My first appearance on a music recital program

Pittsburgh Recorder Society spring 2012 recital program

A month and a half ago, I reported on an upcoming music recital I was going to perform in. In fact, I did perform, on Sunday, June 17, 2012. It was my first appearance in my life on a musical recital program, and my first time solo on modern flute.

The event was an informal spring dinner party/recital at Helen’s home for the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Recorder Society. (By the way, we also have a Facebook page now.)

Why did I put myself on the spot, by volunteering to play, and what did I choose to play?

The recital program

The program had several of us perform a dozen musical selections in a variety combinations (also performing at the end but not listed on the program were Mike and Fred).

(This year, Abby had submitted for the program a piece for Bulgarian tambura, “Ihtimansko Horo”, and this is on the printed program, but at the last minute, she had problems as a result of restringing her instrument during the week, and ended up not performing, unfortunately.)

Myself, I had chosen three musical selections to play:

Background: why I played

Last year’s party/recital

I only started playing recorder and joining the Pittsburgh Recorder Society just over a year ago. After I had only spent a couple of months playing alto recorder (and therefore being at a total beginner level), Helen held her party/recital on June 19, 2011, and invited people to volunteer to play. I was, of course, not ready to prepare anything I felt interesting enough to perform.

Actually, it did not even occur to me at the time that I would perform at all any time soon. But in fact, in addition to the prepared performances by several of the people, we also ended up playing something in a large group that we had worked on at the monthly meeting of the Pittsburgh Recorder Society. Even in such casual circumstances, I found myself almost paralyzed with anxiety, sitting there while Abby and other people sat and watched us play.

It should be noted that at this point in my life last year, I had not played music in front of a sitting audience in decades, and never with any seriousness; I was thirteen when I was last stumbling around playing in marching band with no enthusiasm and just an anonymous figure in a crowd:

Franklin in Lamphere High School marching band uniform

Anyway, I survived playing casually in the group, as Abby watched and took photos that day:

Pittsburgh Recorder Society group performing at summer 2011 recital

I have to confess that I was actually shaking and hyperventilating at times, messing up my breathing. It all seems so silly now, but that’s how it was. We do what we need to do, eventually become less sensitive, and move on.

Setting a goal and deadline

I didn’t tell anyone that June day last year, but after going home, I made a solemn vow to myself: I was going to spend the entire following year practicing recorder seriously and effectively, in order to be able to prepare something to play at the next party/recital. I had no idea what I was going to play, because the first step was simply to continue improving using some recorder method books, before actually trying to learn a real piece. My goal was to have something substantial to play, to display how much I had learned and improved. (And not shake with anxiety.)

Why I chose the selections I played this year

Which instrument(s)?

It turns out that in a single year, I had not only improved at alto recorder, but had also learned soprano recorder. I had also bought a tenor recorder and begun playing it (same fingerings as soprano recorder). And by fall last year, I had also bought a bass recorder and begun playing it.

Completely unexpectedly, in November I had begun trying to play modern flute again. Even more unexpectedly, later I also decided to take up the Baroque flute, after having explained why I had no plan to try Baroque flute anytime soon!

And I also started playing the Irish tin whistle. It has been quite a year of music for me.

So what instruments and music was I going to play for the recital at Helen’s?

The answer: play three of my instruments

I decided that I would pick three fairly short music selections and play them on three different instruments as appropriate for the music’s style and period. Also, to simply my preparation, I looked for music I could play alone rather than, say, requiring a keyboard accompaniment.

Late Renaissance or early Baroque (1650s?)

I chose to play a selection from Van Eyck to show off the soprano recorder. Actually, I had played this selection for an audience before (a blog post about that life-changing experience, a “Baroque jam session”, on Friday, April 27, is still to be written). It was by pure accident that I came across Van Eyck’s music to play; I had found the score in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s catalog while looking for any recorder music at all.

A personal reason I wanted to play this was that I had not heard any interpretation that I really liked, from CDs or YouTube. Therefore, I wanted to fill a hole and try to play the music the way I felt it. This is the fundamental reason I have been playing music rather than just listening to others do it: self-expression.

(Update of 2012-10-30)

Here is the finally published post about the Baroque jam session.

Traditional Scottish air (1700s?)

A Baroque flute seemed appropriate to play this slow song. It could have used accompaniment, but I added it to the program too late to have someone accompany me on harp or mandolin or something.

I was a little hesitant to play the Baroque flute in public, because I had only really started playing it, and was clearly in need of serious improvement (in fact, it has been my main instrument of focus in the past month), but I thought I might as well put in a two-minute song for variety’s sake, and as a baseline since I had already decided that next year, I want to play the Baroque flute again at the 2013 party/recital, and much better.

Late Baroque or pre-Classical (1750s?)

The CPE Bach sonata I had fallen in love with hearing it by accident on modern flute performed by Emmanuel Pahud when I was browsing YouTube one day for solo flute material. After hearing it, I vowed that one day I would play the whole thing.

I chose what seemed to be the easiest movement to focus on, and practiced it on modern flute.

There is, of course, a question of which flute is best suited for this music. Given the period, perhaps a simple system keyed wooden flute? But I don’t have one, and currently have no intention of getting one or learning to play it.

It would be possible to play it on a Baroque flute, but much more difficult. When I get better at Baroque flute, I just might consider playing CPE Bach on it, but I feel that the modern flute is not inappropriate for this music.

How I fared

Well, I played. I got nervous, I made various errors I did not make in practice, I made errors that I made in practice, but I actually did manage to go up alone and play. I can’t pretend that I played very well (in fact, now, over a month later, I could play each of these selections noticeably better than I did), but I did what I could at the time.

By the way, since Abby’s parents came to the party/recital this year, this was also the first time they ever saw me perform.

I was considerably less nervous than a year ago, but still more nervous than I really need to be. So next year, 2013, I expect to be more seasoned and more performance-ready.

After we all played, we enjoyed the potluck dinner and had a good time. What else could I ask for, an evening of music, food, and friends?

(Sorry, I have no photos or videos of any of the activities. I was too busy experiencing rather than spectating, and I don’t think anyone actually took any photos or videos.)


The Pittsburgh Recorder Society spring potluck/recital means a lot to me because it was there last year that I continued to get to know the members, after having just joined, met new people, heard people play, and got the idea that I too could perform, if I worked at improving. I set some goals, was happy that Abby and her parents came along to see me perform, and the experience renewed my commitment to continuing to play and improve in the Pittsburgh Recorder Society group as well as on my own on Baroque flute and modern flute. I have every intention of having even more fun in my upcoming year of music!

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