Crossing the Boundaries with Helen Hooker: 18 March 2023
When the East Berks SRP announced at the end of last year that it would be hosting the launch of Helen Hooker’s new course, Crossing the Boundaries Between Instruments, a conversion course for recorder players who want to broaden their musical horizons, I booked up immediately. This was exactly the course I had been waiting for.
I had been playing with the Chichester u3a Recorder Ensemble, under the guidance of Jean Campbell, since September 2021 and, in my early days with the group, had made the move from treble to tenor recorder without too much difficulty. Perhaps those long-forgotten memories of playing the descant at primary school had floated to the surface and come to my aid!
When Jean suggested I try the bass, I was keen to give it a go. I already read the bass clef from my cello-playing days but making the transition proved a little more tricky than I had expected. Jean, and the other members of the group, were patient and encouraging as I battled on, and searched in vain for a course to help. I had all but given up when Helen and the East Berks SRP came to the rescue.
The Workshop was all I had hoped for – and more! Helen shared invaluable strategies for transitioning between C and F instruments, including the use of ‘anchor’ notes for each to help with orientation. We built up our confidence by working through exercises together, and playing simple duets, on our treble and bass recorders.
Helen had lots of advice for the aspiring bass players among us, including tips on how to read the bass clef, how to hold our instruments and how to generate a good tone (lots of warm breath is a key ingredient here).
But the day wasn’t all about the bass! We considered techniques for transposing music by an octave, a skill often required on the treble recorder, and finally succeeded in putting them into practice! A number of us had fun experimenting with the sopranino, and we all had the chance to examine Helen’s wide range of recorders and playing manuals.
Under Helen’s expert and kindly tutelage, we had each played at least one recorder with which we had little or no familiarity, and moved bravely beyond the comfort zone of our usual instruments.
The members of the East Berks SRP had been the perfect hosts, and had worked so hard to make the day a success. Stephanie Sutherland and her team had made us all so welcome, and had kept us going with their lovely tea and cakes.
As a finale, we played some consort music together, and no-one listening would ever have guessed that some of us were playing an instrument we had picked up for the first time at the beginning of the day. We had charted new territories, and went home to practise our new-found skills with the aid of Helen’s comprehensive hand- outs.
This Workshop is an absolute must for players seeking to convert from one size of recorder to another – whether they would like help in getting started or are looking for help along the way.
I would recommend this Workshop, too, for players who are not necessarily planning to convert: the opportunity to gain an understanding of other instruments in the recorder family can only improve our over-all musical and consort skills, and gives a real insight into the joys and challenges faced by our fellow recorder players.
Report by Judith
ALL THAT JAZzzzzzzz with David Moses: 22 October 2022
Those who attended the Jazz Workshop with David Moses yesterday thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Working on arrangements representing the main periods of jazz composition (Dixieland, trad, swing, cool jazz, bebop, post bop) David patiently took us through rhythms and chord changes so that we could improvise, and play over backing tracks.
We played plenty of music demonstrating the evolution of jazz.
Report by Steph