The next in our series of classical-because-nobody’s-come-up-with-a-better-word-yet groups and troupes focuses on a south London musical collective with an extremely divisive name. Any Londonist readers over the age of 30 will understand why Opal Flutes is a fine confectionery-based pun of a name, while relative youngsters are probably wondering what on Earth it means and why they’re not called Starflutes instead.
In 2008, a group of flautists came together in East Dulwich following a shared revelation that there are never enough spots available in regular orchestras for flute players, and when a spot does come up, the lucky recipient tends to cling to it for life. Thus was born Opal Flutes, a flute choir composed of ladies and the odd chap who meet twice a month in Christ Church Methodist and United Reformed Church in East Dulwich to practice a repertoire that to describe as varied would be to describe a tube of Smarties as ‘having a colour or two’.
Having increased their membership from 10 to 27, Opal Flutes have honed their talents at the regular rehearsals and at two concerts a year, held in the same East Dulwich church. Just about anything can be included in their list of songs, from show tunes to classical music, themes from films and anything that helps to make the playing fun for the musicians and their audiences.
Occasional themed shows help to mix things up even more. One particularly memorable Halloween show entitled Spooks & Spells involved the music of the Danse Macabre, Harry Potter tunes, the Phantom of the Opera and all sorts of other frightening sounds.
They also do a marvellous Pink Panther, as you can hear yourself below.
The choir’s musical director and conductor is Sharon Moloney, who has been there from the start and involved in amateur musicianship in London for a fair while via the Making Music organisation. Having run a similar choir while at school, eventually progressing to the National Flute Orchestra, Sharon says she takes great pleasure in organising Opal Flutes events and integrating new players.
Finding new members is as important to Opal Flutes as it is to most amateur groups. It is a mixed-ability organisation, and players of all standards are welcomed, and helped to find their best spot within the group. The repertoire is changed every six months, at which point everyone’s regular standing places are switched, so everyone gets to play next to others of different abilities and styles, benefiting the whole group.
One of the next Opal Flutes shows is another of their themed endeavours — A Night at the Circus on 25 October. This will feature Entry of the Gladiators by Julius Fucik and it can’t be anything but a great laugh playing and hearing that on the flute. There are other shows coming up in a busy year, including a joint concert with another south London collective, the Koruso! community choir of Southwark.
If you’re interested in joining the group you can get in touch via their contact form, and though all types of flautist are welcome, should you happen to play alto or bass flute, or the piccolo, they will arrange a red carpet for your first rehearsal and shower you with gifts throughout your time in the group, or at the very least be extra grateful. They also have a junior section for up-and-coming flute heroes.
Opal Flutes make a clear and consistent point of making involvement in the choir fun and pressure-free, with a focus on providing something for everyone involved, whether playing in or attending a show. And we don’t know about you, but to us that sounds really sweet. Oh come on, you knew it was coming.
Note: if you’ve never heard of Opal Fruits, blimey – just how young are you?