I took some time while at the Open Recorder days conference to make a some research trips to Utrecht, the home of Jacob van Eyck. Van Eyck was the composer of Der Fluyten Lust-hof, a collection of popular songs with variations, intended for performance on recorder. This work is still the largest single composition ever written for unaccompanied woodwind instrument, and a major source for information about performance style of the 17th century.
I toured all of the churches and the cathedral bell tower where van Eyck worked as carillonneur, and thanks to the guidance of Dr. Thiemo Wind, also found most of the houses where he lived and the location of the former public gardens where he played his recorder in the evenings.
Outside the Janskirk with Dr. Thiemo Wind, where the original public garden where van Eyck played was located.
My recent performance projects have been using the sound of the environment to create site specific concert programs and new works. So I also made a number of field recordings of the sounds we heard while exploring the town of Utrecht, for use in a new concert featuring the works of van Eyck.
I gratefully acknowledge travel assistance received for this project through the Edmonton Arts Council grant program
Every two years, the Conservatorium van Amsterdam hosts the Open Recorder Days Amsterdam, and becomes a hotbed of recorder activity for four days in October.
Concerts, competitions, instrument displays, masterclasses and teacher seminars attract recorder players of all ages and experience from around the world.
I was privileged to be invited to present a session at the ORDA teacher’s conference in 2019. The conference theme was Teaching Improvisation. There was a wide range of approaches to improvisation described by teachers from Canada, Brazil, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, and the Netherlands. My Suzuki colleague, Renata Pereira from Brazil, and I both demonstrated an aural approach to improvisation, with the emphasis on creating an environment where students can experiment freely. Many of the teachers from the European conservatories used graphic notation and abstract images to help students break away from the printed page. And of course, there were teachers who used the historical treatises on ornamentation as a stepping stone to improvisation. The ORDA conference has posted video recordings of the presentations on their website.
There were concerts all day – invited artists, Fringe performers, and students performed a wide range of music from medieval to modern. I attended masterclasses in Renaissance divisions with Vincent Parilla, Baroque repertoire with Sébastien Marq, and modern works with Walter van Hauwe. Sébastien Marq was a most animated teacher, and brought wonderful new life to familiar repertoire.
The Suzuki Recorder community was well represented at this event. There were Suzuki students from Brazil performing in the competition and Suzuki teachers from Peru participating in the performances. All the Suzuki Recorder teacher trainers in the world (All 5 of us! One each from Great Britain, Netherlands, Brazil, United States, and Canada) were at ORDA, so we took advantage of this historic moment to have a business meeting, hosted by Dutch teacher trainer Jaap Delver at his lovely home in Breukelen. Jaap arranged for us to take a “field trip” to Utrecht, home of Jacob van Eyck, and Dr. Theimo Wind, the renowned expert on van Eyck, gave us a guided tour of all the van Eyck sites.
I highly recommend that every recorder player should attend ORDA at least once in your life – it is the most inspiring musical event I have ever participated in.
I gratefully acknowledge travel assistance received for this project from the Edmonton Arts Council grant program.
I recently had the pleasure attending a workshop with the amazing recorder soloist Piers Adams, which was sponsored by the Edmonton Recorder Society while Red Priest was in town. This was my third workshop with Piers Adams over the course of several years in a variety of locations. The man is a force of nature as far as recorder playing is concerned – I have nothing but admiration for his command of the instrument and the way he fully embraces the expressive and improvisational philosophy of Baroque music. It was fascinating to hear many of the same things that he had said in previous workshops, but distilled by more years of experience. I took copious notes, and here they are:
Piers Adams Workshop – Edmonton Recorder Society March 3, 2017
Details! – this is the 10% that takes you from amateur to pro.
It is all from the diaphragm
Relaxation is a baseline state – use sparks of tension for effects, then return to relaxation
One hand on chest and one on belly – you should feel action in the belly when breathing, not in the chest (can also lie down with book on belly)
deep sigh with loose lips – place recorder on lips – explore and experiment with single note: no articulation, start strong and allow decay to go flat
repeat “sigh” note with crescendo & diminuendo – go for shape and let the pitch change
repeat – stop blowing when you hear the more start to go flat
repeat – open your mouth at the end of the note to release air before going flat
Now go to the music – just air, no articulation:
play first note as a “sigh” note, with cresc & dim, hold for length of phrase
then move your fingers to hear the whole melody
add a slight push of air on the downbeat of each bar (go back to single note)
add fingers back in – feel slight stress on downbeat from extra push of air
Contrast a straight air stream with shaping air & punchy bits
Make the air shape the phrase the way you want it – then use alternate fingerings to correct any pitch problems. Do not compromise your phrasing or play tentatively because you are afraid of going out of tune.
Now add articulation:
go back to the first note – just play the rhythm of the phrase with articulation using only the first pitch
“breath is the engine of the articulation” – a slight push of air through the tongue action will be reflected in a slight puff of the cheeks
softest articulation is “n” (try no-no or do-no, pinching your nose so you sound like you have a cold)
then add the fingers for the various pitches once you have your articulation going on one note
then consider where you want TuDu (or DuNo for the softest possible articulation)
in TD, TDD, TDDD, the Tu “spawns” any number of Dus.
For pick-ups, put Tu on the anacrusis and Du on the downbeat.
“Tu” is a very strong articulation, favoured by some performers. Others prefer using mostly “Du” or “No”, and using push of air from diaphragm to give added strength when desired. These are schools of thought / personal preference.
for staccato, “nut” with a quick open mouth on the “t”
accents are created with air, not tongue
slap tongue on bass: “t” beatbox style + “hoo” of air = practice separately then connect
Double tonguing: KuGu is a softer version of TuDu. On upbeats: KD ,TGD, KDGD, TGDGD
consider how air flows through the articulation
is there a separation?
does following note start instantly after tail of previous note?
allowing previous note to droop in pitch slightly before next note starts is OK, also accents that create a moment of sharpness – average pitch is good, these are shape moments, not poor intonation moments
playing in jazz styles – pitch bends and fall-offs are part of the style – relax and be jazzy (Slow Fox piece is excellent for working on this)
does previous not give a little push back up before the articulation? (not desired)
in Renaissance music, the phrase structure is often Q / A followed by a short “tail”, which can be played staccato.
Is an ornament or an aid to phrase shaping, not a mask for poor intonation.
most vibratos are to much above the pitch and not enough below
practice going below the pitch so far the sound cuts out completely
baseline relaxed position – recorder supported (thumbrest recommended), fingers pressing holes, then relaxed until they are just able to seal the air
action is a quick flick up, as precise as flicking a wad of paper across the room, then instantly return to relaxed position
other fingers remain relaxed – no tensing in response to surrounding action
no snatching at notes – that makes tension – go slowly with very quick actions between notes – wait, and then very precise
fingers hanging over edge are ore relaxed than fingers curved to use tip on hole – middle fingers can be more forward to do this
exercise – pick 2 notes at random, alternate working on precise finger action with no tension in fingers that aren’t moving – add a third note, then a fourth, etc. Random patterns good prep for contemporary music.
when drilling technical spots, make sure you are also doing the nuance as well as the action
mental focus = precision
there is a tempo when you can do it with no errors
in new music for recorder, feel free to break up long slurs with legato articulations – composers do not often fully understand the instrument
slur up = mouth shape oh-ee (feel like you are whistling the high note)
I finally acquired an inexpensive Aulos baroque flauto traverso pitched at a=415. I have been wanting to do this for some time, in order to have an instrument that I can loan out to interested students. These instruments are not readily available – I only acquired my handmade instrument after playing an order with an instrument maker and waiting for two years. Now that mass production instruments are available, I can offer the experience of playing a period instrument along with the performance practice instruction I provide when teaching the Bach, Handel, and Blavet sonatas to my older students.
My first student to try the instrument was featured on the Edmonton Suzuki Flute and Recorder Society fall chamber music concert. We are playing a duet by Hotteterre – she is playing the Aulos flute, which is a copy of a Stanesby Junior in plastic, and I am playing my boxwood Rottenburgh copy by Rod Cameron. She is also reading from a facsimile of the original publication, which is in french violin clef.