Our new Principal Flute
23 October 2012
In September we welcomed Matthew Featherstone to the Orchestra as Principal Flute - here we learn a little bit about his time with the Orchestra so far.
(DH) Congratulations on your new appointment! It's taken some time to get to this stage - could you tell us a little about the audition and trial phase?
(MF) Thank you! When I first auditioned for the Orchestra it was for the second flute position, because the principal and second flute of the Orchestra left at a very similar time, so there were two vacancies to fill in the Orchestra. I trialed for the second flute job and about a year later was asked to try for principal flute - and luckily it seemed to work out well! So I guess it has taken time if you see it from that point of view. But it's meant I've been able to get to know the Orchestra and have had time to get used to the prospect of this job! I must admit, from the very first time I played with the orchestra I really enjoyed the section's friendliness and playing, and it just felt very easy to fit in.
Where has your career taken you up to this point?
I've been gradually building up more and more work since leaving music college - as a solo recitalist, chamber musician, freelance orchestral player and teacher in London. This year's been a very exciting time for me, winning the Royal Oversea League Wind Prize, and being offered this fantastic job! I feel very fortunate. My wife and I have moved to Cardiff and are settling in nicely. So it's a bit of a change of lifestyle, but I'm enjoying it very much so far!
You spent a year with the Southbank Sinfonia - a melting pot for recent graduates from music colleges around the world - what was that like?
It's was brilliant! For me, it was a real opportunity to learn the craft and skills you need to be an orchestral musician, in a low pressure environment, with people who are at a similar stage in the beginning of their career. It helped bridge the gap between a student orchestra and a professional orchestra. I was getting more experience every day, trying new things and taking risks. It helped me build up the confidence and experience I needed as a principal player.
What's been the highlight so far whilst playing with BBC National Orchestra of Wales?
I think it would have to be playing Bruckner's Seventh Symphony in St David's Hall during my trial. It's a very powerful symphony, and I remember completely forgetting about the fact I was on trial and enjoying being a part of the wonderful music making that was going on around me. It's got some nice lyrical solo wind writing too, so I obviously enjoyed those moments too!
You take part in a wide variety of projects outside of orchestral music - including chamber music and improvisatory projects - will you still be working on these projects whilst you're with us in Cardiff?
I hope so! I think it's important to keep that variety as much as possible, to keep you fresh as a player. I just love playing chamber music with smaller ensembles where everyone has an input into shaping the music, and I enjoy the interaction with other players. I've been playing with my flute, harp and viola trio for the last 6 years, performing improvisations in concerts, which we thoroughly enjoy, as well as expanding the repertoire for that combination of instruments.
I hear you've also had some experience in beatboxing in your time?
Wow, I don't know who your sources are but you're right! I did a lot of work in London as a jazz/soul singer on top of my classical work. I got involved in a beatbox vocal group created by Shlomo, one of the UK's leading beatboxers, because they needed a bass for one of their gigs. I had to learn on the job, but they all taught me very quickly how to beatbox, and I've been working with Shlomo and the Lip Factory since then. I wouldn't say I'm a professional beatboxer by any means but I can hold a beat!
What concert are you looking forward to the most with BBC National Orchestra of Wales?
I'm very much looking forward to playing Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony and Mahler's Fifth Symphony, as they're both incredible symphonies!