"Recorders are cool!" will be the message at Festival of Chichester concert

Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia
Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia

Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia have got a definite message as they return to the Festival of Chichester this year.

“Recorders are cool and recorders are awesome!” says spokeswoman Jean Campbell. The sinfonia will be in action on Saturday, June 29 at 7.30pm in St Paul’s Church when they are promising an “astonishing” performance from 35 players on seven sizes of instrument ranging from 23cm to 2m.

They will be offering a diverse summer programme of classical and contemporary music under the baton of Christopher Burgess.

“What we are trying to do is show that recorders don’t just play early music,” Jean says. “We have a programme for our Festival of Chichester concert that will have many attractive, toe-tapping pieces composed more recently, especially for recorder orchestra.

“There is a lot of music now being written especially for recorder orchestras. One piece we are playing is a very exciting tango, and there is another piece we will be playing that will remind listeners of the Pink Panther theme. We have got four short suites of music, one of which includes English folk songs and we have got another one that portrays the life of a wolf from a playful cub to an adult wolf. And we have got two pieces from the past, one a lovely short piece from the famous Elizabethan composer Thomas Tallis which has been especially arranged by our conductor and which shows off the bigger recorder instruments, and then we have got a nice piece, a very nice arrangement for recorders of Elgar’s piece that was written for violin, called Chanson de Matin.”

Audiences will be struck by the sheer range of the instruments: “A lot of people that come to our concerts say to us that they thought recorders were just the descants that they played at primary school. They are not. There are at least seven different type of recorder from the very tiny sopranino to the massive contrabass which I play. It is lovely. I love the low notes that you get. It is a bit like playing the double bass in a symphonic orchestra.

“I began by playing the descant. That would have been about 12 years ago. I just happened to have a descant left over from I don’t know what, perhaps school days. I started teaching myself and then I started going along to courses. One of the very best I went to right at the start was West Dean College, and that’s when I started thinking about it seriously.”

Through the courses Jean came across the contrabass: “I just fell in love with it and it has been my main instrument ever since. That would be about six or seven years now.”

It’s an enjoyable challenge: “Because it is such a big instrument, you do have to think about breath control. You need to put a lot of air through it. You need to learn to take a deep breath and control it. It is just a matter of practice. I have certainly developed my technique. The thing is to fill up your lungs with air and then let it out in a controlled way for the long notes.

“There are about 35 players altogether, and we give three or four concerts a year, mainly in Hampshire and often in support of a charity or a cause. But we come to Chichester for the festival every year if we can and that is a great favourite with us. We have often played Boxgrove Priory which is a lovely church with a very good acoustic.”

Adults £10; students £5; children free.

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