Rosanna Whitton tells Lucy Richardson about the unexpected legacy a dear friend left her that is allowing her to play out her dreams and help others

WHEN Rosanna Whitton's best friend died last year, she was left a large amount of money, a legacy which enabled her to make her retirement dreams come true many decades earlier than she’s envisaged.

A professionally trained musician, Rosanna studied at the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music, and went on to play classic compositions with musicians across Eu-rope. Since launching her own business, Flautino – Italian for ‘little recorder’ – she can be hired to perform at weddings, funerals or any other atmospheric occasion, as well as teaching an instrument she is quick to defend.

“The recorder has a bad reputation in the UK, mainly, I think, due to its use as an instrument of torture in primary schools,” she says. “Personally I don't think the recorder is a good instrument on which to teach small children the rudiments of music - the piano and ukele do it much better.”

It’s tricky to cover the holes when you have little fingers and the breath control is hard to master, says Rosanna, who also teaches piano to children from the age of three. “However, from teenage years onwards - with some exceptions of course – there are child geniuses out there. It holds so much potential,” she explains.

Rosanna’s deep relationship with music was silenced during her darkest episodes of bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that affects moods and makes them swing from one extreme to another. “There were a lot of years when I was very poorly, in and out of hospital,” she says. “When I was really ill and drugged up I couldn't play as music is such an emotional connection. Now, though, I am on really good medication. I’ve just become a foster mum and I’m making all my music dreams happen.”

All her life, Rosanna has had people scoff: “What, you play recorder?”

“At first, I was really sensitive about it, but then I thought ‘I’m going to show them’,” she laughs.

The Northern Echo: Muriel Cavaille, who died aged 40
Muriel Cavaille, who died aged 40

One of her biggest fans was her best friend, Muriel Cavaille. They clicked over their mutual love of mountain walking, yet when the Frenchwoman was diagnosed with bowel cancer, the end of their friendship came all too quickly. She died almost a year ago, aged 40.

“I didn’t know until afterwards that Muriel hadn’t left a will, but she’d had this notebook,” says the 34-year-old from Lanchester, County Durham. “Her parents were over in England the whole time she was ill and the day after she died, her dad showed it to me. When I saw the amount of money she had left me, I couldn’t believe it.

“Muriel was so supportive and came to every gig I did. I still feel her presence every time I play. When I’m centre stage it’s almost like an alter ego, I’m a more confident version of myself.”

She particularly admires Jacob van Eyck, a blind Dutch recorder player from the 17th Century, Telemann, Bach and a few contemporary Japanese composers who write for the recorder as though it were a shakuhachi (bamboo flute).

Rosanna is looking forward to two exciting shows this summer, the first on Sunday, July 10, at Blanchland Abbey, in Northumberland, followed by a four-course baroque feast at Lord Crewe Arms nearby. Then on Sunday, July 24, there will be drinks in the picture gallery at Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, before a short concert of baroque music performed in period costume.

More performances are planned at the smallholding Rosanna intends to buy in Weardale within the next few years, just as Muriel would have wanted. She already has an allotment, five hens and a dog, but has a long-held vision for a tranquil place offering music therapy, where children can come and learn where their food comes from and with a barn transformed into a concert venue.

“Muriel was a wonderful person - super-creative, independent, kind and generous. I miss her every day,” says Rosanna. “What she has done for me has totally blown me away and I am determined to use every penny in a creative, wise way in her memory.”

Concert dates

  • Sunday, July 10, drinks at the Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland, before a concert at Blanchland Abbey and then a four-course baroque feast back at the Lord Crewe Arms. Tickets costing £40 are available from
  • Sunday, July 24, drinks in the picture gallery at Bowes Museum, before a short concert of baroque music in stunning period costume.
  • Tickets £12 adults, £6 children can be purchased from