Woodwind (Flutes) and Percussion

Pearl ST750BE 

This is my main flute for performances. It was the very first one of these imported into Britain back in 1983 which is when I bought it. It is a solid silver body tube which is then cut and expanded to make the body fit tightly. It has a split e mechanism and a low B foot joint, perfect for contemporary and late romantic music such as Mahler's Symphonies. It has a wonderful silvery sparkling tone to it as well as a rich dark lower end. This flute is perfect performing the French School and Contemporary as well as most 20th Century repertoire post 1930.This is not a flute to be getting rid of, but one to treasure and enjoy for good.

Hawkes & Son, in line, open G# (1903)

This was a great purchase and I am glad I did get it. It needed a little attention as far as pads but after a good clean up and a polish of the silver work this has become my No.2 Flute. It was made by Hawkes and Son of London in 1903 before the amalgamation with Boosey's in 1930. The open G# I have found a little tricky to get used to, but after plenty of practice it becomes second nature and actually makes a lot more sense than the closed hole system we all use today. Brand new this retailed at the costly sum of £42 back in 1903. I paid considerably more than that for it. This is an ideal flute for playing romantic flute music such as Reinecke, Kempter, Kuhlau, Demersseman etc on and sounds wonderful when balanced against a considerate pianists careful accompaniment. The timbre is rich and chocolaty and in the high register it is pure and warm. I am wondering what I did without it now.


Boosey& Hawkes "New Century" 1936 

This is the first model that Boosey and Hawkes issued after their amalgamation as a company so I am lead to believe. This is a 1936 issue going by the serial number on the body. It got its name as it was the first real hybrid flute to hit the market. It gave you the flexibility of the French style metal (silver) headjoint combined with the warmth and timbral nuances of the old wooden flutes. This is a joy to play on and the ease of the registers is quite surprising considering its age. It was in quite a state when I got it a good few years ago. After a good clean up of the tarnished silver-plated key work and a good oiling inside and out, of the wooden body, it needed attention on the pads and the F# key was stopping any possibilities of performing on it. After quite a while my local woodwind repairer, after tearing her hair out, finally got it in working order and although the F# balancing screw still goes out it is simple enough to adjust. The tone is a mix of the rich and silvery of the metal head and wooden body. The ease of reaching the high register has always surprised me. It is a delight to play that interwar years repertoire on. My very first flute teacher, Mr Bernard Herman ("Good Old Days" and the "BBC Northern Dance Orchestra" fame conductor) I am sure used to play one of these. I never asked at the time but I always remember his flute looking very similar to this one. A very underrated flute by many players.

Boosey & Hawkes "Emperor" 1975 

This was my student flute and I still use it for practice and for jazz and rock music. It sounds great when it is amplified in a rock group. I bought this for £98 back in 1975 with my pocket money and had to save for a very very long time. I couldn't believe it when I actually had it all to myself. I still get the same thrill when I take any flute out of its case even today.

I know these flutes are now looked down on as being rubbish but at the time it was all I could afford and believe it or not it got me through all my Grade exams and I still find it a great flute for getting timbre and embouchure problems corrected as it is quite unforgiving which, is a good thing, it stops laziness of technique.

Julius Zimmermann (or Ziegler), 10 keyed Simple System Flute circa 1880's 

This was something of a great find. It is a rare flute due to the metal rings on the tone holes and the lip plate. It is a copy of an Italian flute (I believe a Manzoni) of the time that Zimmermann's of Leipzig copied and improved on. The system has ten keys rather than the usual 8 and although I have found what each do the 10th key still remains a mystery to this day. When I got the flute it was in a shocking state with the cork joints perished, the key work had gone green and the springs were just about working and it had a crack in the headjoint. Thankfully the head is metal lined so it didn't stop it from being played. I renovated it and had it repadded. Cleaned the wood work up (I think it is ebony or some exotic African dark wood but I am not sure), oiled it and cleaned all the key work up and even opened up the long C key which is the key that still remains a mystery as to why it is there as it makes the flute squeak when I depress it. No wonder it was sealed up!

It has recently been suggested that this flute may have been made by Ziegler in Vienna in the 1880's and passed on to Zimmerman's as they did produce a metal fingerhole flute for a short while with 11 and 12 keys on and this may have been a prototype. As there is no real production marking on it it is hard to settle this dispute. For now I will remain with Zimmerman's as its creators.

It is a great flute to play Baroque and Classical on with its rich reedy timbre really coming out when it is warmed up. I also play Irish and Celtic on this flute as it is just perfect for the stranger keys that sometimes occur. It is a real joy and delight to play this when I get the chance.  

Irish Flute

I bought this flute when I was a student so that I could play purely Celtic music on it. It is tuned in D like all simple system flutes of this length. It has served me very well over the years and has been to hell and back in many smokey bars. It is a great flute to play with a great reedy tone. The only thing I have found with it though is it is a bugger of an instrument to play for a long time, tiring on the lips, on the lungs, and if you are standing on the arms too. Unfortunately I can't remember who it was made by in Ireland.

Piccolos and Fifes

The top piccolo is a silverplated La Fleur from about, the 1950's I believe, it may be even older. It is easy in the top register and a little thin in the lowest. Typically French in sound. I found this in a skip many years ago from a house clearance. A bit of loving care and attention and it was as good as new.

The second Piccolo is a "BelleIsle" from Northern Ireland. Rich in the lower and middle registers but the top is hard to attain. (I have since sold this)

The Fife is a simple system Bb instrument made in about 1900 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and carries the name of Boosey and Hawkes on it. It has probably seen many an Orange Order March over there. I was given it back in the late 70's so it missed most of the troubles.

The bottom one is a single key Bb Fife with no makers mark and sounds lovely once it is warmed up.


My Bodhran has, like my Irish Flute, been through many hellish bars with the beer and smoke. It is still in perfect order after nearly twenty years of use and banging. It is an 18" skin with an X cross bar in the back. The shell is about three inches wide and the skin is still as supple as the day it came off the goats back. You can see the spine line on it if you look close enough. This is not an instrument for the veggies. I have used this in gigs, solos and on recordings. It is Irish made but there is no makers mark unfortunately. I put tannin on the face to keep it in tip top condition and if it tightens up too much due to the atmosphere in a place a tiny drop of water smeared on the back loosens it.  I have recorded with a few people on this war drum and as for my own work it appears throughout the "Symphony No.2: Byzantium" and on "The Anglo Saxon Trilogy" and "Ambient 1: Marrakesh Moon". A tip for Bodhran players when recording. Record the Bodhran line and then copy it to a separate channel and take it down (transpose it) the octave. This re-enforces the line and gives it an even bigger sound.

An old Uillean Piper that I once knew always said that there was only one way to play the Bodhran and that was with a penknife. If the instrument is just banged on it is very annoying to other players and audience alike so use the adage that 'less is more' and plan what you are going to play for each track and only fill in where you need to otherwise SHUT UP!

Mixed Ethnic Wind

This mixed bag of woodwind are from left to right:

  • Thai Nose Flute
  • Home made Quenacho in D (I made this)
  • A Bulgarian Ney Flute 
  • Three Indian Flutes in D F and G
  • An Indian Flageolet in A
  • A Bolivian Quenacho in D
  • A Bolivian Quena in E
  • Top is a sandclay six whole Mexican Ocarina in the guise of Quetzalcoatl (An Aztec God) (now unfortuantely destroyed when dropped for the 8th time)
  • A Four Whole Mexican Ocarina in the style of a dog
  • A Peruvian six whole Ocarina.e
The Quena and Quenacho I had imported from Bolivia and the Quenacho has a part in my work "The Seventh Angel Sounded the Seventh Trumpet: A Concerto for Flute and Orchestra". The two Mexican ocarinas I bought from Teouateochan in Mexico when I was over there. The six whole instrument is extremely fragile and keeps breaking but at the moment is still playable.

Mixed Ethnic Wind 2 

From left to right:

  • Bolivian Moseno in D (five holes + two bass holes)
  • Chinese Jade Fife in Bb
  • Bulgarian Kaval (soprano)
  • Indonesian Suoreng
  • Thai Suoreng
The Moseno is perfect for the drone notes as to play a full melody is extremely impractical. It takes a starring role in the electronic piece "Wyrd of Grendel" from my "Anglo Saxon Trilogy". The other instruments are exactly what they are. 

Mixed Ethnic Wind 3

From left to right:
  • Indian Punji (snake charmers flute)
  • Breton Bb Bombarde
  • Peruvian Quena in E
  • Roumanian Panpipes in G
The Punji is extremely hard to keep blowing on and maintain a melody but it is fun and very very loud.

The Bombarde I had imported from Brittany and I have played this in concerts when playing a Breton set of dances.

The Quena is made from bamboo and sounds almost like a Native North American Flute when played softly.

The Panpipes I bought while out in Roumania in 1990 and still sound great even though they were very cheap to buy at that point. Now they are extremely expensive and surprisingly hard to get hold of.

Mixed Ethnic Wind 4 

From left to right:

  • Turkish Mey in E (seven holes)
  • 2 Bulgarian whistles (five holes only)
  • Australian Aboriginal Rainsticks
  • Australian Aboriginal Bullroarer
The Mey is the Turkish cousin of the Armenian Duduk that has become so famous through the film Gladiator and especially through the playing of Djivan Gasparian. It is an instrument that is found throughout Eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Iran and the Caucases states such as Armenia etc. A beautifully haunting sound when played well.

Two Bulgarian whistles not in any particular key and sound quite reedy.

The two rainsticks are very hard wood that has a hollow ring and are brilliant fun to play along with a Didgeridoo player.

The Bullroarer is fantastic in a slight breeze and gives a low booming roar that is haunting and ethereal.

Mixed Ethnic Wind (the Irish collection!) 5 

From left to right:

  • Low D Whistle by Howard
  • Bb Tin Whistle
  • C Tin Whistle
  • D Tin Whistle
  • Feadog D Tin Whistle 
  • F Tin Whistle
  • G Tin Whistle
  • Wooden Whistle in A
All of these Tin Whistles have seen much use as you can tell by the wear on the brass ones. They have been dropped, spat down, had smoke put down them and in two cases they have had duct tape applied to them for a party trick and even been dipped in beer in one instance and still they sound fabulous.


From left to right:

  • Aulos Tenor Recorder
  • Rossler Wooden Descant Recorder
  • Aulos Descant Recorder
  • Aulos Sopranino Recorder
I was a flute player before I took up the recorder and found it a bit of a joke instrument for quite a while, but when I was introduced to the burgeoning early music scene I soon changed my mind. I have written for the descant recorder in a few of my works, "The Blooded Moon", "Thowring 2: Echoes of Angels", "In the Region of The Summer Angels" and as a solo instrument in "Byzantine Melody No.4" which was written for the fabulous recorder player Chris Orton to perform. Also it has starred in "Eardsteppa: A Sonata for Recorder Player and Piano" which was commissioned by Caroline Jones who also commissioned the "Sinfonia" for Recorder Orchestra. It seems I am heading to becoming a writer for this instrument after all.

Mixed Ethnic Wind 6 

From left to right:

  • Chinese Walking Stick Flute (3 flutes in 1)
  • Turkish Ney Flute
The walking stick flute has three flutes in differing keys and has a mellow haunting pentatonic scale.

The Turkish Ney is a wonderful instrument so evocative of that beautiful land. Since I bought this instrument in Turkey a few years ago I still have not been able to get a sound out of it and yet others have. I think it has something against me!

41" Shofar

This is a beautiful Shofar and is a full size instrument from Israel. You blow it like a trumpet, without the mouthpiece though, but it is considerably harder to control the pitch and the timbre than a modern brass instrument. It is used in the services in Synagogues but I have used it on the first movement of "Symphony No.2: Byzantium" "Across The Golden Horn", where its power and haunting sound is heard like the call of the ancient Roman Legions Trumpets. This is probably the instrument that made the walls of Jericho fall, it is reckoned, and when you stand right next to it you can tell how and why when it sounds. It is a Kosher instrument made from natural animal horn so could be officially used in a synagogue.

There was a photograph of me on the internet sounding this actual Shofar.

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