Classical trailblazer Jane Rutter Chevalière de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (‘Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters’) is an expert in the French Flute School, which leads the world in sound, technique and elegance of expression on the instrument. An internationally acclaimed soloist renowned for her onstage warmth and brilliance, the ABC’s Limelight cover article in 2007 depicted her as a leading female influence in the world of classical music.
She has given performances ranging from The Sydney Opera House and Sydney’s iconic Tilbury Hotel to Baroque recitals at La Sainte Chapelle, Paris.
An Alumnus of Sydney University, Jane studied in Paris with Jean-Pierre Rampal and Alain Marion. She founded The Music Scheme and the chamber group, POSH, and toured for Musica Viva Australia. Jane won a Peoples’ Choice award as presenter on Getaway, and was nominated for an Edinburgh Fringe award. With skills in World Music, Theatre, Film, Composition and Improvisation, Jane has appeared on every continent and is a household name in Australia, described by ABC Classic FM as one of Australia’s leading performance artists. She has appeared with Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, Richard Bonynge, Pascale Rogé, The Manhattan Transfer, David Helfgott, The Grigoryans, Tina Arena, Tommy Emmanuel, James Morrison, Yvonne Kenny, Gerard Willems, Michael Crawford, John Bell, Simon Tedeschi and more. She appears as a soloist with leading orchestras, and recently completed an extensive concert tour of The Peoples’ Republic of China. Jane is Artistic Director of Live at Lunch, at The Concourse, Chatswood. She lectures at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and has 23 solo albums to date.
The Street talked with Jane before the launch of her Salon at The Street Theatre when she will host three concerts from September to November.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE FLUTE FOR YOU AS AN INSTRUMENT? The possibilities are endless. I learnt in France that anything you can say (or sing) with the human voice is also possible on the flute. The great flute master Jean-Pierre Rampal (my teacher) once said ‘the sound of the flute is the sound of man that flowing freely from his body’
Instruments of the breath are closest to the heart – the flute is a spiritual instrument (connecting people on emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical levels). People are innately attracted to the yearning sound of the flute. This sound can provide a deep sense of reconciliation.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LOVE AFFAIR WITH ALL THINGS FRENCH.
Ooh la-la! Where would we be without France? French Culture has had a defining role in civilization and when I think about what France represents regarding culture, the arts, politics, freedom of expression, democracy, equality, language, it’s the greatest honour to have been awarded le Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres.
I adore the Parisian love affair with the human voice – reborn in the opera houses of the 19th Century and the singing melodies of Chopin – a tradition that is elegant, passionate, communicative, lyrical. French music has a narrative that directly impacted the visual arts. French Lyricism is in music, art, food and fashion. In French music, there is a vocal line which flows through the harmonies as well as the melodies – there is an imagery, which connects you to all that France represents.
My style, philosophy and discipline are French – creative freedom of expression, in which there are no boundaries.
YOU ARE KNOWN FOR PIONEERING THE TREND OF TAKING FINE CLASSICAL MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Fine music keeps the emotional portals open. My intention is always to communicate on a deep level, to merge the sound of my different flutes with a love for humanity and life. It’s the birth right of everyone to feel creative joy, and fine music can provide an immediate access to this.
WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION TO CREATE THE SALON EXPERIENCE COME FROM?
It was inspired partly from the success of my Sydney concert series Live at Lunch, in which audiences have the opportunity to dine with the performers after the concert. (The Street is perfect for this idea as the audience will have the opportunity to chat and have a drink with the performers after the show).
Throughout my career I’ve made music accessible to people in unusual venues – from the time I started The Music Scheme – designed to give young musicians performance opportunities in private homes, to concerts in the outback in Tin Sheds, to performing cabaret in iconic pubs like Sydney’s Tilbury Hotel.
People have said that I started the tradition of Classical Music in Night clubs and Gay bars. (Think: Sydney’s iconic Tilbury & Newtown Hotels). I always love the fun, relaxed, intimate atmosphere in such venues… I’m so glad to continue this tradition with my classical and cabaret performances at the Street.
I partly grew up in Paris, which has a tradition of le Salon in which music is performed in the intimacy of a smaller room. I love live theatre and the immediacy of Cabaret. I’m very mein host when I perform – I like all my concerts to feel up close and personal whether it be for an audience of 100,000 or 100 people.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE ARTISTS AND REPETOIRE FOR THE SALON?
Dean Ellis and I collaborated on the repertoire, flute-based on programs from Live at Lunch. My artists have been chosen from a stable of wonderful Australian performers with whom I collaborate. The criteria for choosing my musicians is that they must be brilliant, but also have the capacity to convey personality to reach out to the audience, making that which is high-brow accessible and fun. After the tragic passing of a brilliant actor and didgeridoo player Tom E Lewis, the most recent addition to the performance at The Street’s Salon is Central Coast Elder and didgeridoo player Gavi Duncan.
YOUR ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER HAS TAKEN YOU ACROSS CONTINENTS, MUSIC GENRES AND INTO THEATRE, JAZZ, CABARET AND TV. WHAT IS YOUR OBSERVATION ON THE RECOGNITION OF FEMALE PERFORMERS, PRESENTERS AND PRODUCERS?
It should be a meritocracy – but there remain elements of sexism and ageism. Things are improving, but the Music Industry is still mainly a Boy’s Club. As a woman, being reasonably attractive is a pain: there is an assumption that your success is partly based on this, you have to fight harder to be taken seriously. Good looking blokes don’t get this! On the other hand, there is an imbalance regarding what is acceptable for women to say about men. Women often give themselves permission – perhaps as a backlash-to make snide public comments about men. I long for an era of parity, absolutely equality, judgment based on merit, and more genuine respect.
YOU HAVE PERFORMED WITH ORCHESTRAS AND MANY OTHER PROMINENT ARTISTS FROM RICHARD BONYNGE TO THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER. WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO COLLABORATION WITH OTHER ARTISTS?
I love to collaborate with great musicians and I love to be soloist and accompanist at the same time. My approach is that In Fine music one leads and follows in equal amounts, one sets the ego aside to serve the music. Music allows an unrivalled possibility for the sharing of ideas, emotion and spirit. Fine music is without barriers – it’s irrelevant whether I collaborate with Tommy Emanuel, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, The Manhattan Transfer, the rap group Migos (my latest) Accordionist Marcello Maio or Dideridoo player Gavi Duncan, (both at The Street soon )- if the musical skill is there, then we share the magic! Audiences understand and love this.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STATE OF THE MUSIC IN AUSTRALIA?
There is fantastic talent, there are brilliant performances in Australia. On one level there has been a blossoming – music students have access to much excellence, and we have many superb musicians in Australia. It’s unfortunate that musicians are pressured to find formulae for social network ‘marketing’ as much as practice and perform.
Dismaying the number of young children and adults who can’t even sing Happy Birthday in tune. In Australia we don’t sing, we don’t dance as a natural part of our quotidian lives it’s more than a shame!
Good music should provide depth. Current approaches to music seem perhaps one dimensional-perhaps our young musicians are not often enough given an inspirational concept of sound.
I give master-classes in which students play loud and fast, but the sound is not beautiful… When I ask ‘do you like your sound?’ 99% response is ‘I haven’t thought about it’. Bel Canto is less revered now than 20 years ago. The world is so screen-centric visual and we need more aural focus. There is a disparity between funds available for music at private schools and state schools.
Globally the recording industry is on its knees. As Australia is a recording subsidiary of the world, Spotify and other platforms have literally removed income from so many musicians. (In the old days water was free and one paid for music. Nowadays it’s the reverse!). Unless you’re a multi million-dollar musician, it’s dire. In Australia sport rules supreme. We need more enticement and education about the value of the arts and music. I spend a significant amount of time in Europe, where there is definitely a different conversation, higher respect and more funding for the arts-which are seen as a vital part of daily life.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING MUSICIANS?
Become a lawyer (just kidding)!
Write your practice times into your diary as an appointment.
Get the best technique you possibly can.
Never play without having communicative intention even when practising scales.
Start getting your database of committed fans together.
Produce your own concerts.
Be yourself. To put it in relevant terms:
Don’t you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are. Lady Gaga
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
France, Nature, The sound of Joan Sutherland at her prime, researching World music for the second Third Culture Album (my new group).
WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?
Reading: The Riviera Set 1920-1960: The Golden Years of Glamour and Success Mary S Lovell
Villa America Liza Klaussman
Watching: Netflix Call my Agent (Dix Pour Cent) – hilarious and very telling French series about theatrical agents in Paris.