I had never been on a whole week recorder course before: too expensive, too near Easter when life is rather busy in our household and too much brain power needed for a course that long I thought. So what made me go on the ERC this year?
- Loads of my friends were going
- Any course run by Recorders for All will be exceptionally well run by Jan and I confess to being a complete Pamophile (in a good way!)
- It was far enough from Easter to be doable
- It was not as expensive as I had feared
So I went and oh boy! I am so glad I did.
The venue was excellent as anyone who has been to Swanwick will know, with good sized ensuite rooms (no sharing a central shower/loo like in school venues) which are not too far from the playing areas.
The grounds are lovely with a lake, plenty of greenery, colourful flower beds and delightful quiet spaces where you can just sit and rest in the midst of a busy timetable.
The food was delicious on the whole and plentiful.
The course was quite intensive so I think it gave me my full monies worth!
The first session of an hour and a half was a technical/teaching slot. We had 5 choices: playing modern, renaissance, baroque or John Jenkins’ music or “I love scales”. The latter session was with the incomparable and outstanding teacher, Julie Dean which is the one, rather to my own surprise, that I chose. We had a complete blast and learned a huge amount in a fun, step-by-step (Suzuki method) way and I am still benefitting from the course several months later.
Each of the 5 groups show-cased their playing on one of the evenings and it was evident that people in the other groups felt like we did ie. that theirs was the best one to have attended throughout the week! What more could you ask?
After coffee there were 3 more sessions of one and a half hours, with one or two choices for each session. These were run by very experienced tutors, always willing to share their knowledge and techniques with us.
Throughout the week 3 levels of orchestras practiced some pieces which we then played/listened to during the week. Doubtless most of us benefitted from these sessions even if we were a little nervous at playing our pieces in front of everyone else after not a great deal of practice! Although there was an easy orchestra as well as intermediate and advanced, I would not recommend this course to a complete beginner. We were allocated the level of orchestra before we went on the course.
The evening session was led by a different tutor each evening with everyone together (about 70 participants) which was varied and good fun.
Course highlights – There were particular highlights for me such as Ruth Burbage and Rosemary Robinson playing duets on their own handmade spinets. Stephen Robinson also gave us a fascinating illustrated talk about how he made these lovely instruments.
Another highlight for me was having a go on a gemshorn thanks to Janice Ormerod, one of the tutors. I had not even heard of such a thing, let alone played one, before the course. What a great sound our SATB group made! Another was doing a clapping piece and the Geographical Fugue with Pam. I won’t bore you with more but there were plenty.
Shops / repairs – The Early Music Shop, Anthony Barrett, Julie Dean and Ruth Burbage from Recorder Music Mail, were there to repair and / or sell us instruments and a massive variety of music each day too.
I genuinely think that the only way in which the course could have been improved would have been to have more orchestral practice sessions but then we would have missed more of the smaller group playing sessions which would have been a shame.
One thing I would say is that it would be terrific if those who have been on the course before could keep a special eye out for those new to the course to ensure that they are included in any socialising at the beginning when it is easy to latch onto old friends and not be aware of new people feeling a little on the margins.
Pam and Jan were keen to receive feedback from everyone at the end, to see if anything could work better for the next course but there was really not a great deal to suggest. They have been running the course for quite a while and it is an excellent one in my opinion.
Where else could you get so much variety, excellent teaching and fun at such a reasonable cost and in such lovely surroundings? I really don’t know.
Will I be going again next year? You bet! And I will try to keep an eye out for any of you who come for the first time and try to make you feel very at home and welcomed.