How was it for you? A newcomer at the 2018 Easter Recorder Course – a review of the course written by Gwyneth Morgan.
I’m newly returned to recorder playing. I dabbled for a couple of years around 1980, stopped, then started again, almost 40 years later, luxuriating in the extra time for such things that retirement brings. Part of my strategy for re-learning and improving is to join short courses. Thus I decided to try the Easter Recorder Course.
This annual event has been running for 4 years, created and organised by Jan Epps and Pam Smith as part of their “Recorders for All” programme of courses. It runs at the Hayes Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire (UK) and takes around 60 participants for a week. Participants are mainly, but not exclusively, from the UK. Most are residential, but a few opt for day-student status and either commute daily to the course or join for just two or three days. This usefully accommodates those who have to fit the course in around their work or other commitments.
The 2018 course programme included technique classes, consort and orchestral playing, the opportunity for solo or duo accompanied playing, a master class and group recitals. Also the possibility to try other renaissance instruments and gemshorns. A feature of the course that I particularly enjoyed was the presence of recorder and music services: Recorder Music Mail, Barrett Recorder Repairs and Recorder Shop London were on site for the whole course, providing a range of new and second hand recorders to try or buy, a large selection of sheet music, recorder accessories, repairs and advice. Towards the end of the course they were also joined by the Early Music Shop. A session on recorder maintenance and troubleshooting was included in the programme.
Core sessions were provided by a team of 7 tutors offering a selection of technique classes and consort or orchestral playing for varying levels of playing ability. This is not a course for beginners, but it does accommodate players of moderate ability as well as many more advanced participants with considerable playing experience.
Accommodation is in comfortable, well maintained en suite rooms, with – oh joy! – opening windows and adjustable radiators. The centre itself is an impressive nineteenth century country house, with modern annexes, set in lovely gardens. It’s one of the Christian Conference Trust (CCT) venues and during the week we shared it with other groups. It’s large and takes up to 400 people, but it’s well managed and the groups don’t get in each other’s way. The food is copious, the staff are helpful, the place is comfortable and attractive.
What did I get from the course? Lots. New acquaintances and a fun week of intensive recorder playing in a nice place. Excellent tutoring . A programme of music spanning 6 centuries. A better understanding of how my recorders work and what I need to do to keep them in good nick. A raft of exercises and ideas to improve my playing. New music to try out, and a date for my diary next Easter. My only gripe with the course was the shortage of time for informal playing or practice without missing a programmed session and the difficulty of locating a place to practice. As the venue is shared with other groups, practising in bedrooms is not allowed. A booking system for practice rooms is to be tried next year, to help with this. I plan to be there to see if it works!
9. April 2018