A Review of the 41st Northern Recorder Course 2006

Held at University College, Chester from Tuesday 18th April to Tuesday 25th April 2006

Jacob Spence was not sure what to make of the Renaissance Band workshop with its crumhorn, cornamuse, hammer dulcimer and recorders etc. Jacob is the toddler son of David and Justine who, together with their helpers, welcomed us, a small contingent of three eager recorder players from York, for the first time to the NRC at the University of Chester, in April.

On arrival we were made welcome and shown round, soon feeling part of the friendly gathering of about 60.

The campus was attractive, with playing rooms and shops in one area, basic but comfortable accommodation, spacious dining rooms serving good food, tea and coffee shops and an excellent warm swimming pool. A bar was available in the evenings. Chester town centre is a half hour pleasant stroll away.

A large group of Unitarians were also holding a residential course and a few were nonplussed by the dining room direction signs, which stated “Northern Recorder”. Evidently the general consensus was that we were journalists from a newspaper of that name!

There was a packed daily schedule of extremely varied workshops divided into five time slots – two morning and three afternoon – and always a choice of four different kinds of music under four different tutors, while a fifth tutor was available to advise one-to-a-part playing groups.

In the evening we all joined together to play under one of the tutors in the Sports Hall. One evening torrential rain battered loudly on the roof, giving us all the incentive to play Zana Clarke’s music with verve and enthusiasm even though we could not hear her instructions!

Dennis Bamforth, who died in December, founded the NRC in 1966 with Colin Martin, and was sadly missed by those who knew him. Colin Touchin and Steve Marshall composed pieces to be played by the Recorder Orchestra in his memory.

Rachel Barnes, who specialises in contemporary recorder music, gave an evening concert, and there was a concert by course participants on the final evening.

Our thanks to those who willingly shared their music with us, as we were unsure which music we should try to provide ourselves with on this, our first time at Chester.

We greatly enjoyed our stay and look forward to going again next year.

May we also say that we hope to welcome players from far and wide to the 2007 SRP Festival in York – 31st March/1st April. For further information contact the York Branch.

Review by Liz Emsley, Janet Foster and Anne Richardson.