Powell’s “Spoon Flute” Sees the Light of Day

December 2, 2011

By Gail Powell Dearing
After decades of living in the dark, the legendary Spoon Flute was heard in recital on Friday, Oct. 14, in Los Angeles, CA. Paul Edmund-Davies played “And everything is still…..” by Andy Scott on the Spoon Flute to “demonstrate just how interesting the tone was,” he said. The occasion was a reception held for him at the home of Cynthia Kelley, Powell technician and owner of Flutacious, Inc.

The evening marked the beginning of Edmund-Davies’ tour of the western U.S. and Canada sponsored by Powell Flutes. He established his international reputation as flutist and soloist in the 20 years that he was Principal Flute of the London Symphony Orchestra. Conductors with whom he has performed concerti include Leonard Bernstein, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pierre Boulez and Kent Nagano, and he has played in Chamber Music ensembles with André Previn.

For the last ten years Paul has toured extensively, giving recitals, classes and performing concerti in America, Europe, Canada, Australasia, the Middle East and the Far East. He has also co-written and performed on cross-over projects with Neil Percy, principal percussionist with the LSO. Paul is also a director of The Champagne Guild, a company devoted to introducing previously unavailable Champagnes into the United Kingdom. After five years as Principal Flute of the Philharmonia Orchestra, he now holds the same position at English National Opera.

Upon first playing the Spoon Flute, Edmund-Davies marvelled, “it has such a sweet, sweet tone.” He noted, “With some modern headjoints, you have to push to get the right sound, but with this one, you just need a gentle coaxing and you have the sweet spot.”

At the October reception, he also performed Sonatas 20, 13 and 16 by Giuseppe Rabboni on his 11-year old Powell flute with a Venti style Aurumite headjoint. The concert ended with a performance of Franz Doppler’s Andante and Rondo, with noted Los Angeles flutist Jim Walker.

Verne Powell gave the spoon flute to his son George with instructions that he will it to his daughter Gail (pictured at left with Paul and the Spoon Flute). She does not know when it was last performed on. George did not play the flute, and she has played it in private just for the enjoyment of hearing its exquisite tone. It has a slightly wider bore than modern flutes, rendering it unsuitable to be played in today’s music ensembles. After Powell flute No. 1 – the first production model from the new company – was stolen from her home, Gail has kept the spoon flute locked up in a safe deposit box at a local bank.

Last spring, Gail, Cynthia, and Powell Marketing Manager Christina Giuliano discussed the possibility of sharing the flute with others in the flute world – older flutists who thought it had been stolen and younger ones who have never heard of it. Encouraged by the excitement it aroused on October 14, plans are under way for greater exposure in the months and years to come.

The author is Powell’s granddaughter who lives in Los Angeles, CA, and has played flute as an avocation for nearly 60 years.

What Is the “Spoon Flute”?

When Verne Q. Powell was a young man, American flutists played on wooden flutes. After Verne heard renowned French flutist Georges Barrere perform on a silver flute, he was so impressed with the sound that he became determined to make a silver flute. A jeweler/engraver in Fort Scott, KS, at the time, the young Powell melted down 7 silver teaspoons and 3 silver watch cases to provide the silver for his first flute and melted down some gold coins to be inlays in the keys. It took him four months of working in evenings and on weekends, but he succeeded in producing the first silver flute made in America in 1910.

When the flute came to the attention of William S. Haynes, who was already manufacturing wind instruments in Boston, he offered Powell a job. After working for Haynes for a few years, Powell left and founded the Powell flute company in Boston in 1926 (incorporated in 1927). He went on to become the premier flute maker in the world.

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