Valley News – Video: Newport Man makes custom flutes in an old style



JHandmade flutes by ohn Lunn are not the kind of instruments you would give to the high school marching band before a big game.

They are concert flutes in the European tradition, crafted from sterling silver and gold. They also feature handcrafted elements such as flowers and vines, Art Deco motifs, Inuit folklore or characters from CS Lewis’s books of Narnia on the keys. You could be forgiven for thinking that they belonged to a museum as an ornamental sculpture.

Lunn rolls her eyes at the idea. “If he can’t play, then what a waste of space,” he said.

Lunn, 58, and his wife, Meredith Lunn, who helps with the business, have lived in Newport for 25 years.

He has been making flutes since his apprenticeship from 1976 to 1979, aged 18 to 21, with a flute maker in his native Canada. He grew up both in Toronto and in a rural area outside of town and started playing the flute as a boy, following the path of his older brother, who was also studying the instrument.

Although Lunn practiced the flute diligently, he realized that he was not interested enough to pursue it as a professional musician. But he was interested in doing them.

Because her mother, who grew up in Norwich, is American, Lunn applied for and obtained U.S. citizenship, which enabled her to move to Boston in 1979, which was then and still is the flute capital of the United States. , did he declare. . (And, Lunn said, it’s the only musical instrument built primarily in Boston).

Two of the music world’s most renowned flute makers, William S. Haynes Co. and Verne Q. Powell, whose artist lists are a Who is who classical and jazz flautists, started their businesses in downtown Boston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, respectively.

Lunn got a job at Powell’s company, then moved to the suburbs of Boston. (Powell and Haynes are only a few miles apart in the suburbs yet.) Part of the application involved, of course, making a flute, which he did quite quickly and with competence to be hired locally.

Once he got the job, Lunn discovered, he says, that “I had an affinity for making flutes. I could do two while someone else does one. I made a good product and I did it well. ”

In 1988, he decided to create his own business. “The idea is still a risk, but we decided to take the risk.”

Besides going out on his own, part of his goal was to remove the mechanization of flute-making: “I went in the opposite direction. What manufacturing process can I cancel? ”

There were a few changes and adaptations he could make that seemed obvious to him. He could customize the flute for the musician playing it and give the instrument more flexibility, not necessarily in its sound but in the way the musicians used it.

Over the years, Lunn has designed flutes easier on a musician’s hands and wrists by repositioning the keys so that the wrists and hands are level and not bent at an angle that over time can cause strain on the tendons.

“I match the instrument to the player. I want each flute to do what the customer is looking for. I want to make sure that a flute has the right balance, ”he said.

The purchase of a custom-made sterling silver Lunn flute will cost approximately $ 13,000; buying a flute head joint, where the mouthpiece is, or the mouthpiece, can range from $ 1,450 for sterling silver up to almost $ 7,000 for one in gold.

Nola Aldrich, a flautist who lives in Wilmot, NH, uses a Lunn flute. “They’re very light, so there’s no strain on your arms. The position of the keys allows for comfortable fingering. This minimizes pressure on the wrist and allows for finger flexibility and also minimizes having to stretch your fingers to reach the lower keys, ”she said.

Lunn has been in the business long enough to see changes in playing styles. The modern European orchestral flute dates back to the mid-19th century, when a German flutist and inventor Theobald Bohm altered the fingering system of the baroque instrument, giving it a greater tonal range. And he made flutes out of silver rather than the wood they had been made of for centuries.

“He completely tuned the flute, and with that, you could extend the tuning and length of it much more precisely and create a more accurate chromatic scale,” Lunn said.

From the mid to late 20th century, so-called French sound prevailed, with such notable musicians as Jean-Pierre Rampal and Michel Debost producing, said Lunn, a smoother, smoother sound.

When Sir James Galway left the Berlin Philharmonic for a solo career, he popularized a more booming sound, which Lunn compared to something one would expect to hear in the brass section. Some manufacturers have followed suit, producing flutes that could mimic Galway’s distinctive tone, Lunn said.

The problem was, while these flutes were able to achieve crisp, clear, powerful sound, Lunn said, they also lost the most subtle tones. But, he added, his intuition is that the pendulum will return in the direction of the French sound.

Nicole Densmore, a professional flautist who also teaches in the Kearsarge Regional School District, had heard of Lunn’s flutes but was slightly skeptical, she said.

“How can something so beautiful to see sound beautiful?” ” she said. But she visited Lunn’s studio, brought home one of her flutes, and quickly converted.

“Every note is clear and right and when you step into the lower register the richness of the harmonics is so magnificent. I can also play more slowly. The precision of its mechanics is just impeccable. I can play so much more smoothly because everything moves so gracefully, ”said Densmore.

In his other life as a resident of Newport, Lunn served on the Selectboard twice and on the Board of Trustees of the Richards Free Library. He has run for the state legislature twice, in 2004 and, most recently this fall, on a platform to bring economic prosperity back to Newport and surrounding communities. (He lost both times.)

And in his other, other life, he’s written novels and screenplays and is working on a graphic novel. (Her mother, Janet Lunn, is a well-known children’s author in Canada.)

Dedicated to his job, Lunn avoids a necessary facet of his business: self-promotion. “It’s hard to promote against the wind. I don’t have the nature to tell you what you want.

This is why he manufactures bespoke flutes but also works as a subcontractor for the biggest flute manufacturers, which guarantees a stable income.

“I made it a job that I could love,” he said.

Nicola Smith can be contacted at [email protected]


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