The Woodwind Department is small but hugely rich in diversity, with a range of amazing teachers. Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Classical Sax and Recorder grace the school with a range of wonderful repertoire. All our teachers are performers at a top professional level, and many also work at Junior and Senior Conservatoires. They therefore understand the next level of learning that students may be looking to explore.
We have regular and exciting Masterclasses from top players, most recently saxophonist Amy Dickson, and Juliana Koch, Principal Oboe in the London Symphony Orchestra. Chamber ensembles with our amazing string and keyboard students enable exploration through coaching, rehearsals and concerts, of some of the best chamber repertoire for their instrument. Regular instrument classes create further chamber playing opportunities and time to focus on the peculiarities and wonders of each instrument. All our work aims to prepare our Woodwind students to enjoy music making in any performing situation.
The department holds bi-annual Woodwind Days, which are open to young woodwind players of Grade 6 standard and above. Coached by members of the faculty, the workshops, ensemble playing and performance classes provide a valuable insight for prospective students into this enthusiastic, supportive and vibrant department.
Head of Woodwind Joy Farrall introduces the department in footage from our recent Virtual Open Morning.
Posture and Stretching Exercises
Classical bassoonist, contrabassoonist and teacher Gordon Laing gives a virtual masterclass in posture and stretching exercises.
The Flute Department at The Purcell School consists of a group of outstanding, supportive and inspiring young people. The standard of musicianship is second to none and students are kept extremely busy and are expected to work very hard. However, we also have a lot of fun and a highlight is Flute Group, where we play in ensemble, perform to each other and debate all things flute! We are also very proud to have a dedicated and thriving second study department, made up of players of all ages.
Flute students at the school are offered an abundance of opportunities within orchestras, chamber groups and outreach projects throughout the year. Students have achieved great success in auditions and competitions, in and outside of school, and boast an eclectic mix of recent performances, ranging from recitals at The Wigmore Hall to appearances on Britain’s Got Talent! Alumni have gone on to study at some of the world’s most prestigious conservatoires and many have gone on to become world renowned performers; forming busy careers as soloists, teachers, chamber, orchestral and session/show players.
‘I joined Purcell in Year 12, and from the moment I met my fellow Flute players I felt extremely welcome! Spending time with Flautists who were in the year above gave me a sense of direction and pushed me to achieve more than I had ever imagined. Since there are less of us we are often given more opportunities which is a fantastic for those who may not have had the chance to make music in a chamber setting. In addition to this playing amongst the rest of the Woodwind section during Symphony Orchestra further enforces the sense of community that is felt by all. The Flute department may be small but we all have each other’s backs and all share the same passion.’
Anya, Year 13
‘Hello!! I’m Elise, I am in Year 10 and am one of flutists and piccolo player at The Purcell School.
Being a flutist at Purcell is one of the best choices I’ve made, we have so many opportunities, like chamber and orchestra and many different concerts as well. We also get chances to play different types of flutes, like the piccolo, alto flute and bass flute! We have a flute group class too and try so much different repertoire and learn a lot more about our instruments. Everyone in the section gets on really well and we all enjoy playing music together.’
Elise, Year 10
Oboe life at The Purcell School is a busy, fun and varied mix of lessons, reed making, masterclasses, chamber music, orchestral playing and plenty of practice. Regular classes with oboe teachers Melanie Ragge and James Turnbull offer the opportunity to try out new pieces, play chamber music and discuss all aspects of oboe playing. Masterclasses with luminaries in the field, such as the London Symphony Orchestra Principal Oboe Juliana Koch, provide an opportunity for additional professional feedback. The department strives to find creative ways to inspire students. An example of this was the study of one of Gilles Silvestrini’s Etudes during the lockdown period which culminated in virtual performance of the piece for the composer and oboist via Zoom.
‘I’m Chelsea, and I am a joint first study oboist and composer in Year 13. I joined the school in Year 7 and even from the young age of eleven, as a second study oboist, I felt the sense of community between the oboists, who were very supportive, and I loved being inspired by the Sixth Form players. As I moved up through the years, I became a joint first study in Year 10. I got to play with the Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, chamber groups and attend multiple masterclasses – with the likes of Juliana Koch and Nicholas Daniel. I absolutely love our oboe department: we are a small department, and with that there is a strong sense of community and a shared passion for the oboe’.
Chelsea, Year 13
The Clarinet Department is a unique and vibrant place to learn your instrument with a wide range of exciting opportunities. In regular one to one lessons we work not only on developing the essential technical aspects of playing, but also on encouraging a distinctive individual musical voice. We also further offer second study lessons on both Bass Clarinet and E-flat Clarinet, giving a unique early opportunity to gain experience on these instruments. There are numerous orchestral and chamber performance opportunities for all students throughout the year. Students will also be able to play side-by-side in performances with The Purcell School clarinet teachers, Joy Farrall and Steven Williams both of whom bring their own busy performing career experiences to share with the students.
‘Being part of the school’s woodwind department comes with lots of exciting opportunities for everyone. It’s great working in such a close knit group and we get a lot of individual support to reach our needs. I’ve been studying the Clarinet with Joy Farrall for 6 years now. She is always supportive, encourages me to learn independently and stretches me to play to the best of my ability. More recently I’ve started to study with Stephen Williams alongside my lessons with Joy. As well as being an excellent Bass Clarinet teacher, he has helped me to identify personal targets and aims for my playing. I feel that my lessons with Stephen and Joy complement each other perfectly. They always keep a dialogue about what I’m learning and set me relevant material.’
Lily, Year 12
To be part of the Bassoon Department at The Purcell School is to learn how to get the very best from yourself and your instrument. Our one to one lessons provide the extra time and space to really develop an individual’s sound. Students will build up a routine of practice and exercises that will continue to enhance their all-round playing, as well as maturing their analytical skills. The sound and technique developed is always made relevant to the bassoon as an orchestral instrument, but as well as core repertoire, the solo pieces students take on can be guided by their own interests. They will also acquire reed adjusting and making skills, in order to become self-sufficient musicians. We are a collegiate bunch of bassoonists at Purcell, and the department has a strong sense of community and support. We have a dedicated bassoon group which provides a forum for playing, sharing ideas and developing crucial listening skills – as listening to great music by great artists, of any kind, can often be the best lesson!
‘Graham Hobbs is a wonderful teacher and someone to look up to. I have thoroughly enjoyed all my years as a student with him and he brings the best out in everyone. He is supportive in all you do, and lessons are always a joy. It’s especially amazing to be part of a Woodwind Department led by Joy Farrall, who is a wonderfully great Head of Department, and inspires us all daily, whether it be with sectionals full of fun, or life stories and lessons to teach us’.
Eva, Year 13, Head Girl
Although it’s widely thought of as a jazz instrument, the saxophone was patented in 1846 as a classical instrument and the classical saxophone department at The Purcell School seeks to celebrate this varied history. We cover a wide variety of styles of music from transcriptions to original contemporary works to make us adaptable and diverse musicians. Students are encouraged to develop their musicality as solo performers as well as chamber and orchestral musicians. Recent highlights include masterclasses with Amy Dickson, Kyle Horch, and Naomi Sullivan, as well as performances from the Saxophone Quartet at Wigmore Hall and solo performances at Milton Court. There is so much good music to enjoy as classical saxophonists and we have great fun encouraging and exploring together.
‘I joined Purcell last year as first study saxophonist and second study recorder. Amy Green is a wonderful teacher and I always feel joyous when I have a lesson coming up with her. She is a very friendly, supportive person and I feel lucky to have a teacher like her. I am glad to be part of the Woodwind Department led by Joy Farrall and although I am the youngest saxophonist in the School, I have never felt missed out. The older students inspire and support me as much as they can, and I am following their footsteps. My musicianship and my life as a Purcellian has only just begun but I believe that my dream to become the best saxophonist I can be, will come true.’
April, Year 7
Recorders form a small but vibrant ‘subdivision’ of the Woodwind Department. They are very much involved with all of the department’s activities as well enjoying baroque chamber opportunities, renaissance consort and contemporary ensembles. Whilst having one foot in the Historically Informed Performance camp they also often feature in collaborations with the Composition Department, have on occasion infiltrated the Jazz Department and have persuaded percussionists to join them in playing Medieval Dances to Japanese 20th century performance works. Purcell recorder students have enjoyed success in BBCYM and Open Recorder Days Amsterdam, performed at the Wigmore Hall and been awarded scholarships to RAM, RCM, GSMD and Conservatoire van Amsterdam.
‘I am Rowena and I am a joint first harp and recorder player in Year 11. From when I joined the School in Year 8 there were only three other recorder players but increasing to five last year has made our small community even more interesting. For recorders we all have chamber as our recorder group and there are baroque ensembles and baroque chambers that can always fit a recorder in somewhere, and surprisingly there are a lot of other opportunities to play with instruments that you wouldn’t normally pair a recorder with. Yes, we are not a part of big orchestras, but as our small group we have had lots of great opportunities to play in a group and individually.’