Th­ese recorders are a tall or­der

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By NIGEL MOFFIET

Find­ing a house big enough to house a gi­ant recorder was the first or­der of busi­ness for Simon James when he moved to New Zealand.

He and his wife Pat ar­rived from Eng­land in 2012 bring­ing with them their mu­si­cal col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing the rare $8000 maple­wood con­tra­bass recorder stand­ing 2 me­tres tall.

The Re­nais­sance pe­riod in­stru­ment is one of only four in the coun­try – that Simon knows of.

It’s also among the largest and deep­est pitched recorders in the world.

The Auck­land res­i­dent first started play­ing the stan­dard recorder when he was 7 years old but soon gave it up to learn the trum­pet.

Dur­ing the 1980s he was work­ing as an en­gi­neer in Liver­pool when he went along to an open mu­si­cal event and fell in love with the recorder.

‘‘You don’t need to de­velop mus­cle tech­nique and strength in your lips for a clear sound with the recorder whereas an oboe, for ex­am­ple, might take two weeks be­fore you can get a note out of it.

‘‘That’s the rea­son I got into it and it just took off from there.’’

He’s now an ac­tive mem­ber of the New Zealand So­ci­ety of Recorder Play­ers which has more than 150 mem­bers.

‘‘I meet with about half a dozen other play­ers and once a fort­night we get to­gether and play.’’

But it’s much mis­un­der­stood and is fast los­ing a pop­u­lar­ity battle with ukule­les as the in­stru­ment of choice for teach­ing chil­dren, he says.

‘‘The recorder is a very good in­stru­ment to learn at school . . . I don’t un­der­stand why they’re be­com­ing less popular.

‘‘Maybe peo­ple have been put off by pri­mary schoolkids play­ing en masse with plas­tic des­cant recorders which sound dread­ful. They prob­a­bly got a bad rep­u­ta­tion be­cause of that.’’

In an ef­fort to re­store the in­stru­ment’s rep­u­ta­tion he and Pat have held classes at a mu­si­cal ap­pre­ci­a­tion group they run through U3A, the Uni­ver­sity of the Third Age con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion gramme for the re­tired.

‘‘Peo­ple don’t know much about recorders and they’re in­quis­i­tive. If they’re taken se­ri­ously they can be a nice in­stru­ment to play and lis­ten to,’’ Simon says.

Is it more than just a hobby then?

‘‘I’ve re­tired, I’m not an en­gi­neer any more, so I’ve got to fill my life with some-

pro- thing,’’ Simon says.

Pat says when she met Simon in 1986 it ‘‘re­ally was a case of if you can’t beat him join him’’.

‘‘I couldn’t play mu­sic when I met him – he was play­ing with a group in­clud­ing lit­tle old ladies and I thought ‘I can do that too’, so I started play­ing. ’’

Simon has been learn­ing the con­tra­bass recorder for eight years now. The 2m in­stru­ment con­sists of three parts, in­clud­ing a cap at the top.

‘‘That’s why we had to buy this house. We needed a high ceil­ing,’’ Pat says.

Go to auck­landcity har­bournews. co.nz and click on Lat­est Edi­tion to see Simon James per­form Bach’s

In tune, right: Simon James likes the recorder’s ‘‘clear sound’’ and says it’s a ‘‘pleas­ant in­stru­ment to play’’. Many ma­jor com­posers have writ­ten mu­sic for the recorder in­clud­ing Bach, Simon’s favourite.

Pho­tos: NIGEL MOFFIET

Record heights, above: Simon James owns a large col­lec­tion of Re­nais­sance and Baroque recorders in­clud­ing the con­tra­bass that stands around two me­tres tall.

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