|The Courtenay Players Recorder Consort|
with their extraordinary instruments:
Katie Cowling Tenor, Angela Chapman Bass
Judith Belam Contra Bass, Catherine Palmer-Wills Great Bass
|The Octocontra Bass|
- now rarely heard
The bass instruments create music of quite unexpected grandeur, a far cry from the school descant ensemble. In the right hands they produce a musical effect which is quite unique and magical. A group who really know how to handle recorders - and have a wonderfully Devonian name - are the Courtenay Players. Their traditional wooden instruments are in varied distinctive styles, including the startling modern box-section great and contra bass. Being somewhat more affordable than the ferociously expensive wooden cylinder equivalent, they nevertheless run into the thousands for a quality instrument.
The recorder is a renaissance instrument and the Players enhance the renaissance feel of their concerts with costumes in a renaissance style. However, the real magic starts when they begin to play those wonderful instruments. Despite the consort's renaissance look and sound they are extremely versatile, playing music from the sixteenth century to the twenty first - from Elizabeth to Elizabeth as they say.
"Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon"
Edward Poynter 1890
(Click image for sound)
The style changed to Victorian for the subsequent madrigals by William Beale - arranged for recorders by Eric Chapman. Replacing one of the trebles with a tenor in the between-pieces reshuffle added a little more depth. Next a descant (played to its full potential!) was added for two Elizabethan 'bransles' (French renaissance circle dances which involve 'swaying loosely from side to side' - branlant in French). It was easy to see why these lovely dances were so popular.
|The Garklein Recorder|
a very specialised instrument
|"Ka go sale moso"|
(Click image for sound)
Sound familiar? Ruth Avis created that 'African dawn' mood on 25 October last year when she played Ian Clarke's "Orange Dawn" (1992) on her flute with pianist James Keefe in the Music Room (see playlist). Although employing a different sound, and a slightly different mood, the Courtenay Players' "Pina ya Phala" was equally captivating and delightful. It would be wonderful to hear those two pieces side by side!
Where to go from there? Two early twentieth century American classics followed, arranged for recorders by Philip Evry. Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm" and Herb Brown's "Singing in the Rain" introduced a light hearted feeling of fun - and familiarity - which sounded well with the stately sound of the recorders.
A brief detour to Ireland for Philip Thorby's "Irish Suite", and to the Netherlands for Paul Leenhouts' Tango "Für Elise", finished off the concert in style. Both were played with the standard combination of descant, treble, tenor and bass but, at the last moment, Cath exchanged her bass for that slightly more moderate bigger sister of the garklein - the sopranino - for a final flourish.
As a parting encore the consort gave us their version of the 'soft shoe shuffle' with Cath abandoning her recorder for a pair of sanding blocks which she employed to very entertaining effect - for the players as well as the audience.
|Katie Cowling struggles to concentrate in the face of|
Cath Palmer-Wills' 'soft shoe shuffle'
Want to hear more? The players are available for hire if you are holding an event which could benefit from their music. Also they are very keen to bring the real recorder to a new generation, so teachers who think your pupils could do with something special one day - do get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Courtenay Players are also planning a concert of English music for Sunday 19 June at Holy Trinity Church in Drewsteignton called, appropriately, "From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II". In addition to the four superb players we heard on Wednesday a fifth regular player, Janet Drake-Law, will also be taking part - along with a little light renaissance style percussion, I hear.
The Courtenay Players Recorder Consort
Holy Trinity Church Drewsteignton
Sunday 19 June evening
From Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II
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