This Groundhog Day found us again in the basement of Faith Lutheran Church, where 19 Zoom participants and 23 in-person players were welcomed by our Music Director Vicki Boeckman and President Dave Gloger. Two new people were introduced, and announcements were made; details will be found elsewhere in this newsletter, but I want to highlight Sarah Jeffery’s evening with us on March 25 at Faith Lutheran Church, and Nancy Gorbman’s Junior Recorder Ensemble: seeking 9-13 year olds with no recorder experience to learn to play the recorder. Sue Michiels has a case to give away for an alto (recorder not included!) – free to a good home. Laura Townsend and the rest of the Back Room Gang then left the big group for their own playing session.

Prince of Denmark’s March by Jeremiah Clarke

Our warm up for the evening was the bright and happy The Prince of Denmark’s March (SATB) by Jeremiah Clarke (c. 1674-1707), “a fun, upbeat piece to get us warmed up.” Along with the music sent out ahead of time, Vicki had provided a video of a “pure, natural trumpet” player whose instrument had no keys/valves, and he played the entire piece with only his embouchure to change notes! The sopranos in this march could now pretend they are valveless trumpets!

“Do not fear the trills!” encouraged Vicki, and then she demonstrated trill fingerings. “If you are so moved, you may trill.” Altos had some finger gymnastics, and sopranos had the challenge of a high D. “Don’t worry if you can’t get it – we’re all among friends.” We were coached to play this D Major piece in a proud and pompous manner but were warned not to slow down when we took breaths. Vicki conducted a schmaltzy ritard at the end, and then exclaimed, “Yes, we did it! Just a little bit of fun!”

Adieu, sweet Amaryllis by John Willbye

From proud and pompous we moved into lovely and sweet: John Willbye’s Adieu, sweet Amaryllis (SATB). Willbye lived from 1574 to 1638 during the mid-English Renaissance and was a contemporary of William Byrd and Thomas Tallis. This madrigal’s words are “painted” with notes: “Adieu, Adieu, sweet Amaryllis, For since to part, to part your will is, O heavy tiding, Here is for me no biding, Yet once again, ere that I part with you…”

We were told that we “may breathe at the commas,” …but since Vicki was conducting in a “slow two” – and I was playing bass (after a two-month hiatus) – I had to breathe at every comma! Trills would have been OK if it was 100 years later, but Vicki said divisions (or without) were the order of the time and played some sample divisions on her soprano. After our last time through, Vicki complimented us, “So pretty! Lovely, lovely!”

Pavane by Gabriel Fauré

Last on the program was Gabriel Fauré’s (1845-1924) Pavane, arranged for recorders (descant, treble 1 & 2, tenor 1 & 2, bass) by Christian Mondrup. This was originally written for an orchestra in 1887, when the music world was steeped in the Romantic period. By then the instruments had mostly transitioned (e.g., flutes with many keys), and had been developed to accommodate greater range and volume. The recorder had gone out of fashion by then – “but that doesn’t mean we can’t play it now!” Vicki asked us to, “shape the tone phrases with a beautiful, connected tone. Most parts have bits of beautiful melody at some point …sadly, except for basses – sorry basses! Be sure to slur to connect the notes – including the accidentals.”

Fauré was not so popular in his day, in fact the leader of the conservatory where he applied threatened to resign if he was accepted. However, this particular piece was well received by audiences at the time. The tenor recorders could imitate the pizzicato sound of plucked strings, the basses could pretend they were the string basses (each note a “poof” to provide texture), altos could imagine themselves as the flute soloists, and sopranos could replace the oboe section. “The moment there’s something different than expected in the music, then our senses become awakened.” The last part was worth repeating – it was “like a dream, so beautiful!” expressed Vicki. The Back Room Gang returned in time to hear the end of this piece and applauded our collective efforts!

The Back Room Gang

The Back Room Gang worked on several pieces from a collection of Elizabethan & Shakespearean tunes: Pastime with Good Company and Greensleeves.  We discussed the rhythmic structure of different time signatures, comparing duple to triple meters. In addition to exploring the tunes in unison and duet form, we went over some strategies for using tuners in individual practice. We had so much fun with these tunes, we’ll use the collection again in April!