Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My Musical Week-end

One of my many talents is an ear for music. I love music. The musical instrument that I play these days is the recorder (also called a thipple flute). The recorder is a sort of glorified penny whistle made of some beautiful material, such as pear wood, with holes for the fingers positioned so as to play a two-octave chromatic scale. Good players can achieve an extra half step or two above the second octave.

Knowing all of this, one of my daughters, the one who lives near Berkeley, persuaded me to sign up for a week-end recorder workshop, sponsored by the East Bay Recorder Society. I obtained the sign-up form from the society's web site, filled it in, and mailed it along with a check to the person who serves as the treasurer for the event. Both daughters urged me to send my three recorders to a repair shop where a skilled artisan would inspect them for any damage, clean them, replace any leaking corks or springs, and the like. I did so and for a week worried about whether I would ever see my instruments again.

I had taken the instrumets without cases to the local UPS store to be packed and shipped to the shop in San Francisco. When they arrived, the man who did the repair phoned me to tell me that they arrived safely. He was impressed with how well UPS and packaged them. They returned, as promised, on the Monday before the week-end of the workshop. The man who repaired them spoke to me by telephone to tell me that they were in excellent shape and that all he had to do was clean the breath hole on one, replace a spring on one of the two keys on the tenor recorder, and replace a cork on a joint of the alto.

The handles on two of the cases had broken some time ago. I cut off the remaining ends and manufactured new handles out of an old belt. Considering that the instruments and the cases were all at least 40 years old, I didn't think it was an unreasonable task.

Finally, on the appointed day, last Friday, May 14, I packed the recorders in a back-pack and some clothes and a music stand in a suitcase and drove my car to the Burbank Bob Hope Airport and parked in one of the nine dollar a day parking lots. I arrived at the street check-in and sent the suitcase on its way and obtained my boarding pass. Getting through security was easy and fast. Because I carry a trekking pole I was allowed to skip the waiting line and go directly into the area where I removed my shoes and belt and put other metal objects in a tray (cell phone, coin purse, keys) and walked through the metal detector. Soon I had my shoes back on and was heading for the terminal for my flight to Oakland on Southwest Airlines. I still had 90 minutes to wait before the plane was scheduled to leave. Actually, it hadn't arrived at the terminal yet.

On the plane, a few minutes before the scheduled time of departure (10:20 AM) the plane tilted and righted itself, as though it were already in the air and had run into some turbulence. I don't know what caused the tilt, but whatever it was, it caused a delay of an hour before the plane left the gate. I recall years ago when my wife and I were waiting to board a flight from Burbank to Oakland a fork-lift was hoisting passengers in wheel chairs to the entrance door of the plane. After the passenger was inside the plane, the fork-lift driver didn't steer his vehicle very well and it hit the side of the plane and made a dent in it. That dent was enough to delay the take-off for about an hour. I figure something similar happened to the flight I was on.

My daughter had arranged for transportation for me from the Oakland Airport to the Marin Headlands, where the workshop was held. The transportation was provided by Jody, the organizer of the workshop. I had taken an early flight so that she could pick me up at the airport at noon and arrive at the place of the workshop in time to get things set up. She took advantage of my late arrival to do some shopping.

We arrived at the Marin Headlands at about 2 PM. The facility, operated by the YMCA, included several one-story buildings with bedrooms, three large rooms for the workshop sessions, and a cafeteria. I noticed that the bedrooms were all equipped with bunk beds to accommodate seven sleepers. The bunk beds had mattresses covered with thick transparent plastic sheets. There were no blankes. I asked about blankets and learned that I should have brought with me a sleeping bag! Jody was able to telephone a member who hadn't yet left home; the member (Wendy) brought an extra sleeping bag. I was also able to obtain some towels from the representative of the facility (Eddie).

Bill was at the room in the barracks building for the men when we arrived. He is a dealer in recorders and he brought a good part of his inventory: recorders of many sizes all the way from the tiny sopraninos to a huge contrabass. It was a real treat for me to look at them all and to pick up and hold some of them. Jody had brought some snacks and we enjoyed munching after the tables had been arranged along the walls of the room.

I wish I could remember every session in which I participated. I can't. The music was mostly in the Renaissance and Baroque styles. Some of the composers were Lully, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Corelli, and some whose names were not familiar to me. There was music by a modern composer who happened to be a member of the society and who was present. Friday night after the regular sessions were over he directed the group in one of his compositions. We played until 11:30 PM. He himself is also an advanced recorder player and played in many of the sessions that I attended.

On Saturday we had music all day. There were two sessions in the morning, two in the afternoon, and one in the evening. The Saturday evening session involved rehearsing and then performing an entire concerto by Corelli. I was allowd to participate even though I had classified myself as a beginner. After the session was over I realized that I had actually been able to play nearly all the notes correctly and I promoted myself from "Rank Beginner" to "Intermediate."

There was one session Sunday morning. I rolled up the sleeping bag and stuffed it and the pillow that Wendy had also provided. Wendy had left Saturday night but had arranged for Glen, the composer, to bring it to her house on Sunday. I left the sleeping bag in Glen's bedroom, returned the towels to the dining hall, and packed my own things. A lady named Pat drove me from the YMCA facility to my daughter's house in Albany so that I could visit with her for a while and have dinner with her and family. After dinner her husband drove me to the Oakland Airport for my flight back home.

Playing with other musicians, most of them better than I, was a treat that I have not enjoyed since I left Michigan State College (now University) where I had played clarinet in the marching band. The recorder people were very friendly and tolerant. I may attend the workshop again next year.

Aside from the music, the accommodations were rather spartan. I mentioned the requirement of bringing my own bedding and towels. The food in the dining hall was so-so at best. The best items were those that had not been cooked or otherwise processed in the kitchen: the fruit. There were bananas, apples, grapes, pineapple chunks, and other kinds of fruit. The cooked food was rather tasteless, designed to be good enough for some high-school kids who were more interested in hiking around the many trails in the Marin Headlands than in eating.

However, I look forward to another workshop at the same place with the same sleeping arrangements and the same bland food but with beautiful and thrilling music that I will be able to help create.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?