Long before our loft was converted for the sole use of the son of the household, strange noises could frequently be heard coming from (usually) the front room.
The sounds I was making as I learned the fingering for my recorder.
The idea came from my mother, who had heard a very skilful player – possibly one of the Dolmetsch family – rendering a piece written for recorder by one of the great classical composers. (Surprisingly many of the pieces usually played on the flute weren’t actually written for it…) She was entranced, and inspired to suggest that I learn to play.
She may have been less entranced by the (inevitably) slow progress of my learning, but she was a patient soul. And, in fairness, I worked hard. As I ploughed my way through the tutor books I was systematically matching my fingering both to the sound it made and to the written notes on the page. And – in due course – that became pretty much automatic. I didn’t need to think about the fingering at all. And that, of course, is when I actually began to play the instrument. As opposed to playing at learning it.
My parents were sufficiently encouraged to arrange some lessons for me with an old friend of my father’s, Freddy Hunt. Freddy was a patient and responsive tutor, constantly challenging me with ever more complex pieces. I enjoyed the challenges, and before long was a reasonably proficient player.
In due course I also played at school – and after learning the descant, took up the challenge of learning the larger treble recorder as well. (Though I’ll confess that the fingering never came to me quite as easily…!) Even so, I have a recording of our performance of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde. Where I was playing the treble recorder solo.
So the result of my mother’s little inspiration was that I could read music (well), could play music (quite well) and also loved to play music (even when I couldn’t play it as well as I wanted to).
All of which would bring me almost unnumbered blessings in later life. Thanks to her I discovered the sheer delight of playing in consort. And because of that I met the love of my life – and all the joys (and frustrations) of historical re-enactment. Not to mention the fulfilment of becoming a church musician – and, in due course, a cantor. A title that now, after many years, I hope I can rightly claim as my own.
I had a crack at the violin as well (with less success – though I did play in the school orchestra, even so…)
But all of those are other stories.
There was an additional pleasure – and that was playing duets with my cousin Birte, both at her home in Esbjerg and, later, in my loft space at home. Another blessing that I treasure – and which we both remember as a very happy time.
I’m hoping for one more meeting with Birte – with or without recorder accompaniment – so we can fulfil our promise to each other to visit Ribe (a town I dearly love) together. Perhaps – though not necessarily – for the last time.