Powell, V.Q.
Serial #2909
Made 1968 for Elaine Schaffer.  The recording here was made with her earlier gold Powell.
<iframe width="/>

Powell, V.Q. Serial #2909 Made 1968 for Elaine Schaffer. The recording here was made with her earlier gold Powell.

« Go back

981

V. Q. Powell

Boston, USA

Stamp: Stamped on barrel: (triangular cartouche) VQP / VERNE Q POWELL / BOSTON / 2909. On headjoint: (triangular cartouche) VQP. Footjoint unmarked.

Comments: Verne Powell sold Powell Flutes to four workmen in 1961, Elmer Waterhouse (the maker of this flute, who was also elected president of the company), Ed Almeida, Dick Jerome, and Ed Machon. After the sale, Powell continued to come to work as if nothing had changed until he fell on the ice and broke his wrist in 1962. Verne Powell died on Feb. 3, 1968, just about five months before this flute was made. Thus this instrument is the fruit of the first successors to the traditions and commitment to quality laid out by Verne Powell over many years. Elaine Shaffer, for whom this flute was made, was one of the first great flutists of the modern age. She pioneered the flute soloist as a career musician, especially in Europe. As a woman of beauty and charm she was the yin to Rampal's yang, who was also establishing himself and the flute as viable soloist material in the 1950's. The two were never on friendly terms, and when Mrs. Menuhin insisted that Yehudi hire Rampal one summer for the Bath festival, Elaine thought for sure it was because she and Yehudi had become close friends, to the irritation of his wife. Elaine and her husband Efraim Kurtz refused to attend an honorific ceremony in Gstaad for Menuhin later that summer as a protest. Nonetheless, Elaine Shaffer and the Menuhin family were close friends for many years, and Elaine plays on numerous recordings with Yehudi Menuhin and especially with his sister, Hephzibah. Elaine had stolen a little piece of the hearts of many prominent artists, including Marc Chagall, Herman Hesse, Yehudi Menuhin, her teacher William Kincaid, and certainly many others. It is a certain aspect of her character that she did this with no hint of "scandal", since Hollywood producers inspected her biography and story and rejected it as film material precisely because there was no chance for salaciousness. With regal poise, a dramatic white streak in her hair, and absolute proficiency and artistry with her instrument, Elaine Shaffer helped to define the 20th century flute and flute tone. Ms. Shaffer was self-taught until she wrote a letter to her radio idol, William Kincade, in 1943 at age 18. Kincade wrote back immediately inviting her for an audition. He accepted her as a student, and after her second lesson offered her a scholarship at Curtis. Ms. Shaffer was not shy, apparently. When her neighbor in her student apartment in Philadelphia turned his radio up to drown out her practicing she responded by switching to piccolo! Later in her career, in 1963, she was invited to Vienna to perform with the symphony, only to find that this orchestra played about 1/4 tone higher than everyone else. Having recently received her gold flute from Verne Powell she was not about to cut down the headjoint, or play someone else's high pitch flute, so she calmly gave her tuning fork to the oboist and asked him to bring the whole orchestra down to her pitch, which he did! Rampal himself did not receive such courtesies. Elaine Shaffer was playing on a silver Haynes flute when she started with Kincaid in 1943. In 1948 Elaine wrote home that Kincaid was going to sell her his Powell as soon as he got his new one, these probably being Powell #670, made Aug. 3, 1946, and Powell 812, made Nov. 10, 1848. The available Powell company notes are confusing, and the closest flute listed to Elaine is #904, also French model low B with gold embouchure, made in 1950. Elaine Shaffer received a gold flute from Powell in September of 1956, #1644. I believe that this gold flute was her principle instrument, until she inherited Kincaid's platinum Powell, taking possession September 25, 1968. A recording of Elaine playing Mozart on this golden Powell, with her husband Efraim Kurtz conducting, can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WENu_VudjCI. A fine video of Elaine Shaffer performing with Hephzibah Menuhin can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4OIcpDLeaQ&playnext=1&list=PLPmbZ66nXeuXOcdK3X0DrB32qngwBI5J0&feature=results_video The current flute under discussion, Powell #2909, was made in June of 1968. We do not know the precise reason for her order of this flute. We do know that she was in America that summer (receiving the platinum flute), and perhaps she visited the Powell shop to pick up this flute. This instrument was used for a few years, and then given to her niece, who is selling it today. Elaine Shaffer returned to her European home and was fabulous for four more years, including conducting in Portugal, premiering and recording the Copland Duo for Flute and Piano, written as a memorial to Kincaid and with her in mind as the performer, and playing concerts in numerous countries. On October 22, 1972, her 47th birthday, Elaine Shaffer played all six Bach flute Sonatas in London's Queen Elizabeth Hall (from memory). Only those closest to her knew that she was in remission from inoperable lung cancer. Four months later, on February 19, 1973, this beautiful, talented, and heroic pioneer passed on. Many of the details and anecdotes of Elaine Shaffer's life recounted here come from the delightful book, Angel in Black, written from family archives by Elaine's sister Beverly Shaffer Gast and published by Trafford, 2011. This book is available via Amazon.com.

Material: Made of silver with gold springs.

System: This is a handmade French model flute with B foot, made at the slightly high pitch of A=442. The Powell records at www. powellflutes.com show this: Serial Number:2909 Completion Date:6/28/1968 Specs:Sterling silver, soldered tone holes, .014" tubing, Traditional Powell Scale, A-442, French cups, B foot joint, in-line G Model:Handmade Custom Metal Flute The Powell records compiled by employees and disseminated in the early 1980's, which are neither official nor completely accurate, list this flute as: June 28, 1968 2909 Elaine S. Kurz HM [Hand Made] French low B A-442 E.W. Our records show that E.W are the initials of the stringer who built the flute, Elmer Waterhouse, who joined Powell's as an apprentice in 1945 and was one of the four workman who bought the company from Verne Powell in 1961.

Condition: This flute has received no damage over the years, yet it does show the rigors of use in a non professional setting. Elaine Shaffer gave this flute to her niece Lisa for use in high school, around 1971. Lisa has used it on and off ever since. A few scratches seem to be the main remnants of use.

Pitch: Made to play at A=442.

Sounding Length: Sounding length 635 mm.

Measurements: Scale length 224 mm. ( the Louis Lot scale was 227 mm, a high pitch scale was 220 mm) Tube .014". Embouchure 12.07 x 10.18 mm.

Weight: Weighs 424 g.

Case: In probably the original Powell case, with cleaning rod and original leather case cover.

Sold.

« Go back

Photographs (click to enlarge):

Verne Powell passed away earlier in the year this flute was made, 1968.  One can see the difference in the engraving between this flute and the earlier instruments Powell himself had engraved.  The words and logo are the same, but the engraving is done on the barrel rather than the upper body,  and perhaps lacks the depth and assertiveness of the original.
Verne Powell passed away earlier in the year this flute was made, 1968. One can see the difference in the engraving between this flute and the earlier instruments Powell himself had engraved. The words and logo are the same, but the engraving is done on the barrel rather than the upper body, and perhaps lacks the depth and assertiveness of the original.
The Powell flutes have always been beautifully handmade.  The French model keys, the trill touches, and the side clutch, or
The Powell flutes have always been beautifully handmade. The French model keys, the trill touches, and the side clutch, or "hanging T" are all patterned after the work of the Louis Lot company of Paris. Verne Powell set out to make a better Lot in the 1920's.
The pointed arms are clearly hand-soldered to the cups, the trill touch has a sinuous curve around the kingpost, and the G# touch starts outside with the curve of Lot yet straightens out with New England practicality, eschewing the curvaceous connection with the rod of the French makers.
The pointed arms are clearly hand-soldered to the cups, the trill touch has a sinuous curve around the kingpost, and the G# touch starts outside with the curve of Lot yet straightens out with New England practicality, eschewing the curvaceous connection with the rod of the French makers.
The left hand keys diminish nicely, and bear a slight additional striving for detail, suggesting a new artist.  This is the flute of Powell's first successors.
The left hand keys diminish nicely, and bear a slight additional striving for detail, suggesting a new artist. This is the flute of Powell's first successors.
The trill key strap is split à la Villette, and very nicely so indeed.  Ed Machon in High F'lutin, his memoir of the Powell shop, mentions how Powell did not care about the exact angle of the strap endpoints, as long as they were all the same.  This flute is a nice example of the talented work of Elmer Waterhouse, the first president successor of Verne Powell.  Note as well how the cups and pads are centered right onto the tone holes.
The trill key strap is split à la Villette, and very nicely so indeed. Ed Machon in High F'lutin, his memoir of the Powell shop, mentions how Powell did not care about the exact angle of the strap endpoints, as long as they were all the same. This flute is a nice example of the talented work of Elmer Waterhouse, the first president successor of Verne Powell. Note as well how the cups and pads are centered right onto the tone holes.
Here we see the trill key pad cups, the nicely angled strap points, the handsome tail of the C# key, and some curious angles to the pointed arms, suggesting a bit of manual  sideways adjustments as part of the final fittings of the mechanism.
Here we see the trill key pad cups, the nicely angled strap points, the handsome tail of the C# key, and some curious angles to the pointed arms, suggesting a bit of manual sideways adjustments as part of the final fittings of the mechanism.
Here we see the classic curve-finished thumb piece of the Louis Lot company, in this case their response to the primary change of preference among flutists to occur to the original Lot mechanism, namely the switch to a Bb trill.  The Lot-Godfroy thumb is one of the great pieces of flutemaker's art.  Briccialdi, by the way, never sought to have this thumb arrangement called after him; we only know that Rockstro saw Briccialdi with one on a Godfroy/Lot flute in London.  Boehm himself called this mechanism
Here we see the classic curve-finished thumb piece of the Louis Lot company, in this case their response to the primary change of preference among flutists to occur to the original Lot mechanism, namely the switch to a Bb trill. The Lot-Godfroy thumb is one of the great pieces of flutemaker's art. Briccialdi, by the way, never sought to have this thumb arrangement called after him; we only know that Rockstro saw Briccialdi with one on a Godfroy/Lot flute in London. Boehm himself called this mechanism "the thumb of Lot".
The top thumb key slips under the tail of the Bb.  Under the old French C trill a third tail would snuggle between the short and the long tails seen here, with an elongation to slide under the tail of the thumb pad, trilling it with the same finger movement used today.  A simple whack of the tail was not sufficient for Lot, who designed this gracious curve on the newly-shortened thumb.
The top thumb key slips under the tail of the Bb. Under the old French C trill a third tail would snuggle between the short and the long tails seen here, with an elongation to slide under the tail of the thumb pad, trilling it with the same finger movement used today. A simple whack of the tail was not sufficient for Lot, who designed this gracious curve on the newly-shortened thumb.
Continuing our trip down the backside of this lovely Powell we find the side G# pad cup curiously askew from the pointed arm.  This precise technique for centering the G# pad over the tonehole had to have been done early in the construction process.  Perhaps it was the sigh of a maker sad to have lost the enveloping arm of the old G# of Lot, already not seen in photo 7.
Continuing our trip down the backside of this lovely Powell we find the side G# pad cup curiously askew from the pointed arm. This precise technique for centering the G# pad over the tonehole had to have been done early in the construction process. Perhaps it was the sigh of a maker sad to have lost the enveloping arm of the old G# of Lot, already not seen in photo 7.
The Powell backclutch has always been tight and compact, avoiding the rounded pulchritude at the hips of this mechanism in it's first maturity under Godfroy.  Absolutely precise, yet a wondrous orgy of the sensuously curving Bb touch, the lovingly angled and pinned pieces nestling the rounded and full kingpost, and the third tail on the right, joining the other two as equals but actually supporting the full trio with a perfectly made lap; this is the core of the Lot/Godfroy mechanism, which made the modern flute possible.The Powell backclutch has always been tight and compact, avoiding the rounded pulchritude at the hips of this mechanism in it's first maturity under Godfroy. Absolutely precise, yet a wondrous orgy of the sensuously curving Bb touch, the lovingly angled and pinned pieces nestling the rounded and full kingpost, and the third tail on the right, joining the other two as equals but actually supporting the full trio with a perfectly made lap; this is the core of the Lot/Godfroy mechanism, which made the modern flute possible.
This picture and the next one show the rear of the right hand area.  here we se the fine finishing work on the tail ends, the posts, and the springs.This picture and the next one show the rear of the right hand area. here we se the fine finishing work on the tail ends, the posts, and the springs.
This photo focuses on the new clutch, invented by Villette around 1877.  The silver piece resembles a hanging T, with one end of the tip under the shoulder of the F touch and the other connected to the F# connection via an overlapping tail visible in photo 4.  The Germans and Americans continued with the original Lot shoulder clutches here until the great transformation of the flute in Boston around 1926.This photo focuses on the new clutch, invented by Villette around 1877. The silver piece resembles a hanging T, with one end of the tip under the shoulder of the F touch and the other connected to the F# connection via an overlapping tail visible in photo 4. The Germans and Americans continued with the original Lot shoulder clutches here until the great transformation of the flute in Boston around 1926.
The foot to B stands alone as a lovely achievement.The foot to B stands alone as a lovely achievement.
Here we see the sweet touches of Powell's first successors. Unencumbered by pesky gizmos, the three arms cascade in corners to the ornate moment that is the bottom right of this lovely cluster of keys.  Yet again, we are seeing the fruits of France, enhanced.Here we see the sweet touches of Powell's first successors. Unencumbered by pesky gizmos, the three arms cascade in corners to the ornate moment that is the bottom right of this lovely cluster of keys. Yet again, we are seeing the fruits of France, enhanced.
The footjoint pads are the largest on the flute, and these bold cups are perhaps the handsomest display of the Powell keywork.The footjoint pads are the largest on the flute, and these bold cups are perhaps the handsomest display of the Powell keywork.
The rear of the pinless foot to B; a lot of movement with no surplussage.  Frugal luxury in a flute.The rear of the pinless foot to B; a lot of movement with no surplussage. Frugal luxury in a flute.
A quick peek at the undersides of the touch cluster.A quick peek at the undersides of the touch cluster.
This handsome still-life is the child of Elmer Waterhouse and the traditions of his master, Verne Powell.This handsome still-life is the child of Elmer Waterhouse and the traditions of his master, Verne Powell.
Elaine Shaffer's sister, Beverly Shaffer Gast, has written a delightful account of Elaine's life and work, mostly through letters to the family.  This book is available through Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Angel-In-Black-Musical-1925-1973/dp/142697485X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1351613674&sr=8-3&keywords=angel+in+blackElaine Shaffer's sister, Beverly Shaffer Gast, has written a delightful account of Elaine's life and work, mostly through letters to the family. This book is available through Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Angel-In-Black-Musical-1925-1973/dp/142697485X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1351613674&sr=8-3&keywords=angel+in+black