Meet the artists
Katy Bircher – Principal Flute
Katy Bircher – Principal Flute
How did you start playing the flute?
I started playing the flute at the age of 9, after several years of pleading and (tragically) playing the recorder sideways! Like most flute players of my vintage, I was totally inspired by James Galway, and it was the shiny modern flute that I was interested in. It wasn’t until the end of my studies at Oxford University that my ears were really opened to the sound of the baroque flute and I realised that this was the instrument for me. I went on to study early flutes with Stephen Preston and Lisa Beznosiuk at the Royal College of Music in London and fell increasingly in love with the beautiful, flexible and expressive tone and musical possibilities of these instruments and their direct link to the repertoire.
What’s different about the Baroque flute?
The baroque flute is made of wood and only has one key. It has a very mellow tone and the lack of keys means that many notes are formed by using ‘cross fingerings’. These notes have a more veiled character and their placement in the music offers a wide and unusual palette of tone colours.
The Badinerie in the second suite (which you will play in the January concerts) is one of Bach’s most iconic pieces – why do you think this particular movement has captured people’s imagination?
The Badinerie comes at the end of the 2nd suite, after six subtle movements where the flute emerges from the texture in a variety of ways. In the Badinerie, the flute steps fully into the limelight in unashamedly virtuosic style, bringing the piece to an incredibly exciting end. Quite what has made it famous enough to feature as a mobile phone ringtone, I’m not sure – although that never ceases to get my heart rate going on trains, in supermarkets and other unlikely places!
What do you enjoy about doing Bach with John Butt/Dunedin Consort?
The depth of John’s knowledge and insight into this music is unquestionable and, of course, this in itself is exciting. However, it is the manner in which he imparts his wisdom that brings something so special to the group. Cerebral, insightful, crazy, irreverent, hilarious and silly comments tumble out pretty much constantly, creating an atmosphere where players are free to explore ideas and good humour abounds. A great way to make music with warm, supportive and like minded colleagues.
What has been your favourite book of 2016?
Too hard! I re-read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird this year and remembered how absolutely brilliant it is. In fact, I might read it once a year in the hope that some of Atticus Finch’s qualities rub off on me….. I also greatly enjoyed Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Sorry – that’s three!
What are you looking forward to in the new year (apart from our concerts, obviously!)?
Recording the 2nd Suite is very exciting – it’s such a big piece for us flute players! I’m also looking forward to playing and recording the Brandenburg Concertos with Concerto Copenhagen and Lars Ulrik Mortensen and to playing under the direction of Peter Whelan for the first time. Oh, and to knitting an Icelandic jumper (New Year’s resolution), if I can ever stay awake long enough to finish a row…….
Which living person do you admire the most?
Really? I have to pick ONE?? Well, fresh from a recent project with him, I will choose Jordi Savall. He is an amazing and incredibly generous musician and a person of such refinement, integrity and conscience. Much to aspire to.