“Familiarity breeds contempt” we are told. This is not a happy outlook for the much-maligned recorder, the best-known of the woodwinds. St. Paul said “When I was a child, I spoke as a child and thought as a child, but now I am become a man I have put away the things of a child.” This is advice which all too many promising young recorder players have acted upon when beginning High School. The ubiquitous and overworked recorder has borne the stigma of “primary school tool” for too long.
In reality it is a highly expressive instrument capable of virtuosic display. It does however, present certain challenges. Its very simplicity makes it highly effective in simpler keys, but renders chromatic passages extremely difficult, hence its fine record in music of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Modern composers have produced much engaging and challenging literature for the recorder in both solo and ensemble form, and virtuosi like our own Genevieve Lacy provide fine models across all forms. It will hardly come as a surprise that the most effective recorder groups are those which are led by dedicated and well-supported individuals, either in studios or schools.
Intra-group peer support seems to be an important factor in actively establishing respect for the instrument and its repertoire. And since nothing grows from nothing, the fine work of many hundreds of recorder groups across the country must be acknowledged. The teachers who run these groups have been responsible for seeding many careers, mostly on other instruments. In many cases these teachers are the thin red line between culture and the forces of materialism. I would love to see the work of these teachers carried on to higher levels by their talented graduates.
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