International flute player reunites with former teacher after 21 years

Graham McPhail taught Melissa Farrow at St Cuthbert's College around 25 years ago.
HUGH COLLINS/FAIRFAX NZ

Graham McPhail taught Melissa Farrow at St Cuthbert's College around 25 years ago.

After 25 years, an internationally-renowned Kiwi flautist has been reunited with her former high school music teacher.

Melissa Farrow, who now lives in Sydney, will perform this weekend with Graham McPhail, a music teacher who once inspired her at Auckland St Cuthbert's College.

Farrow is a period flautist and is the principal flute player of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.

The group plays scores from the 18th century on restored and reproduced instruments from the period. 

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Farrow specialises in the wooded baroque flute, an instrument she said has a distinctive sound from the traditional steel flute.

"You come to a wooden instrument and it's a lot more mellow and soft and grainy and gritty," Farrow said.

"You feel like you're playing a tree that was once alive, it's a very different feeling.

"It's got a lot of character, it's got a lot of colour differences. I think that's what really attracts me to it."

Farrow said she was drawn to the baroque flute having learnt about the historical context of the instrument as a child.  

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"That kind of captured my imagination as a teenager, I thought that sounded amazing."

She said performing music from the 18th century had required her to extensively research the ways in which musicians would have played the instrument in that period.  

"So that affects us when we come together as a group, we've all had this background information and then we can discusss things and come up with our own interpretation in the 21st century.

"We can't exactly replicate what was done back then but we can do our best."

Farrow also played the recorder, an instrument she said was challenging despite its stereotype as a child's instrument.

"It can actually be really hard because it's kind of so transparent, it's easy to tell when you make a mistake."

McPhail said when Farrow was a student they both shared an interest in early music.

"And off she went into the world and it's taken her this long to come back," he said. 

Farrow and McPhail will perform in NZ Barok's Autumn Notes show this weekend at St Luke's Church in Remuera.

NZ Barok is New Zealand's national baroque orchestra.

 - Stuff

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