Man With The Wooden Flute

By Chris Norman

Three comments

Man with the wooden flute

This is one of my favourite albums of all time, and a great incentive to pick up the wooden flute. Chris Norman’s style is unlike most trad flute players, but he is so good that he deserves a listen. His use of dynamics, finger vibrato and other ornamentation techniques is perfect. He plays (at least in this album) a boxwood flute, which sounds sweeter than the usual blackwood models. I believe it’s a Rudall.

The other musicians playing in this album are also first rate: Robin Bullock on guitar, citern and fiddle, Ann Marie Morgan on viola da gamba and Pete Sutherland on fiddle.

Chris Norman

The reason he’s different than most traditional players is because he isn’t one. I wouldn’t suggest this album to someone brand new to Irish trad music, it would confuse them. His ornaments are usually baroque mordents (not rolls) & his taps & cuts aren’t very percussive - also he has a very sine-wavey sounding tone as opposed to the hard, reedy sound of traditional players. Don’t get me wrong I think he’s a great player of some other styles of music & this album is a good one, but I don’t really consider him an ITM flute player just cause he plays some irish tunes.

Chris Norman

As you said, he isn’t part of the Irish flute tradition, but he’s a great flute player that’s bound to influence other players (including Irish flute players), through his recordings and through the Boxwood festival and others. This album was one of the great incentives for me to pick up the wooden flute and the trad repertory (the other incentive was Matt Molloy’s black album).

One good thing Chris Norman did was to open up a lot of the fiddle repertory to flute. That’s, incidentally, where a lot of the non-Irish stuff appears (e.g.: Man of Constant Sorrow, Dry’N’Dusty, etc).

He does good rolls, at least in this album.

Interestingly, i borrowed tapes from someone who took lessons from Chris about 20 years ago, and at that time he was doing more of the traditional Irish repertory.

But it’s important for the beginner, as you say, to understand that this is not the style of flute players one should try to learn in order to play in Irish music sessions.