Grace Notes: Flö

I was talking to a friend recently and we were discussing how much we enjoyed playing chamber music, and getting the chance to explore different repertoire. So we came up with the idea of starting a duo to play at weddings or functions and also to do concerts, meaning we get to play the fun ‘wedding pieces’ but also explore other things that might not be quite so standard. I play the violin and my friend (Ellie) plays the flute, so we started looking into repertoire that worked for that combination. It turned out that there’s a lot out there, and flute duo and violin duo pieces would work as well.

After that we made a few quick videos and recordings, and put together a website and Flö was created! We have plans to do a few concerts in the summer, hopefully with some new repertoire written specially for us.

Flö Profile Picture

I’m really looking forward to see where we can take it, and I’m very excited to learn some new, different, repertoire too!


Grace Notes: Buying a violin

Over the last few years, I’ve started to notice that my violin hasn’t always been able to do everything that I was trying to play. This summer I eventually decided (with some encouragement and help from my parents) to begin to look for a new violin.

I was home for just over two months and so we ended up going to a lot of violin shops in a pretty short place of time. I owe a big thanks to my dad especially, for all the driving and listening to endless violins. Everyone who worked in all of the various shops were great and really helpful, especially as when we started looking I had no idea what I wanted except something ‘louder’. The more violins I tried, the better idea I had of what I actually wanted, so by the end I had gotten pretty good at knowing when a particular violin wasn’t for me.

I am really happy with the instrument I’ve ended up with, and hopefully I won’t have to go through buying another instrument for a long while. But, if or when I have to do it again, there are a few key things that I’ve learnt:

1. It doesn’t matter if you don’t immediately know what you want, the more you try the more you will learn.

2. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t like a particular violin, even if you think you should. So long as you are polite and just say that that one isn’t for you, you’ll be fine.

3. The best way to really know if the violin is for you is to take it home and try it in a familiar space, so you already know what the acoustics will be like.

4. You don’t have to play pieces to test it, sometimes just playing long loud and quiet sounds really exposes what the instrument is like.

5. Don’t be scared to really play out in the shop. No-one is going to judge you if you miss a few shifts or play slightly out of tune.

6. I found it helpful to keep going back to my own violin, as then I could really get some perspective on how much better the one I was playing on was.

7. Ask questions and find out as much as you can, because then you’ll be able to ask for something similar in the next place you look.

8. I found it really helpful having another pair of ears (my Dad) listening as I was trying them. It was really interesting and helpful to get his opinion about what the instrument sounded like when it wasn’t directly under your ear.

9. Just because a violin is slightly cheaper than the range you were thinking of, doesn’t mean that it’s less good.

After about two months of trying violins, Dad and I were in Scotland, staying with my grandparents before a hiking trip. We decided to have a day in Edinburgh and made a quick visit to Stringers just to see what they had. As it turned out they had a number of violins by a Scottish maker Paul Bowers, one of which I was very taken with. I ended up borrowing it and taking it back to Cardiff, and after another few trial weeks decided I loved it and bought it.


My new violin!

Having had three weeks back in Sweden playing on it every day I’m still very pleased with it. The difference it makes is astounding and I couldn’t be happier.

Grace Notes: Looking back to February…

In February, I performed with my brother in a concert at St Peter’s College Oxford. Two months on, I wanted to look back and reflect on a few points.

I really enjoyed the concert and by the time I had played my first couple of pieces, I had managed to get control of my nerves and actually enjoy performing. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take this feeling onwards and use it to help through future performances, including my final recital in May.

I’ve also learnt some important things about marketing from looking at my audience surveys. The majority of people who came to the concert were friends and family, but about a third of the audience heard about the event through Facebook, and most of them were students. Therefore, if I were ever to market an event again, I’d push the Facebook campaign, but also push flyers and posters in non-student communities, hopefully drawing in a wider range of ages to the concert.

I also discovered that although the venue was lovely and I’m hoping I can play there again, the only thing that was an issue was due to the fact I live in London, having to travel to Oxford for every rehearsal was a little tricky as it took out a whole day. However, in the future there isn’t much I’ll be able to do about this so I think I will have to just plan my days better, ensuring I get as much done as I can in the time I have.

Here are some clips from the concert. I am particularly pleased with the Bach, but here are some bits of all of the pieces.

Overall I am really proud of what I achieved, both in a performance and organisational way. And thank you again to everyone who came to watch and supported Sam and me.

Grace Notes: What did the audience think?

A few days ago I did my concert in Oxford that I’ve mentioned in a number of previous posts. Inside each of the programs I included a survey for the audience.

I chose the questions so that, if I were to do another concert again, I’d know who to target my marketing at what mediums to use for promotion.

Here is an example of the survey I used.

pic of survey


At the end of the concert I got a survey back from almost all of the audience members. I’m looking forward to collating the results, seeing what people thought and how far my last attempt at promoting reached.

Grace Notes: Less than a week to go!

In 5 days my brother Sam and I will be performing in St Peters Chapel, Oxford at 7.30pm. There have been a few stressful moments in the planning process, but I think everything is now coming together.

Oxford Poster

I had a violin lesson today and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t want to do anything too radical on the pieces I’m playing on Saturday, as I’ve had some bad past experiences of teachers changing things on the day of the concert and resulting in me mistakes due to the unfamiliar new fingering or bowing. In the end we just worked on technique (arm weight) which was actually really helpful and I’m excited to start working on it after the concert.

Both Sam and I have been busy practicing and promoting. We’ve been sharing our event on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and are hoping we can draw in a few more audience members through social media.

If you happen to be in the area, would be amazing to see you there!

Grace Notes: Flyering and Rehearsals

Yesterday I spent the day in Oxford to do some preparation for mine and my brother’s concert on February 6th. I set off early from London and arrived in Oxford around 10.30am. I met my brother at the bus station and we spent the morning putting up posters and dropping off flyers to some of his friends for them to put up in their collages. It also gave me a chance to see lots of the different colleges and get a feel for the place.

2016-01-23 11.23.27


After lunch, we had then planned a rehearsal with the pianist and then a rehearsal of the double concerto after. However, Sam was ill and so I just had a rehearsal with the pianist. To make it more complicated, I had to change my program last minute, so the rehearsal was a little difficult. I hadn’t had a proper chance to refresh the new pieces, and the pianist was sight reading. However, we concentrated on musicality and I was really pleased with the outcome.

Everything is now starting to come together, and I now am looking forward to the concert. I’ve created an event on Facebook, so if you happen to be in the area on the day, then please come along!

Grace Notes: Concert News!

I mentioned in my first post of the year that my brother and I are putting on a concert in Oxford. We’ve been planning this for a while, but things are finally starting to slot into place.

The concert is on Saturday February 6th, at 7.30 in St Peter’s College Chapel. We’ll be playing a selection of music by composers including Bach, Bartok and Saint-Saens. The piece we’re most excited about playing is the Violin and Oboe Double Concerto by Bach.

Today I spent the day printing out posters and flyers and I’m heading up to Oxford tomorrow to hand them out and display them. Sam (my brother) and I are also going to have a chance to rehearse together and with the pianist which will be great! I’m really excited to hear how everything sounds.

Oxford Poster

Please feel free to share this poster with anyone who may be interested!

The concert is completely free (with optional donations towards the national Youth Orchestra of Wales) and please come along if you are in the vicinity and fancy a lovely hour of music!