Playing music on recorders at a Phipps Conservatory "candlelight evening"

Sam, Franklin, Annie, Helen, Mike

Entrance to Phipps

After almost two months of weekly music rehearsals, we (Annie, Helen, Mike, Sam, and I) finally performed as planned in Phipps Conservatory. It was a lot of fun. We came up with a huge batch of music that we hadn’t played at Phipps last year.

As people wandered around in the garden, sometimes they gathered to sit for a while to enjoy our music before moving on. We had our largest audiences earlier rather than later in the evening.

Audience at one point

A sample photo and video, which I took while Sam, Helen, and Mike were playing in a trio, while Annie and I took a break. (Since there were five of us, we took turns playing either as a quartet or trio or as a quartet with a part doubled.)


My full report on the event:

Several weeks of preparation

My music score binder

We spent something like 16 hours in rehearsal, spread out over almost two months, before we performed. We first sight read a huge amount of music, nearly half of which we ended up deciding not to play this time, and worked on what we chose. I also spent time at home working on some trickier passages in some of the music. It was a pretty big time commitment, and at one point, the week before Thanksgiving, when I was really low on time and energy because of other commitments, I was feeling overwhelmed and suggested to the group that I might bail out this year because I was too tired to make it to one of the rehearsals.

But then I reconsidered, after realizing that missing one rehearsal was not the end of the world (since everyone else but Annie had missed at least one rehearsal already by then!), and that I didn’t have to play all the music, but could take turns with others if needed. (In the end, we each did take turns, since as five, we never needed all five of us when playing three or four part music.) After surviving that one week, I returned to rehearsal and was re-energized to go through with the plan to perform again this year.

At Phipps

We ended up playing for two hours, which was longer than the hour and a half of last year. We did have a lot more music, so that it took over an hour to run through all our music, before we took a break, and then started from the beginning again, choosing a subset of selections to repeat.

As usual, I made various mistakes in performance that I simply never made in practice. I guess we all did, at one point or another. It happens. I am not as anxious about mistakes as I used to be. I’m a lot better at recovery from a mistake than I used to be, and I’ve learned over my past year of music that recovery is far more important than never making a mistake. People can hear a little blip here, but as long as you get back on track quickly, without breaking the flow, it’s not the biggest deal in the world.

Since I am a lot more comfortable now with the mechanics of playing recorder, I have been focusing on contributing to ensemble unity of dynamics, articulation, etc. That’s the really fun part of playing together, after moving beyond the initial focus on getting the notes.

One thing nice about having an audience, and a space in which to play all out, is that I felt inspired to play as beautifully as I could, getting the harmonies clean and ringing out. I just said that I made more mistakes in performance than in practice; but it is also true that I felt that I never played recorder more beautifully than tonight in some of the pieces. A paradox, perhaps, but one I can live with.

Sam’s wife came along to watch us. That was really nice, because there were times when the audience was otherwise very thin.


I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to play in a little recorder ensemble again this year. Life is always kind of hectic at this time of year, but I am already looking forward to playing with the recorder gang again next year!

Thank you to Annie, Helen, Mike, and Sam for having me be part of the holiday-themed music gig!

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