Northern Recorder Course 9th - 16th April 2003

So this is the BIG day! I am leaving Switzerland for a one week recorder course in Chester. I have been waiting for this day and I have no idea what it is going to be like? It is the first time I will join a music course outside of my country but since it is the 38th year of the NRC, I am confident.

Apparently the Swiss are the champs in regards of organization and discipline?.but they could get jealous about the Northern Recorder Course!

I am writing the first lines of this review at the airport waiting for my airplane on my way back to Geneva. My head is a bit too full of so many events, music, faces, wonderful souvenirs. I will carry on with writing this in a few days.

Dennis Bamforth likes to remind us that the two important conditions for a course like this are good accommodation and good food. Sleeping in a student's room is no problem and a good solution. I won't make any comments on English campus food: I am probably spoilt with two professional chefs at home?

Back to the music! My first surprise: I never saw so many people playing the recorder together on the first evening session. I was not quite sure what this late session was supposed to be. Participants meet in the Small Hall, sit somewhere, open their music stands and patiently wait for the conductor to distribute copies of??? surprise every night!

The aim is not perfection, but the simple pleasure of playing together. I was really overwhelmed and very happily surprised about the average level of the 50 players! Not all of them were present every evening, but it meant sight-reading for most of us.

Another surprise to me was the large amount of men playing this instrument!

Two months ago, every course member received the complete program of the course, as well as a list of the sheet music the tutors were going to use. There truly was a very wide range of music styles to choose from, which makes this course particularly attractive. As it was my first time at the NRC, I could hardly decide which technique class I should attend! I finally went to three different ones tutored by Dennis Bamforth, Helen Hooker and Emma Murphy.

Since I particularly like early music, I went to the Renaissance Band, tutored by Janice Ormerod, and could at last try to play a crumhorn and a cornamuse.

Another course I particularly appreciated was Multi-Choir conducted by Ann Lyall. We played in the beautiful College Chapel with acoustics that suit the Italian music very well.

I found the one to a part sessions excellent to discover (or re-discover) some music, especially composers of contemporary English recorder music I had never heard of. And I must admit I took one afternoon off and enjoyed a nice walk through the beautiful old city of Chester!

I "tried" nearly all tutors and would like to thank them very warmly for their patience and for being always so helpful! This course was very useful as I learned a lot. There are so many nice smiles to remember, many intensive moments, and a very healthy British sense of humour!

The concert on Tuesday night is a very nice conclusion to this course. The first part was very relaxed and the audience could enjoy a large variety of music and combination of instruments! For the second part, the orchestra had been practising very hard all week. We played three different pieces, one of which, the "Sinfonia Concertante Opus 47" was composed by Dennis Bamforth who was also the conductor (Andrew Wilson played saxophone). Both the players and the audience had a lot of fun with Farquhar's Overture "The Late Arrivals", and Mahler's "Bruder Jakob" was a gentle way of finishing this concert, despite the six flats!

Everybody on this course plays the recorder. When I say everybody I mean also the Chairman, the Secretary, the Domestic Assistant, the person responsible for the second hand shop and the Recorder Music Mail shop representative! Which makes it so much easier when all these people know what you are talking about! They even took time to be present at playing sessions! I still wonder how they managed?

My conclusion is that I enjoyed every moment of this Northern Recorder Course! I will have to tell all my recorder friends in Switzerland about it and perhaps someone will find the energy to launch such a relaxed, flexible and interesting course.

My last words: an ENORMOUS thank you to all organizers and tutors who worked so hard and with such motivation that I still believe the recorder is not just for beginners but that it is a real music instrument indeed!

Review by: Monique Pollet-Knopf, Brugg, Switzerland