My friend Chris really, really wants me to join her new Recorder Group for Beginners. She is most insistent, in fact.
I must say I am flattered. Has she glimpsed in me
some latent musical ability, as yet unexplored? Has she heard my voice across the crowded room at Friday morning Choir and recognised a hidden talent? I ask how many other people have joined the group. The answer is three. Including me. It is just possible
that she is looking to me to make up the numbers. It is quantity she needs, not quality.
Do I have a recorder? she needs to know. I answer, proudly, in the affirmative. It isn't exactly mine, it used to belong
to one of the Darling Daughters during their Musical Phase in circa 1975. Somewhere, probably up in our Deepest, Darkest Loft, there are more members of the Recorder Family, of varying sizes. I seem to remember the Darling Daughters playing descant, treble,
bass and sopranino recorders as they grew ever more tunefully ambitious. The only instrument I can lay my hands on is a rather basic, plastic, descant recorder.
Chris seems to think this will be fine to be
going on with. I don't like to tell her that I distinctly recall paying out the princely sum of £1 apiece for the DDs' first recorders - and that included the cost of a music book. I told you it was basic.
I decide that, to avoid embarrassing myself, I should do a little homework before my first lesson. I turn to Mr Google who, as usual, is most helpful in signposting me to expert guidance. According to "Squeaky's Recorder Playhouse", all I need to do
is to "master the techniques of fingering, blowing and tonguing." It all sounds rather, well, challenging to me.
I do however really like the approach taken by Squeaky (whoever he or she may be.) It is no
wonder he or she owns a playhouse. Thanks to Squeaky, I now know the Golden Rule of recorder playing which is "Left Hand On Top." You see what I mean, I am sure - Squeaky leaves nothing to chance. There is a helpful diagram demonstrating where I am to place
each of my fingers (four on each hand - I made sure to count them, just in case I have mislaid one) and the extremely important role identified for my left thumb.
"Place the tip of the recorder into your mouth.
Remember you are going to play the recorder, not eat it." Is it possible to have greater clarity? I am mightily impressed. Squeaky goes on to warn me that I must blow gently because "the recorder is a small, woodwind instrument, not a big, loud tuba." In other
words, I must remember to curb my enthusiasm. Gently does it.
Squeaky has also introduced me to "tonguing" so I am peeling the potatoes muttering "du, du, du" with my tongue touching the back of my upper teeth.
Squeaky says this will help me gain a feel for the whole concept of tonguing.
I am beyond excited to discover that Squeaky has put together a Song Book for me. As a beginner, I can practise my fingering, blowing
and, of course, tonguing on Hot Cross Buns, Mary Had A a Little Lamb and an enticingly sounding tune called Farfalina. Once I proceed to Intermediate Level (I always believe in Aiming High) I will be able to wrap my tongue around Phoebe in her Petticoat and
The Deaf Woman's Courtship. Pardon?
Chris tells me that once her little Band of Beginners have grasped the basics (as per Squeaky, I presume) then they will be able to move on to the next class. I
ponder on this.
At Voluntary Action Worthing's recent AGM (see a previous blog) we watched a DVD about the work of an inspirational local organisation called Circus Seen. One participant in a regular circus
skills workshop confided that she loved it when those who had developed a degree of expertise moved onto the next level while a new intake of beginners joined her class.
"For two or three weeks," she enthused,
"I am top of the class!"
If Squeaky fails me, that'll be me then...