The first concert of the Phoenix Recorder Orchestra was on Saturday 3rd July 2004 at the Prince Michael Hall, Dean Close School, Cheltenham. The programme was:
Folk Song Suite (Vaughan Williams) The Wind In The Pine Tree (Anon) Concerto in F (Marshall) treble soloist Shirley Jee Canzon Septimi Toni (Gabrieli) O Mater Mundi (Mundy) Fantasias I and II (Gibbons) 24 Steps (Paul Burnell) Pavane (Fauré) Suite for Recorders (Walton) The Lone Ar-Ranger (Philip Buttall)
Guests were the Bristowe Consort, who played the Cat’s Fugue (Scarlatti), and madrigals by Verdelot and Lassus.
The concert was sold out, and the audience was very appreciative. There were quite a lot of recorder players present (some of whom had come all the way from Bristol), but also quite a number of non recorder players, who had been attracted by the fact that the concert was included in the prestigious Cheltenham Fringe Festival. A big success!
Our second concert was on Sunday 7th November 2004 at the Bristol Music Club. This was very unusual, in that it was a joint concert with ‘Interchange’, a contemporary music ensemble. The Phoenix performed:
O Mater Mundi (Mundy) Fantasias I and II (Gibbons) 24 Steps (Paul Burnell) Four Mediaeval Tunes (Anon arr Marshall) Suite for Recorders (Walton) The Lone Ar-Ranger (Philip Buttall)
We also joined Interchange to play two very modern pieces (1990 and 2004 vintage).
In addition Pam Smith put down her bâton to play recorder with three orchestra members in some quartets – I Got Rhythm, It Ain’t Necessarily So, and Tango für Elise.
This was a fascinating concert of two different musical worlds. We had worried that everyone in the audience would be alienated by the pieces they hadn’t heard of, but in fact the opposite happened – both audience and musicians were interested by the music they were unfamiliar with, as well as their ‘old favourites’. An excellent evening of musical bridge-building, in front of an enthusiastic audience.
Unto Us A Boy Is Born The Twelve Days Of Christmas God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen * Sussex Carol All This Time * Hark To The World Of The Father’s Heart Begotten Gabriel’s Message Now May We Singen Gaudete Jingle Bells Silent Night Funky Halleluia *
* Including Sally Pillinger (flügelhorn)
Members of the orchestra read some Christmas stories, and we had three guest readers (Judy Kendall, Joe Kinane and Keith Jones) who took part in a (abbreviated!) telling of A Christmas Carol, with incidental music from the orchestra.
The concert went down well with the audience of about 40, and we showed that we could stay calm even when we were a little up against it, in that several members could not make this concert and we had learned a lot of new music in just three rehearsals.
Incidentally Funky Halleluia is a funk version of the famous Halleluia Chorus for recorder orchestra, flugelhorn and rock band (courtesy of a specially-recorded CD). Great fun, but unlikely to enter the repertoire of many consorts!
On 9th July 2005 we played our fourth concert at the University of Gloucestershire during the Cheltenham Recorder Festival. Our guest was Helen Hooker, who was soloist in the first performance of Steve’s new recorder concerto. The programme was:
English Folksong Suite (Vaughan Williams) Clouds In A Darkening Sky (Ronald Wilson) Two Canzons in 10 Parts (Gabrieli) Recorder Concerto No 2 (Steve Marshall) Four Mediaeval Tunes (Anon) Sunrise to Sunset (Marg Hall) Lone Ar-Ranger (Philip Buttall)
In addition Helen played some unaccompanied pieces, and there was also music for voices and recorders led by Ann Lyall, which had been rehearsed during the festival.
This was a concert where big-headedness could become a risk! There was a large audience (over 100), and we played very well in terms of both rhythms and intonation – our two years together clearly is being paying dividends.
Helen excelled herself in the concerto, we supported her strongly, and the audience was most enthusiastic.
The concert included Helen Hooker, who performed some pieces for unaccompanied recorder, and played in some quartets, as well as joining us as soloist in the second performance of Steve’s second recorder concerto. The excellent St Alban’s choir sang a piece on their own, and was accompanied by the orchestra on others. Marion Droop (contralto) also sang a Handel aria, accompanied by the orchestra. The full programme was:
Four Mediaeval Tunes (Anon) Music Divine (Thomas Tomkins) choir + Phoenix Partita (Alan Davis) Helen’s solo Pena Tiranna Io Sento Al Core (Handel) Marion + Phoenix Recorder Concerto No 2 (Steve Marshall) Pavane (Fauré) O Sonno (Rore) choir + Phoenix Lullaby My Sweet Little Baby (Byrd) choir Recorder Quartets The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Handel) Ricercar (Maute) Tango für Elise (Leenhouts after Beethoven) Clouds In A Darkening Sky (Ronald Wilson) The Lone Ar-Ranger (Philip Buttall)
We had a gratifyingly large audience (about 120 we estimated, including a good contingent from the Bristol SRP branch), and natural modesty (nearly!) prevents me from saying that the concerto and the concert overall had a fantastic reception. Quite rightly Helen Hooker was the star of the show, even bringing a second frock so that she could blend in with the orchestra as she played in the ranks in the second half.
For our sixth concert we played at Christ Church, Malvern Rd, Cheltenham.on Saturday 8th July 2006. Our special guests were Helen Hooker (who has become a very welcome regular guest) and local poet Judy Kendall. We played in the church hall, a modern room with a lively acoustic. The room is not large, but was just right – we had an audience of about 50, and the room was packed, which is always nice. The programme was:
The Charlbury Reel (Steve Marshall) O Mater Mundi (Mundy) Partita No 3 (Bach) Helen’s solo Gavotte en Rondeau; Bourée; Gigue Out Of The Wood Of Thoughts (Steve Marshall) Edward Thomas poems read by Judy Kendall; Recorder trio: Shirley Jee, Pam Smith and Simon Toomer Music Divine (Thomas Tomkins) Beethoven’s Funky 5th Canzon Septimi Toni (Gabrieli) Symphony No 2 (Steve Marshall) When I Am Laid In Earth (Purcell)
The arrangement of Beethoven’s 5th featured Helen on electric descant recorder, soaring over a funky backing track. If you listened very carefully you could hear a faint shuffling noise, which was Beethoven turning in his grave. A good concert, at which we were approached by three people who wanted to join!
Our seventh concert was at Westonbirt School, not far from Tetbury. An afternoon concert at a pleasant venue, with mulled wine and mince pies at the interval. There was a pretty decent-sized audience (about 60), but given that Westonbirt is a girls’ boarding school, that we had agreed that pupils could come in free, and that many of them play the recorder, we were disappointed that not a single pupil attended. Clearly the recorder still has a bit of an image problem. Anyway, that gripe apart, a really good time was had by all, and the programme of music, singing along and story readings was a very successful formula. The programme was:
Unto Us A Boy Is Born Jingle Bells Now May We Singen Sussex Carol God Rest You Merry Bethlehem Down Of The Father’s Heart Begotten This Have I Done For My True Love (quartet) O Magnum Mysterium (Willaert) Christmas Twofers On Christmas Night (Rosemary Robinson) The Twelve Days Of Christmas Silent Night Star In The East All This Time Gaudete Gabriel’s Message Funky Halleluia O Come All Ye Faithful
There were several very good recorder players in the audience, and two of them suggested to us afterwards that the Phoenix was probably now the best recorder orchestra in the country; they said very nice things about our tuning (difficult on recorders) and our good rhythmic drive (not difficult on recorders, but often not achieved). Quite frankly we find this sort of thing rather disturbing, because in the unlikely event that it were true it would give us an awful lot to live up to. Food for thought though.
Concert number eight was at the Cheltenham Recorder Festival on Saturday 18th August 2007 at Prince Michael Hall, Dean Close School, Cheltenham. Our contributions to the programme (all large pieces) were:
Alle Augen Warten, Herr (Bach, from Cantata No 23) Symphony No 2 (John Hawkes) Double Concerto (Steve Marshall)
This was the first performances of Steve’s Double Concerto (in which the soloists were Caroline Jones (recorder) and Charles Matthews (spinet)), and the second (just by a couple of weeks) of John Hawkes’ Symphony, dedicated to Pam Smith and the Phoenix. Helen Hooker also played two solo spots, but in her own name, so I won’t try to give the impression that she brought the house down as a member of the Phoenix! This is a particularly good venue for recorder events – there’s a nice acoustic, and during the festival every single seat is taken, so it’s packed, which is very satisfying. Also, there were further worrying comments about our high standing in the world of recorder orchestras.
Our ninth concert was at Chastleton House, not far from Chipping Norton. This was as part of the Chipping Norton Music Festival, and Chastleton House – not usually open at that time of the year – was opened up specially for the concert. Chastleton is a National Trust property, and I believe it is the best surviving example of a Jacobean Manor. We played in the Main Hall and it was very atmospheric with a huge open fire, subdued lighting, and a very appreciative capacity audience. We played:
The Lord Zouche’s Maske (Farnaby) Folk Song Suite (Anon) Clouds In A Darkening Sky (Ronald Wilson) Music Divine (Tomkins) Two In Nomines (Taverner, Marshall) Lachrimae Tango (Andrew Melville) March: Folk Songs from Somerset (Vaughan Williams) My Lady Carey’s Dompe (Anon) English Dances No 3 (Arnold) Four Mediaeval Tunes (Anon) (with Steve Smith bashing the drum!) Charlbury Reel (Steve Marshall)
Helen played three of Alan Bullard’s Recipes for recorder, and Helen, Pam and Steve played Lupo’s Fantasy No 11 on tenor, bass and contrabass (mmmm!)
Concert ten was at Tirley (not far from Tewksbury). It was a fund-raiser for Tirley church, which suffered huge damage in the 2007 floods. Again, sold out – this is becoming a bit of a trend! We played:
The Lord Zouche’s Maske (Farnaby) Scarborough Fair (Anon) Lachrimae Tango (Andrew Melville) March: Folk Songs from Somerset (Vaughan Williams) When I Am Laid In Earth (Purcell) My Lady Carey’s Dompe (Anon) Four Mediaeval Tunes (Anon) (with Steve Smith bashing the drum!) Charlbury Reel (Steve Marshall)
Helen again played some Alan Bullard Recipes for recorder, and Helen, Pam, Shirley and Steve played Summertime and Singin’ In The Rain.
The hall was quite small, but in many ways that was a good thing. With the audience of 60 it was packed, and the enthusiastic audience was only 3 or 4 feet away from us, which gave the concert an intimate feel. We heard afterwards that about £800 had been raised, so it was an all-round big success.
Unto Us A Boy Is Born Jingle Bells Three Christmas Trios (Praetorius) All This Time (Walton) On Christmas Night (Rosemary Robinson) Christmas Concerto (Corelli) Nu Komm der Heyden Heyland (Scheidt) Puer Natus in Bethlehem (Altenburg) In Dulce Jubilo (Praetorius) God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen Sinfonia Pastorale (from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio) Il Est Né Carol Of The Bells
We asked Helen to dig out her clarinet for the arrangement of God Rest You Merry, which is for clarinet and recorder orchestra; a lovely sound. This concert went down very well indeed; many at the Music Society confessed to us afterwards that they had been doubtful about inviting us (the old thing about imagining the orchestra would comprise 25 descant players), so they were delighted to find that the reality was totally different!
Just a week short of the longest day, we played concert twelve at the Slimbridge Wetlands Centre, on 14th June 2009. Quite possibly this concert was the highlight of the Phoenix to date. Everything was right – the weather was fantastic, the venue was superb (and interesting in its own right), we had a big audience (despite the remoteness of the venue) and we played our socks off (technical music term there) in what was a pretty tricky programme:
English Folk Song Suite (Vaughan Williams) Mille Regretz & Responce: Les Miens Aussi Brief (Josquin/Susato) Symphony No 3 (first performance) (Steve Marshall) Magnificat (Zielenski) The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Handel) The Lone Ar-ranger (Philip Buttall)
Helen also played Three Caprices by Colin Hand.
Concert thirteen was in the Great Oak Hall at Westonbirt Arboretum on December 11th 2009 as part of their “Enchanted Christmas” event. This was a “drop-in” concert – people were free to come in and out as they wished. Our programme was of arrangements of Christmas music:
|Part 1 Unto Us A Boy Is Born On Christmas Night The Twelve Days Of Christmas Now May We Singen Star In The East All This Time God Rest You Merry Gentlemen Il Est Né, Le Divin Enfant Bethlehem Down Gabriel’s Message Gaudete Here Is The Little Door Gloucestershire Wassail Song||Part 2 Jingle Bells Of The Father’s Heart Begotten Sinfonia Pastorale Carol Of The Bells Silent Night The Sussex Carol The Blessed Son Of God Frosty The Snowman Gaudete Omnes O Come All Ye Faithful Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas|
Concert fifteen was at the Cotswold Water Park, South Cerney, Glos on 27th June 2010. The programme was the same as for Redmarley (above) with the following two items (in which the soloist was Helen Hooker):
Estampie Royale, anon, arranged by Steve Marshall Recorder Concerto No 2, Steve Marshall
|Part 1 Unto us a boy is born Now May We Singen Gaudete Silent Night Twelve Days of Christmas Here is the Little Door Gabriel’s Message Carol of the Bells Bethlehem Down Gloucestershire Wassail Song Christmas Concerto (Corelli)||Part 2 Frosty the Snowman Il est né le Divin Enfant The Sussex Carol Jingle Bells Star in the East All this Time The Blessed Son of God Of the Father’s Heart begotten Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas O Come All Ye Faithful|
Concert Seventeen was on the 4th June 2011, during the South Cotswold Recorder Festival.
Concert Eighteen saw the Phoenix joining forces with the Exeter Recorder Orchestra: both orchestras had been rehearsing the same repertoire (see Concert Seventeen above) for separate concerts in Gloucestershire and Devon, but on the 20th August the two combined during the Cheltenham Recorder Festival and gelled superbly.
Concert Nineteen was in Christchurch, Cheltenham on 2nd June 2012. The programme included two solos by Helen Hooker, and two pieces at Eight Foot, by Lassus and Giovanni Gabrielli . The complete programme was:
|Four for Glasgow’s Fifty (Marshall)||Wedding Day at Troldhaugen (Grieg)|
|March (Wiren)||Passan Vostri Triomphi (Lassus)|
|Helen Hooker Solo (Telemann Fantasia No 2)||Canzon XII (G. Gabrielli)|
|Sinfonietta (Dietrich Schnabel)||Helen Hooker Solo (Hans Martin Linde)|
|Eléphant (Saint Saëns)|
|Three Popular Songs (arr. Steve Marshall)|
|Encore: Suo Gân (arr Steve Marshall)|
Concert Twenty was in the Blake Theatre, Monmouth. 14th July 2012 An audience of over 50! The Phoenix has now grown to over thirty members.
The programme was the same as in the previous concert in Cheltenham.
Concert Twenty One was in St Lawrence Church, Lechlade, Glos.6th July 2013 The programme was:
|St Paul’s Suite (Holst, arr John Hawkes)||Three Songs by Humbert Wolfe (Holst, arr Marshall) with Alison Wray|
|Agnus Dei (Barber)||Suite for Recorder Orchestra (Arnold, arr Bloodworth)|
|In the Silent West (Steve Marshall) with Alison Wray||Recipes (Alan Bullard) Helen Hooker (solo recorder)|
|The River (Native American, arr Rosin)||Five Spirituals (arr Marshall) with Alison Wray|
|Encore: Liberty Bell (Sousa, arr Stan Davies)|
Concert Twenty Two was at St John the Baptist Church, Upton Bishop, Glos, 12th October 2013
The programme was the same as at Lechlade (above)
Concert Twenty Three was at St Lawrence Church Lechlade on 24th May 2014.
It was titled “Cotswold Connections” and featured works by composers associated with the Cotswolds and surrounding area. The programme included:
English Folk Suite by Vaughan Williams Brook Green Suite by Gustav Holst Out of the Wood of Thoughts, poems by Edward Thomas, set to music by Gloucestershire composer, Steve Marshall Music Divine by Thomas Tomkins Nimrod by Edward Elgar Concerto for Elody, Steve Marshall – first performance. Soloist Helen Hooker Recorder Solos by Helen Hooker
Concert Twenty Four Sunday 7th December 2014, 6pm onwards at Westonbirt Arboretum – Music with a Christmas flavour as part of the Westonbirt Enchanted Christmas festival.
|Sulgrave Suite, Rosemary Robinson||Fantazy & Aire, William Lawes|
|Brightness Falls, Andrew Melville Soloist: Alison Wray||Lachrimae Tango, John Dowland, arr Andrew Melville|
|Godric’s Castle, Ann Marshall||Spirits of the Water, Stever Marshall|
|Mille Regretz & Response, Josquin des Prez & Tielman Susato Soloist: Alison Wray||Five Spirituals, Trad, arr Steve Marshall Soloist: Alison Wray|
|Symphony No 6, Steve Marshall (Phoenix Chamber Orchestra)||The River, Sylvie Rosin|
Concert Twenty Six, Saturday 22nd August 2015 Slimbridge Wetland Centre Programme
|Sulgrave Suite, Rosemary Robinson||Music for a Bird, Hans-Martin Linde Solo Recorder: Helen Hooker|
|Brightness Falls, Andrew Melville||Lachrimae Tango, John Dowland, arr Andrew Melville|
|Godric’s Castle, Ann Marshall||The Silver Swan, Orlando Gibbons (Phoenix Chamber Orchestra)|
|Symphony No 6, Steve Marshall (Phoenix Chamber Orchestra)||Cuckoo, Richard Nicholson (Phoenix Chamber Orchestra)|
|Fantazy & Aire, William Lawes||Spirits of the Water, Steve Marshall|
|The English Nightingale, Jacob van Eyck Solo Recorder: Helen Hooker||The River, Sylvie Rosin|
|Suspicion, Glen Shannon|
Concert Twenty Seven was on Friday 4th December 2015, at Grange Village, Newnham on Severn, Glos
It’s nearly Christmas
Arrangements of Christmas music, featuring Alison Wray (Soprano)
Retiring collection in aid of Grange Village
|Three Courtly Masquing Ayres – John Adson||Feuer und Eis – Dietrich Schnabel|
|Canzon XVI – Giovanni Gabrieli||A Leicester Triptych – Steve Marshall|
|Five Pieces by Giles Farnaby||A Celtic Cluster – Steve Marshall|
|Can Can – Offenbach, arr Marshall|
Concert Twenty Nine was on Saturday 10th June 2017 at St. Lawrence Church, Lechlade.
The programme was:
|A Celtic Cluster – Steve Marshall||Browning – Elway Bevin|
|Sulgrave Suite – Rosemary Robinson||Lachrimae Tango – Dowling/Andrew Melville|
|Suspicion – Glen Shannon||Two Sinfonie – Christoforo Malvezzi|
|English Folk Song Suite – Vaughan Williams||Joshua, arr Paul Richards|
Concert Thirty was at Christ Church, Malvern Road, Cheltenham, on Saturday June 9th 2018
The programme included a new piece by Lyndon Hilling, a recent composition by Paul Richards, and works by Schein, Gabrieli, Boismortier and Alan Davies.