Celebrating two years of playing recorder

I was very excited to celebrate two years of playing recorder by attending the Pittsburgh Recorder Society “Midwinter Musical Feast” potluck and informal recital at Helen’s. Last year (2012) we didn’t have a winter party, but I still remember when two years ago (2011), on February 19, I started learning the alto recorder at home by myself, and then decided to join the Pittsburgh Recorder Society. Helen was actually my first email contact from the group, and she had immediately invited me to come to the Midwinter Musical Feast, but not having actually met anybody yet, and also barely just beginning to play recorder, I was too intimidated and decided to skip the party and instead practice for two weeks before attending my first meeting of the group.

The last recorder potluck/recital I went to was half a year ago, when I played a bit on soprano recorder, Baroque flute, and modern flute. Abby had come with me, and her parents also attended. This time, Abby came again, as did her parents, and Abby brought her http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamburica to play some Balkan music selections:

Abby on tamburitza

(Additional photos of food and people are now up on Facebook.)

My two collaborations

As for me, I prepared two pieces to play, both of which required a continuo accompanist. Because of time constraints, I did not actually get together with either of my collaborators, but did send them sound files of myself playing at home, as well as scores. So we never had any rehearsal together, but heck, this was just a party, so it wasn’t a big deal that we were going to wing it.

Handel’s recorder sonata in G minor

Last month, I ran through Handel’s short four-movement recorder sonata in G minor with Henry on piano at a party, but my goal was always to perform it for real, to the best of my technical and interpretive ability, with period accompaniment.

I actually rehearsed this with Annie, with her playing my portable electronic keyboard that has a harpsichord setting, but then it turned out she could not make it to the party, so I scrambled to find someone else, and I was thankful that Mike agreed to step in and play the continuo on bass recorder!

I worked rather hard on this piece, actually, in the sense of coming up with some fluency to be able to come up with spontaneous and personally expressive Baroque ornamentation in all the movements, especially the first. (I did not want to compose a fixed ornamentation to play.) I believe I had some success doing so, and felt that my effort was a respectful way to celebrate two years of recorder playing.

Franklin and Mike playing Handel

Niccolò Dôthel’s first flute and cello sonata, first movement

Franklin and Karen playing Dôthel

Two months ago, I had actually run through this piece on Baroque flute with piano accompaniment at a party, but just sight read by Henry on piano and in a noisy environment that was not ideal.

This time, I actually worked on playing it in a quiet environment. Karen Parsons, whom I actually formally met just before last year’s Mideast early music workshop, which we both participated in, was kind enough to agree to play the continuo part on viola da gamba.

I had a false start and a scare though! What happened was that I had planned to play the piece on Annie’s wooden Baroque flute that she had lent to me, and I had in fact practiced it on this instrument just fine for days, but somehow, I could not make a sound at all on her flute after I performed the Handel recorder sonata. I was completely mystified. Luckily, I had a backup plan: I had brought along my own plastic Aulos Baroque flute, and I was perfectly able to play it instead, and so we proceeded. I am still not entirely certain why Annie’s flute suddenly failed to work for me; upon arriving at the party, I had actually warmed up the flute and played a few notes on it for confidence. My speculation is that it was a mistake to play recorder right before flute, and maybe my embouchure was slightly off on the particular instrument I had only been playing for a few days.

Anyway, Karen and I had fun playing this light, elegant piece. I do wish I could have played it on Annie’s flute, though.

Other people

I enjoyed hearing others in the recorder group playing their musical selections as well, especially those who were newer to the group. It makes me profoundly happy to be among others sharing music together.


The Pittsburgh Recorder Society usually holds these potluck/recitals twice a year, in winter and summer. I always cherish the opportunity to make a special dish to share for the potluck (this time I brought my own hearty vegetable soup) as well as prepare interesting music to share that I hope others will enjoy. And this time, being basically the second anniversary of my playing recorder, I felt especially grateful for all that everyone in the group has shared with me in the past two years! I actually do not know what my life would be like today if I had not begun playing music with the Pittsburgh Recorder Society two years ago. It changed everything for me.

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