2019 Performer Profiles: Claire Wickes

Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell introduces some of the outstanding performers taking part in the 2019 Southwell Music Festival.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming flautist Claire Wickes to the Southwell Music Festival.”

1) Who are you, where are you based, and what work do you do?

My name is Claire Wickes, I grew up in Croydon and I now live up the road from there in Tooting, though I went via Manchester and Oxford. I’m the Principal Flute of the English National Opera Orchestra, and I absolutely love working alongside singers every day – I spend most of my time trying to emulate them on the flute. In addition to my work at ENO I love getting out of the pit and playing Guest Principal with other orchestras, and I also try to fit in as much chamber music and solo playing as I can. When I’m not working I take any opportunity to go travelling – I’ve backpacked around Sri Lanka and India, and hitch-hiked my way from London to Morocco. Next on my agenda is Vietnam!

2) What music are you most looking forward to performing in Southwell this year?

I’m excited about so much of the repertoire in this year’s festival, but if I had to pick one thing out it would be the Poulenc sextet. I’ve never performed this piece and I can’t wait to rehearse and explore it. Poulenc’s Flute Sonata, which I’m also looking forward to performing in the festival, is so full of contradictions – to me it’s bittersweet, constantly ebbing and flowing between nostalgia, melancholy and occasional moments of almost hysterical joyfulness. It forces the performer to constantly change masks, adapting to whichever personality the music takes on moment to moment; I’ll be really interested to see whether the sextet has a similar energy.

3) What other things have you got coming up that are interesting in the next few months?

We’re on the brink of starting a busy season at ENO, with a series of operas inspired by the orpheus myth including Harrison Birtwhistle’s Mask of Orpheus – the instrumentation requires pretty much every wind instrument you can think of, so I’ll be playing alto and bass flute which will be a fun change! In the coming months I’m hugely looking forward to performing some of the Brandenburg concertos – it’s always a pleasure to play Bach, and I feel especially lucky to share the stage with incredibly talented colleagues.