Flute finale…

By | December 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm | 4 comments | Gradeone-athon | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My accompanist Ed and I had a run through last week and it was a match made in heaven, his bouncy enthusiasm my err.. bling! We commandeered a dressing room backstage at the Barbican and ran through the pieces twice and declared ourselves ready! Jo Johnson kindly acted as examiner and took some snaps for posterity.

I got the seal of approval flute-wise from musical heavyweights Daniel Harding and Gareth Davies, pictured at the top of the page drawing great subtleties from the £70 pink flute. I played on iPad “Face Time” to LSO ex-2nd flute Siobhan Grealy up in Scotland amidst lots of laughter and interjections from her young son Struan. We discovered I had the mouth piece turned round too far and all my fingerings were wrong but hey, otherwise all going well!! Thanks Shiv for giving me some confidence and for the encouraging messages this week.

I even took my flute to Madrid (as hand luggage fortunately, as my suitcase went AWOL on the return to London for 30 hours) to do some hurried practise and was spotted by Mario de Sa in an abandoned stairwell practising “Hot chilli” whilst the Stravinsky Violin Concerto was being rehearsed on stage.

Well, exam day today came by far too quickly. I realised it was my 9th associated board exam on my 4th instrument (violin, ‘cello, piano) After the Barbican dress-rehearsal (with my friends asking if I was nervous every 5 mins – well I wasn’t but I am now!!) I headed off to Notting Hill, deciding against eating or drinking anything. I arrived suitably early and was shown to the small waiting room, which consisted of a keyboard and three young kids with their parents eating packed lunches. I have never felt so out of place in my life. There was no pretending I was waiting for my student to arrive as I removed my coat to double takes. Yes, a musical shirt! I figured this would have been akin to what I’d have worn as a child so it seemed perfect. Ed arrived a few minutes later and we spent the 40 minutes wait bursting into laughter every few minutes and rolling our eyes at the pushy parents correcting their kids’ mistakes on the keyboard and prodding them to sit up straight.

All too soon and it was my turn. Fortunately, the exam room was the big main room in a modern church so I figured the acoustic would be on my side. The examiner looked up and said my shirt was very appropriate and I replied that I wanted to dress for the occasion. And then, it was time to start. It’s all a bit of a blur to be honest. There were no massive mistakes I think… I was a little breathy and suddenly developed a natural vibrato. Two pieces done and lots of writing was going on from the examiner. Ed left for my solo piece and snapped this shot outside the door. The aural was just hilarious and if I don’t get full marks I’ll be getting a serious telling off from my piano teacher mum who went through what was required over the phone. I fluffed one of the scales, G major, the easiest one too – I suddenly started thinking about violin fingering!

And then, it was all over! The examiner thanked me and asked, “Do you play anything else by any chance??” So I did admit I am a violinist in the LSO and explained about the Gradeone-athon charity. He said he thought there was something funny going on and was really interested in the project and said he hopes we make lots of money. I hope he gives me a good mark then – I get more money for distinction from my parents!

I’m relieved it’s over now. It’s been an amazing experience and if it means kids get a chance at a better life then the embarrassment has been all worth it. You can still donate here. The charity has passed the £10,000 mark and I’m delighted to say I’m personally near the £1000 mark thanks to so many generous friends. Please, even £5 will make a huge difference to children’s lives. https://www.justgiving.com/JosTanzania

Thanks for following this journey with me and who knows, maybe I’ll try a brass instrument next time! ;-)


You can find out more about Gradeone-athon and donate to the charity on the website: http://www.childrenincrossfire.org/participate/fundraising/gradeoneathon

And watch this film to find out more about the charity the challenge is supporting in this video:

And have a look at the Facebook Group for more updates on the musicians’ progress:


  1. Jo Watts (1 year ago)

    So so proud of you Maxine!
    What an utter star you are.
    We haven’t even met but I know you’ve taken this whole project on in the true spirit I’d hoped for. I’m so grateful to you for your time and hard work. I travel back to Tanzania in the summer to take the money and decide with the doctors, nurses, teachers, charity workers and children themselves what to spend the money on.
    I’ll keep you informed and get some pictures to you so you can do an up date and show all those wonderful people who donated exactly where their money is being spent.
    Can’t wait to see what your result is!

  2. jenny worstall (1 year ago)

    Well done! Did you pass?!

  3. Simon Twigge (1 year ago)

    Fingers crossed for a distinction!

    How about this for your next project:

    http://goo.gl/4G6guI … a lovely pink french horn – it could benefit from some customised bling though ;-)

  4. Paul Davies (1 year ago)

    Well done Maxine – please do let us know how you got on. Good luck also to Rebecca Gilliver who is (I believe) taking her Grade 1 today. I’ve added something on the “Just Giving” page.


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