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This is the first in a series of occasional posts about the recorder, its historical and contemporary repertoire, its champions, and its place in music education.
Being a recorder player has been a humbling experience. The recorder is not highly regarded in American musical culture, and most people who know of the instrument only know it because they were given a cheap plastic recorder in elementary school and learned to play a few simple tunes on it in a classroom setting. Occasionally I meet someone who is familiar with it from its occasional use by folk music groups or recognizes the instrument from the opening of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven (or perhaps I’ve Seen All Good People by Yes). Most people – including many classical musicians I have met, and many elementary school music teachers who actually teach recorder to their music classes – are unaware of or uninformed about the recorder’s long history, or of its beautiful if modest historical repertoire that includes works written specifically for recorder by masters including J.S. Bach, Händel, and Vivaldi, or of it’s employment in virtuosic avant-garde compositions since the 1960s.
The symphony is off for spring break, and there are two important musical events taking place in Nashville this week. Both of these concerts involve symphony musicians – as well as other outstanding artists both from our community and elsewhere – and considered together are a good example of the breadth of music-making happening in our city.
On Thursday evening, March 26 at 7:30 pm, intersection will present their debut performance at The Platform, a relatively new Nashville event venue. Led by Nashville Symphony Chorus Director and previous Associate Conductor Kelly Corcoran, intersection is a new Nashville ensemble dedicated to presenting 20th and 21st century music in innovative performances. For those who have been following this, it has been a long time coming, and it will be exciting to see what Kelly and the ensembles she has gathered share with us on Thursday night.
Thursday night’s performance is titled Transfiguration, and in addition to the music of five living composers – Arvo Pärt, Sean Shepherd, Jonathan Harvey, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Ned Rorem – also includes new choreography by Nashville dance collective New Dialect, and visual elements provided by Zeigeist Gallery. Nashville Scene’s more in-depth article on Transfiguration and intersection is here.
And then on Friday evening, March 27, Christ Church Cathedral presents the Ninth Annual BACHanalia, Nashville’s annual celebration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Presented in the church’s sanctuary by local musicians, the music begins at 5 pm and continues without pause until 11. One of the musical highlights of the year, our annual Bach festival as usual features both traditional and unorthodox performances of Sebastian’s music. The full program may be viewed here.
The acoustics in the church’s beautiful sanctuary are particularly well-suited for this event, of which I have very fond memories (I participated in 2008 with a recorder quartet comprised of myself and three students – we played selections from The Art of Fugue – and again in 2014, when I led the Nashville School of the Arts Chamber Choir in a performance of Cantata 106, with soloists from Blair School of Music accompanied by musicians from the Nashville Symphony and Music City Baroque, with former NSA choir director Michael Graham at the harpsichord).
From 2009-2012 (at least), BACHanalia was presented on the same night as the Hume-Fogg Battle of the Bands, in which my son performed every year. Each of those years I would catch his band’s act, then run down to the cathedral for as much of Sebastian’s music as I could hear before running back to the school’s auditorium for the award presentation at the end of the night. Luckily they are only two blocks apart!
The church offers food and drink in their fellowship hall during the concert for those who need sustenance to last the night, the event is free, and listeners are encouraged to attend as much or as little as they wish.