Now I practice but I am still not proficient. There are three reasons for this page: (1) to let my friends know what I am doing; (2) to let other would-be players know what I have found that is fun to play; (3) to seek information on the Gemeinhardt flute my father bought for me in 1947.

The Formative Years

Edith is more interested in what is going on than in the music. Her flute playing days were few; she became a majorette. I am playing a wooden D flute which is still in the family. Dad is playing a recorder. His accomplishments were many. He became superintendent of schools in Oklahoma City and later a professor at the University of California. In his undergraduate days he and his twin brother formed the freshman "Rat" band at the University of Richmond. He played the flute and saxaphone. Ruth is playing a small recorder. Her flute career did not last long either. She and I did take piano lessons off and on during our school days. I was the only one to practice while holding a cat.

Favorite Music to Play

Music published with play-along-CD:

Favorite Christmas Classics for Solo Singers, Alfred Publishing Company
Not only are these wonderful songs (including two I had not been familiar with, The Virgin's Slumber Song and In the Bleak Midwinter) but there are separate pages for flute parts to Sheep May Safely Graze and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Also, if you can get someone to sing or play the melody, playing the accompaniment to O Holy Night and Ave Maria is great fun. If you can't find someone live to play with you can find the song on YouTube. The problem if finding the right key. Of course, you can always play the accompaniment without the solo.

Play Grieg, De Haske Publications BV
Contains 14 pieces by Edvard Grieg with a CD having the songs recorded both with and without the solo. Many of the numbers such as In the Hall of the Mountain King are severly edited but are still fun to play. Rigiadoon is a lively dance with is particularily challenging. I don't care for the arrangement of Morning (from the Peer Gynt Suite) much prefering the one in Flute Classical Favorites published by Hal Leonard.

March Melodies, Carl Fischer
I love playing marches, a carryover from high school band days. This is a great selection including the expected Stars and Stripes Forever (with the piccolo part). My favorite is Entry of the Gladiators which I hope to play well some day. There are a few note errors and one big error in the publication: the printed music is in a different key from the recording for Old Comrades. So far, Mr. Fischer has not provided an addenda.

Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, Cherry Lane Music Company
Some of these are a bit simpler and a bit shorter than I would like, but still challenging for me.

Concert and Contest Collection, Compiled by H. Voxman, published by Rubank, Inc.
Fourteen composition, ranging from advanced to the seemingly impossible (Flight of the Bumblebee) - until I hear it played well by an eight-year old on YouTube. I especially enjoy Andalouse by Emile Pessard, Valse Gracieuse by W. Popp, Polonaise by J. S. Bach and Pan! by J. Donjon. Rubank publishes the piano accompaniment and a play-along CD separately.

Music published without CD:

Selected Studies, by H. Voxman, published by Rubank, Inc.
This is a book of advanced etudes, some very difficult and not necessarily music I enjoy playing. But the compositions by Kohler are, for the most part, beautiful and not impossible to play with a reasonable amout of pratice. There is at least one etude in each key (why does anyone want to play in F# major?).

Music from YouTube:

There is an incomprehensible number of music videos on YouTube with which one can play along. If you don't have the printed music and can't (or don't want to) play without the music there are videos which show the music along with the sound. Canada's "flutegirl" has posted many fun tunes, for example: The Entertainer by Scott Joplin, Cryin' by Rob Orbison, Canon in D by Pachelbel.

I have the music for Mozart's Allegro (Eine kleine Nachtmusik) which I play along with the New Trinty Baroque and Rondo alla Turca which I am trying to learn playing along with a video by a sensational young pianist Aaron Kurz.

But the video on YouTube which I most enjoy playing along with is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Listning to this tune from the film of the same name should bring a smile and get your toe tapping. (The original children's story was written by Ian Fleming, the creator of 007 James Bond.) The video I play with is a production number from the British reality show I'd Do Anything. It is from the series used to select the Nancy and Oliver for what is proving to be a very successful revival of Oliver!. Watch the video here: Laurence and others performing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

If you like to sing rather than play, these are the words to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I need help with a few words. The speed and British accent are too tough for me.

I have composed a march, AVC Fanfare March.


My flutes

The flute at top is the Eastman EFL320BOF I bought in December 2008. The open holes are filled for the present. The tone is very nice. It seems that the hard pads on the right hand keys cause excessive noise, at least compared with the soft, quiet pads on the Gemeinhardt.

The middle flute is an Armstrong E-flat flute on loan from my nephew. It is pitched three half-steps higher than the standared C flute. The smaller diameter give a less rich tone. I have no idea what the status of this type of flute is in the world of sophistaced flautists. It seems that it should be a useful flute for younger players because it is easier to hold and, I believe, requires slightly less wind. There could be a problem with limited printed music.

The bottom flute is the Gemeinhardt my father bought secondhand for me in 1947. I did not appreciate the instrument and did not take proper care of it in my school days. But after having some pads replaced it sounds great. Perhaps I should not have bought the Eastman. A helpful employee of Anaheim Band Instruments suggested that this flute was made under an agreement that Gemeinhart had with Haynes. It is a closed-hole b-foot instrument, serial number 258 (A. Gemeinhart). Gemeinhart does not list serial numbers for any flutes prior to 1957 on their web site and the inference is that they have no desire in attempting to recreate a data base for records which have been lost or destroyed. I am very interested if anyone has information regarding this flute.

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Last update: January 2, 2014