Musician of the Month: The Royal Recorder
When and how did the two of you come together?
Quite by chance as it happens. Back in 2009 a schoolfriend of mine was due to perform a gig at her local jazz club with Trevor. She rang me the day before asking if I could step in as she was recovering from a throat infection. I threw a wodge of music at Trevor and he sight-read through the lot and came back for more… Our musical tastes are pretty eclectic and we have since developed a number of programmes covering the early Baroque to the 21st century with several of our own transcriptions in between. Trevor is more usually found in the organ loft or at the piano, and we are currently planning a programme of music for recorder and organ. We are delighted to be returning to the Handel House Museum after a programme of English Music back in 2012.
What are your thoughts about our theme of choice ‘Hanover Rules!’ to kick off the season?
The accession to the British throne of the House of Hanover is a fascinating period of history in London, not least musically. The topic has inspired a series of intriguing programmes, and we are delighted to be kicking things off
Trevor Hughes, as an organist and pianist, what are the main differences and challenges of playing the harpsichord, and what do you enjoy most about it?
There is, of course, a degree of similarity in technique between playing the organ and harpsichord – for example initial key resistance, as the harpsichord string is plucked, can be similar to that of a mechanical action organ, where precision in the weight and “attack” on a key is required. This contrasts, of course, to the very different, and more physically “fluid” ways in which the player approaches the initial speaking of a note on the piano, where the weight and “attack” of a finger on a key will infinitely vary the note’s speech and character. Also, the articulation required in organ or harpsichord music, particularly in phrasing and note duration, generally requires greater precision than on the piano, where the use of the sustaining pedal necessarily “compromises” that accuracy in favour of tonal warmth. Being able to perform on all three instruments, each of which necessarily inhabits a totally different sound world from the others, is a great thrill.
James Risdon, since you work with both RNIB and Handel House – a unique partnership for blind and partially sighted musicians – how important do you think the establishment of this relationship is?
It’s a relationship that RNIB is both delighted and privileged to maintain. The fact that Handel himself lost his sight in later life whilst at the height of his powers gives an added resonance to the partnership, but ultimately it is music which has brought this unique space to life. Last month, we celebrated the 300th anniversary of the coronation of King George I, recreating our own music for an imagined flotilla of barges on the Thames, complete with recorders, percussion and even Garage Band! Our annual composition Summer school has inspired several students to study composition which is a fitting legacy of this historic house.
Do you think performing at Handel House brings out another dimension of the music?
As a recorder player, Handel’s recorder sonatas formed a major part of my early musical diet and continue to nourish me over 25 years later. I cannot see Handel’s portrait watching over the music-making in the performance room, but there is nonetheless something profoundly moving about performing his works where they were written with his spirit so discernibly alive. The intimate acoustic and the creaking floor boards add to the experience!