Third ERTA-Iberia Gathering
Oporto, 2-4 May 2014
Main venue: ESMAE (Escuela Superior de Música, Artes y Espectáculo)
The recorder is in a healthy situation in the Iberian Peninsula. Both in Spain and in Portugal, countries that don’t have as much of a recorder-playing tradition as countries in the north of Europe do, the number of professional and amateur players is growing.
Of course, the recorder will never achieve the status of being the main instrument for popular music here (perhaps because the classical guitar already has this status), although it is used in every primary school, where children learn the instrument’s basics. Apart from town-bands, countries south of the Pyrenees almost completely lack the tradition of the amateur home music-making which is so familiar to the German, the Belgian and the Dutch. Nevertheless, there is an enviable public formal music education system, which covers the levels of ‘elemental’, ‘profesional’ and ‘superior’.
This system guarantees that, in the future, there will continue to be a steady flow of new professional musicians and professional recorder players. The presence of Iberian recorder players among the most successful musicians in the European setting is growing. Many of these are musicians who, after studying in Europe’s foremost institutions (largely in the north), have returned to Spain or Portugal to work as recorder teachers in the peninsula’s Superior Conservatories.
These musicians combine their solid technical and musical education with their mediterranean temperament: warm, lively and playful. This attractive blend is already drawing recorder students from northern countries to the peninsula: it is the start of a curious phenomena of inverse movement, in which the German and the Dutch come to Spain and Portugal to study recorder playing.
One of these institutions which are already attracting this international student profile is the ESMAE (Escuela Superior de Música y Espectáculos), in Oporto, Portugal.
The Third Iberian Recorder Gathering, organised by Erta-Iberia, was held from the 2nd to the 4th of May, 2014. For the third time, this young organisation, which was founded in 2010, has got most of the professional recorder players living in the Iberian peninsula to spend a weekend together in perfect harmony, cordiality and friendship.
In this Third Erta-Iberia Gathering we had the opportunity to spend a weekend with people linked diversely to the recorder universe: teachers, recorder players, performers, students, family members and amateurs.
The gathering was made up of five conferences, five concerts, a workshop and a round table. The recorder exhibition was comprised of instruments by the following constructors: Adriana Breukink, Diogo Leal, Fernando Paz, Francesco Livirghi, Jacqueline Sorel, Joachim Rohmer, Monika Musch, Paul Richardson, Tim Cranmore and Wenner Flöten. The Mollenhauer firm, which provided funding for the event, also took part in the exhibition with a large stand in which its novel instruments were displayed alongside its already well-known and highly regarded instruments.
1) Eagle, a timless vision
Adriana Breukink and António Carrilho, Eagle recorder, and Eurico Rosado, piano
The gathering started with an unusual concert: two Eagle recorders (constructed by Adriana Breukink) and a piano.
We got to hear the versatility of this new recorder applied to the wide scope of the repertoire they performed (XIV-XX). The Eagle recorder allows performing with contrasted dynamics and with a powerful sound which is well-balanced throughout the instrument’s range.
Adriana Breukink displayed the soft version of the recorder and António Carrilho displayed the instrument’s extreme power, which enabled him to play works such as César Franck’s Sonata for violin and piano.
This was an attractive way to start the gathering’s events: it foretold high-quality concerts and showed how recorder constructors are driving the evolution of the instrument forward.
2) Round table: Voicing:
Adrian Brown, Jacqueline Sorel, Adriana Breukink, Monika Musch. Moderator: Joan Miró
The moderator started the session by asking the constructors about the meaning of the word ‘voicing’, a widely used word which hasn’t been carefully defined and which recorder players find vague. The constructors didn’t entirely agree on its meaning. Some constructors believed that they could affect voicing in some ways, whereas others believed that it was entirely up to the performers to shape the sound of the recorder.
The attendees weren’t clear on the importance of the concept, and they were surprised by the lack of agreement among the constructors.
Notwithstanding the unclear conclusions, listening to the constructors’ explanations was very interesting, as were the questions and doubts put forward by the audience.
3) Concert perfomed by the Early Music Esmae students,
directed by Pedro Sousa
A splendid display of recorders and excellent performances by the students.
Their versions, which had quite varied sonorities due to the fact that they changed their instruments during the concert, showed great musicality. We enjoyed some excellent, very well-performed music.
All the students seemed to have a very similar idea of how they had to perform, and this created a very intimate atmosphere. It also showed that, as was said in the programme, one of the most important aspects on which students work while on the Course is on-stage presentation. The attendees were happy to see that the future of the recorder is in good hands.
4) Conference: the Eagle recorder:
Adriana Breukink (constructor)
Using a Powerpoint slideshow for support, Adriana Breukink presented her Eagle recorder. The presentation was original in that she not only took us through the story of the Eagle recorder’s construction, but also explained what the two types of blowers (lunar or solar) are.
She put forward a theory according to which we are born with a physical disposition which determines our posture and the way we move, especially when playing and hence when breathing.
Lunar people have a ‘low tone’ and have a hard time producing a wide, open sound, whereas solar people have a ‘high tone’ and can produce a wide, powerful sound.
Adriana Breukink used this theory to develop a metallic labium for her new recorder, which adapts to both types of blowers.
The Eagle recorder accommodates a new way of thinking about the instrument, both because it widens the scope of the potential stages on which recorder players can play (e.g. alongside orchestras) and because it is physically quite a different instrument from a regular recorder: it is cylindrical, heavier and has more stops, and the metallic labium gives rise to a very different acoustic sensation.
The audience was interested in the distinction between the two types of blowers, and listened intently. Questions were asked at the end of the session, and attendees attempted to find out which type of blower they were.
5) 40+ PROJECT: Trudy Gimbergen (President of the Erta-Iberia Association).
After introducing herself as a teacher with a long professional career, Trudy Gimbergen explained that the average age of recorder students in Europe has been increasing and will probably continue to do so.
This is why, for a while now, she has considered how to teach adults — would they need a learning method different from that for children?
Noting that recorder teachers had largely not concerned themselves with teaching methods conceived specifically for people over 40 years old, she set out to study different pedagogic methods, psychological theories (i.e. different kinds of intelligence) and learning theories in order to develop her thesis.
With the support of a Powerpoint presentation, she showed several tables, among which were the Csíkszentmihályi table, which deals with the concept of motivation (degrees of challenge and degrees of abilities and the relationship between these two concepts) and the Baltes and Smith table, which deals with the changes that cognitive capacities suffer as the years go by (fluid intelligence and crystallised intelligence).
Basing herself on scientific data, she talked about plasticity in adults’ brains and defended that, by maintaining himself active (by playing an instrument, for instance), an adult can help prevent certain aspects of mental and physical deterioration.
She offered some very interesting material on tackling classes with adults. She divided the potential sessions in three parts: the first and most important is devoted to physical and technical warm-up; the second is used to detect problems and explore how to solve them; and the last is practice, either solo or by pairs. She also defended the idea that, if a learning method is dynamic for children, it should also be dynamic for adults.
The audience was very interested in the conference, and it was a good idea to talk about this topic, which seems to be what we are going to find in the future.
6) First paths:
This conference was cancelled due to the speaker’s indisposition.
The president of Erta-Iberia had the happy idea of inviting Nik Tarasov, a Mollenhauer representative, to come and present the Csakan and Elody models that he had on display in his stand.
The Csakan was popular in Vienna at the start of the 19th century, but most of the audience were unacquainted with it. Nik Tarasov explained that the first versions of the instrument were constructed in the shape of a cane, with the mouthpiece in the part where the handle would be, thus copying the design of Eastern Europe shepherds’ recorders.
He showed the recorder’s peculiar sound, and he exhibited the music that he (himself an expert Csakan player) has recovered and carefully edited.
The second part of the talk was devoted to the Elody (electric) model, with which he has recorded a CD.
He presented some examples of different effects with an iPad application and he gave us all sorts of information on the instrument and its careful design that gives it a very wide range (down to a low E, which makes it very versatile, e.g. allows it to play with electric guitars) and makes the stop system and the fingering for the high notes exceedingly comfortable.
The talk was an introduction to two new worlds, which the audience found very interesting. There were questions and a lot of interest in trying out the instruments in order to experience first-hand the possibilities they offered.
7) Concert M, (Ma-Mu):
A brief and incomplete sound-history of the recorder through its modern constructors. Vicente Parrilla, recorders
The Conservatorio Superior de Sevilla teacher Vicente Parrilla presented a programme in which he performed with recorders by four constructors (one of whom, Monika Musch, was in the audience) whose names, by chance, all start with the letter M (Marvin, Morgan, Musch and Meyer).
He performed a highly varied repertoire, pairing up pieces of different styles for each instrument (except for the Morgan recorders).
As his CDs can testify, Vicente Parrilla is a great improviser, and although all the pieces he played were for solo recorder, in one of them he used a previously recorded ground on top of which he improvised with a Bob Marvin recorder.
Listening to eight high-quality recorders being put to use on repertoire that ranged from the 13th Century (Alfonso X the wise) to 1992 (Astor Piazzolla) was very interesting.
A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLISH POPULAR MUSIC FROM THE SIXTEENTH TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: Adrian Brown, constructor and performer
As an aperitif to the Dapper’s Delight concert on Saturday night, which surprised everyone with its freshness and was enjoyed by the audience, Adrian Brown shed light on the concert’s programme in a short conference.
By means of clear explanations which were very well illustrated with a slideshow, he described the world of English popular music during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, he drew connections between classical music and popular music, and he set out the different levels and forms of this music.
He explored how a great number of songs coming from classical music played in upper-class theatres were popularised within the working class, and he explained how these songs were sung and played on the streets, often having their lyrics changed, and how they had survived multiple versions during the centuries.
Adrian Brown presented a great deal of clarifying data about the Masque Dance, John Playford’s ‘Dancing Master’ and the wonders of the Broadside Ballads, and hence gave an enjoyable example of how to combine serious research with a pleasant presentation.
Carolina Vicente, recorder player and recorder teacher
While projecting a slideshow of the book’s images, she explained the method she uses when teaching recorder at the Conservatory of Málaga.
This is a conservatory where the recorder has an enviable presence due to the fact that the institution’s management supports the instrument and implements a policy that keeps it as fundamental for the the conservatory.
Pequepico is a learning method adapted to Andalucía’s new syllabus, which organises students into small groups.
Carolina’s project suggests a unified system across all groups, but allows for a great deal of flexibility so that it can be adapted to each student.
Students have two one-hour long classes every week. This generous amount of contact time allows for work on technique and repertoire in a very structured way. The student’s improvements are accounted for by means of personalised cards.
Carolina’s experience, which comes from teaching a large number of students, was set out in detail: she covered how she prepares the calendars for study time and how she stimulates students’ interest in the harder bits of the repertoire.
The connection with the student’s parents is an important element in the learning process.
Carolina provides books and scores created especially for the students, which leads to very motivated, high-level students.
Alexander Technique for recorder players: Pedro Coutos
Pedro Coutos’s presentation of Alexander Technique from the point of view of a recorder player was very interesting.
He gave very clear explanations, he presented some specific material that he has designed himself and he gave various examples of how to produce better sound through having a better posture.
He presented some of Alexander Technique’s principles and strategies that can be used in teaching and practicing recorder playing.
He covered topics such as breathing, posture and relaxation in the finger and body movements, and he spoke of different ways to organise studying time in order to efficiently coordinate fingers, breathing and tongue.
The second part was more practical, and the attendees had the chance to apply some of Alexander Technique’s advice and experience its benefits.
11) Dapper's Delight concert:
Susana Borsch, recorders and voice, and Adrian Brown, anglo concertina and voice
This duet, which has a career spanning several years, offered an extremely high-quality concert. The great recorder player, who had an enormous technique and great musical taste, filled the church with virtuosity and musicality. Adrian Brown, an expert in the anglo concertina, accompanied the recorder with the naturalness inherent in popular music and with the professionality and excellence which is often found in this type of musician.
The songs they so magnificently performed united two instruments which perfectly combine the idiosyncrasy of the melodic instrument with the harmonic one.
Brown’s voice was reminiscent of the most beautiful side of popular songs, and Borsch showed her magic with the eight holes, playing recorders constructed by her travelling partner Adrian Brown.
12) Annual gernerel ERTA-IBERIA Assembly
The attendees discussed some aspects of the organisation’s current situation. Furthermore, a new vice-president, Nuska Corrià, was elected; as a member of a younger generation, she breathes new life into Erta-Iberia.
13) Concert: Contemporary laments:
Anna Margules, recorders and electronic equipment
This was the last concert of the gathering, with repertoire from the 20th and 21st centuries. Anna Margules filled the stage with music stands, recorders and scores, and – often supported by abstract videos – offered an intimate concert, of laments, memories, souls, deaths, prayers and songs, as was described in the programme. The pieces were mostly by Mexican composers (Anna is Mexican), and a single Spanish work transported us to another world of sound which rounded off the gathering by providing the sonority which we’d lacked until then. We listened to very different types of recorders and to very suggestive sounds that enveloped us and left a long-lasting feeling in our ears.
It was a good way to close a gathering that was full of recorders, sounds and excellent recorder players.
Erta-Iberia is in a good situation, and we now have the intention of focusing our energy on the international gathering, which will take place in Mallorca in 2016.
Summary by Maria Jesus Udina (English translation by Sam Davies Udina).