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Blowin' 'em away: a flautist's story

Flautist and Christian Simeon Wood has performed all over the world, but it was an NHS walking stick that got him on BBC Radio 2, as he tells SHEILA JOHNSON

Flautist and Christian Simeon Wood has performed all over the world, but it was an NHS walking stick that got him on BBC Radio 2, as he tells SHEILA JOHNSON

Simeon Wood has been playing the flute for a number of years – but it was his experimentation with an NHS walking stick that brought him recognition in August 2013.

He says: “I thought of making a flute out of it, simply because it has air holes and is of the right length and diameter. A friend of mine then sent the picture of me playing it to the BBC and the news team came along to film me.”

From there it grabbed the interest of a freelance photographer who came along to do a photo shoot of Simeon and sold the pictures to The Sun newspaper. BBC Radio2 Breakfast Show presenter Chris Evans read the piece and then one morning when Simeon was about to walk his dog he heard Chris saying on the radio, “Simeon if you’re listening to this, we’d love you to get in touch with the Breakfast Show and come and play your instrument.”

“It was very early in the morning,” explains Simeon, “and at first it didn’t click that it was me he was talking about, but when I came back from my walk my phone line went berserk with everyone saying –‘ you’ve got to get in touch with Chris Evans’!”

Simeon was invited on to the show for a couple of hours. “I loved every minute of it,” he says. “From there I played a CarFest at Stonehenge for Children in Need and was invited to go on the BBC One Show at the end of last year.”

However, he is keen to stress that he’s not attracted by celebrity status.

“I’ve been very careful not to chase it, “he says, “you can waste so much time chasing these things and it’s not that important to me. What’s more important to me is enjoying my music and engaging with people.”

Simeon has been a working musician for many years, making his living playing up and down the country in theatres, art centres, rotary clubs, luncheon clubs and other venues – I caught up with him when he was part of a Christian event at Cheltenham Town Hall – and he also plays on cruise ships for 10 weeks a year.

 “It all started with playing the recorder at school,” he explains. “Then one day a flute player came to the school and I was transfixed by his playing. I thought the whole thing was magical.”

Then just eight, Simeon has been playing the flute ever since, learning his craft through a string of dedicated teachers, youth orchestras, and music competitions before going to Trinity Music College in 1983. It was here that he became a Christian through a couple of fellow musicians and was baptised in 1985.

Simeon introduced the pan pipes to his repertoire during his years at Trinity, following them with a selection of whistles and Latin American instruments. This dates back to 1985 when he watched the film The Mission which inspired him to learn about Latin American music and their instruments. He says that while the breathing technique is fairly similar when playing these instruments, the fingering is very different.

Simeon began touring with guitarist John Gerighty in the same year. At first they played mainly classical pieces for fairly exclusive restaurants. This was then followed by a series of concerts for Christian organisations and churches around the country through the outreach and mission work of Lee Abbey.

But Simeon believes because their music was purely instrumental it opened many doors for them in secular organisations too. It continues to do so in his career as a solo artist – he has been solo since 2000.

He says, “It is much easier to play my music than something specifically gospel. You can still write music that expresses elements of your faith, but you’re never dictating to an audience what the music is about. The music can mean different things to different people.”

His latest CD is called Clouds Are Far Behind Me, and takes its name from Somewhere Over The Rainbow, from the musical The Wizard of Oz. The album also includes various tracks from the movies, one of Simeon’s greatest inspirations, including Dances with Wolves, Ladies in Lavender and Cider House Rules, as well as some Irish pieces and Annie’s Song by singer-songwriter John Denver.

He concludes, “For me, music paints the picture that paints a thousand words. It allows me to be myself and express myself, to say the things I can’t say with words. It’s a spiritual journey that takes us deeper and deeper into God.”

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