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 Post subject: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 11:13 am 
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[I enter this topic with some trepidation]

Recently I've been listening to some interviews with Aoife Granville, one of my favorites players, regarding women flute players. One of these on"The Rolling Wave" discusses some of the early female fluters. I'd always heard Peg McGrath's name as the "earliest" example, but Aoife's interview talks about Theresa Gardner (recorded in 1959 by Father Charlie Coen) and Mary Kilcar (friend of Lucy Farr back in the early decades of the 1900s). Tes Slominski writes a bit about Lucy and Mary. Anyhow, good to learn more about early female fluters.

What I found particularly interesting was a comment by Ms. Granville that her playing "sounds like a woman"—and that many other women also sound "female" in their playing. Is that something that others sense? I remember asking Brad Hurley that question in a flute workshop at the Pipers Gathering—some said yes ("gentler" or "emphasis on melody" for many women players; "more emphasis on rhythm" and "more strident" were phrases I heard said about male players) others said no ("that's gender stereotyping").

So, at the risk of offense toward anyone, is this a thing?

Ducking for cover but still sending best wishes to all.

Steve

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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 12:19 pm 
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I never really thought about it. Two of my favourite players are Orlaith McAuliffe (just ordered a CD) and Catherin McEvoy. Others are Shannon Heaton and a player on YouTube called Sarah Hale.
But now that you mention it -- sure, none of them plays with as much "punch" as for example Conal O'Grada or Harry Bradley. But does that make them sound "female"? I don't know really. It's not like the "barking" sound of Conal O'Grada is a matter of bigger lungs or anything that would prevent a woman from playing like that. Conal says it himself in his teaching book -- a flute played corretly should not take more air than a tin whistle. And it's also not like all men play "harder", louder or more "manly" than women.
Interesting question in any case. I wonder, what others think.


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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 12:33 pm 
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Perhaps the difference is in the tunes that they each choose to play, rather than physical attributes to playing.

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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 12:35 pm 
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https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/v ... ction=view


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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 1:10 pm 
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This may have been a thing, but it doesn't have to be. I can't remember who the player was, but a friend posted a clip on FB of a young woman playing a Hammy Hamilton flute and barking up a storm. Barking or not barking is a stylistic choice.


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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 1:20 pm 
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It is not too long ago the flute was thought as a bit inappropriate for women to play. I know of women of my own generation and slightly younger from the West of Ireland who really wanted to play the pipes when young who were diverted to the flute which was just about becoming a bit more acceptable, or perhaps the lesser of two evils. That attitude has vanished now.

Saying the flute takes not much more air than the whistle may be right but it does also ignore the sheer physicality involved in playing the flute and I don't think that can be ignored when discussing this. That said anyone who has been in close proximity of Aoife Granville playing, or Louise Mulcahy for that matter, will acknowledge the sheer power and volume of their playing.

The sense of a female voice is not one limited to flute players though, it is recognised, by some at least, certainly in concertina playing and in piping as well to a degree and it would involve perhaps a different sense of musicality, not trying to overwhelm by techinicality and power but having a more melodic sensibility. The old head vs heart, in other words. I can certainly recall hearing comments after concerts where the sexes and their playing were set off against eachother and how that influenced the enjoyment (or not) of the concert in question. Gender stereotyping? I don't know, more of a generalisation, things are not always that black and white or well definined in reality.

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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 2:16 pm 
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Sedi wrote:
I never really thought about it. Two of my favourite players are Orlaith McAuliffe (just ordered a CD) and Catherin McEvoy. Others are Shannon Heaton and a player on YouTube called Sarah Hale.
But now that you mention it -- sure, none of them plays with as much "punch" as for example Conal O'Grada or Harry Bradley. But does that make them sound "female"? I don't know really. It's not like the "barking" sound of Conal O'Grada is a matter of bigger lungs or anything that would prevent a woman from playing like that. Conal says it himself in his teaching book -- a flute played corretly should not take more air than a tin whistle. And it's also not like all men play "harder", louder or more "manly" than women.
Interesting question in any case. I wonder, what others think.



Sarah Hale (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnRuGJ ... a5uXJOYI0Q) plays with a pretty significant level of punch, IMO.


Last edited by jenfen on Wed Feb 10, 2021 10:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 2:40 pm 
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Just remembered another great female player I like (who plays as powerful as any man) -- Eimear McGeown:
https://youtu.be/ysoy5ARnsZA


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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 2:59 pm 
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Peg Needham later Peg McGrath. "Roscommon style" as they say.


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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 3:09 pm 
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I recall one line from the Mná an Cheoil flute segment (interestingly the one segment not available currently) where Catherine McEvoy says that Patsy Hanly complimented her by saying that "she plays like a man". I don't recall that there was any amplification of the statement but it did seem to come off as a legitimate compliment to those involved.

Best wishes.

Steve

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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 3:20 pm 
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Looking at the list of All-Ireland flute winners shows Peg McGrath in 1976, Deirdre Collis in 1975 and a
Frances Donahue in 1954. I had not heard the latter two names (as flute players) previously—and I'm only assuming that Frances is a female name in Ireland.

Into the 1980s, there's lots more female winners.

Best wishes.

Steve

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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 9:43 pm 
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I just want to make sure that June McCormack’s name is included in this discussion of might female flutters.


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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 9:59 pm 
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Steve Bliven wrote:
What I found particularly interesting was a comment by Ms. Granville that her playing "sounds like a woman"—and that many other women also sound "female" in their playing. Is that something that others sense? I remember asking Brad Hurley that question in a flute workshop at the Pipers Gathering—some said yes ("gentler" or "emphasis on melody" for many women players; "more emphasis on rhythm" and "more strident" were phrases I heard said about male players) others said no ("that's gender stereotyping").


I wonder if this is true, or if that's just what people "hear" because it's what they expect women will play like. If you took a bunch of flutists and had them play in a dark room for blindfolded listeners, would the listeners still agree that the women play differently? If you then told them that a male player was female and vice versa, would they still say that the player they thought was female played "gentler" than the one they thought was male?

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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2021 2:57 am 
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Steve's hesitation in raising the topic reminded me that it has come up before, in the Letters pages of the Musical Times, back in 1889.

In the September edition, "Flauto" comments that in his view the flute is very suitable as a lady’s instrument - more so than the clarinet in his view - and mentions an un-named lady who had recently been prominent as a performer on the instrument.

In the same edition, “P. R. B” also supports “Flauto’s” comment regarding the suitability of the flute as a lady’s instrument by mentioning having heard a lady flautist, Miss Cora Cardigan, on several occasions and says that he is “still waiting to hear a better performer”.

In the October edition, “Ebonite” opined that the flute can never become a lady’s instrument because it takes more breath than they can muster (possibly a reference to the constraining effects of the corset?).

In the November edition, "Honig", the pianist husband of the aforementioned "Miss" Cora Cardigan, assured readers that some ladies (including his wife) “have enough air about them to move a schooner”. (I can just imagine Cora saying "Thanks, Dear..." when she read the entry.)

And again in the same edition, "J. D." has a go at "Ebonite" re lady players. We don't ever hear from "Ebonite" again on the topic!


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 Post subject: Re: Women fluters
PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2021 4:20 am 
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Two words for ya : Steph Geremia

@Sedi : "Orlaith McAuliffe (just ordered a CD)" What CD would that be, please ?

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