Advanced Recorder Course                              

The Friars                  

4th-6th January 2008

 When my friend and I booked palces on Andrew Collis''s weekend recorder course, we were looking forward to a relaxing, creative break. What we got was a full musical workout-inspiring, stimulating and wonderfully exhausting!   Andrew''s course is now in its third successful year, with many participants having been to all three.

The course ran from Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon, with twenty players. On the Friday evening, after our first playing session, we were treated to a recital by Andrew in the Choir Chapel. The varied programme, including music by Telemann and Staeps, culminated in Linde''s unusual "Music for a Bird". Saturday evening saw the group having a great deal of fun learning to create some of the bird noises we had heard.

Andrew was an amiable and energetic course leader, running the sessions at a brisk pace and working us really hard. His approach encouraged us to unpick issues of phrasing, timing and dynamics in new and different ways.

One of the highlights of the weekend was playing Gabrieli''s Two Canzons in the St Joseph Chapel, with its superb acoustics. The music was sometimes challenging and we enjoyed Staeps Choric Quintet and Bach''s Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in addition to music by Gibbons, Scheidt and Haydn.

The course was excellent value at £135 for tuition, accomodation and all meals.

".....this course always books up fast..."

Juliet Lopez-Real

Recorder Magazine Summer 2008


                   SATURDAY 20TH OCTOBER 2007


This concert began with a catchy Rumba immeadiately catching the children''s interest. It continued with pieces from different periods played on recorders of varying sizes. For those who had never seen recorders bigger than a treble, the programme was cleverly arranged so that it began with the descant and then introduced other sizes which some of the children had never seen. Graham played solo pieces on the guitar when not accompanying Andrew. The boys really enjoyed hearing the electric guitar. Andrew showed the children different ways to use a recorder, singing through it and trilling. The crocodile puppet made the story of the crocodile a memorable piece especially for the little boy chosen to hold it.

A most enjoyable concert which has given the children who were there incentive to practice. It also encouraged parents to ensure their children practised as they were previously unaware what delightful sounds could be produced on a recorder.

Enid Holmes


                          10TH MARCH 2007

The wide-ranging programme began with a medieval dance and finished with modern flamenco influenced Jazz.  Nearly all of the pieces played had been adapted to this combination of instruments and some were more succesful than others.  In the accompaniment of the Handel A minor Sonata the notorious arpeggio bass line of the second movement fitted very well on the guitar and the recorder was a convincing solo instrument in the jazz inspired music of the second half.  Some transcriptions were less succesful: Mozart''s Rondo alla Turca was a little tame compared to the piano original.  In such an excellent acoustic it was surprising that Graham still chose to amplify his guitar-it was unhelpful to the balance of the two instruments and made it necessary for Andrew to force the sound when he played tenor.  There were no problems with the descant and treble where the tone was beautiful throughout the concert; however the sopranino was a bit squeaky in the Gossec Tambourin.  The highlights of the concert were undoubtedly the two solo items.  Graham played Leyenda by Albeniz displaying a beautifully controlled virtuosity.  Andrew gave a totally compelling account of Benjamin Thorn''s "Voice of the Crocodile".  The only piece specificaly written for guitar and recorder duet was Paul Burnell''s "Ember Kindle".  This was full of interesting ideas and textures but it was not a strong piece to follow a tightly written masterpiece like the Albeniz.  It was an enjoyable concert full of excellent playing with a wide variety of attractive music but it left me wishing to have heard more music worthy of two such talented performers.

Anthony Purnell   Recorder Magazine Summer 2007

               EXPOSURE C.D.

With the vast majority of today''s concert and CD programmes being conceived to follow this or that theme, it is extremely refreshing to be presented with this disc from the recorder player Andrew Collis which contains as diverse a collection of music as you are likely to find.  If there are any thematic links between the pieces performed here then it is purely that they are all works of quality and perhaps favourites of Andrew''s; the majority of them are certainly favourites of mine!

The disc opens and closes with two Recercada by Ortiz; both works are given a strong rhythmic accompaniment from guitar and harpsichord above which the recorder dances with character a-plenty.  Sandwiched between these two pieces are several works including three baroque sonatas,the first of which is the Sonata in C by Barsanti who, like so many musicians from the continent, spent much of his working life in England. Unfortunately, the opening Adagio suffered from some poor intonation and was so slow that I felt it in quavers;  it is so essential that both the tempo and time signature are considered to ensure that the correct speed is established.  I particularly enjoyed the Largo third movement which Andrew played most elegantly,with enough ornamentation to complement the structure without destroying the melodic shape. The faster movements worked well and were technically secure.

Central in this trio of works is Telemann''s Trio Sonata in B flat in which the recorder and harpsichord are the two top voices. To add weight to the continuo a guitar is used in addition to the baroque cello.  This recording seems to favour the recorder making it sound a little brash, and, at times, toneless but however, the performance works well with some good interplay between the two soloists in this lively and engaging piece.

Last in the group is the Sonata in G minor from "Il Pastor Fido" by Vivaldi(Nicholas Chedeville), a difficult work to bring off in performance but which is played here with character and panache. I thought the elegant cadential embellishment at the end of the opening Vivace worked very well, but that the finale, Allegro ma non presto, suffered from an over-use of a simple ornamental figure which became tedious; this either needed to be further developed or left until later in the movement.

Of the other works recorder, I particularly enjoyed the Sonata in E flat by Staeps. Personally, I have performed this piece many times but have never heard it played, therefore it is extremely pleasing for me to hear just how wonderful  it can sound. Although the recording here, not surprisingly, seems to favour the piano, the recorder can always be heard.  The whole sonata is played sensitively with both Andrew and pianist Andy Meyers drawing every ounce of emotion from this highly passionate work.   The only other piece to use piano is Andy Meyers'' "Reflections" which begins with a repeated rising chord figure above which the bass recorder enters creating a very luminous texture.  As the piece progresses the piano part develops melodically and the two instruments become interwoven contrapuntally with the recorder''s voice surrounded within the piano texture.  Reflections ends with both instruments playing repetitive figures which fade to pianissimo.

John Golland''s New World Dances,with guitar accompaniment is one of the most immeadiately appealing pieces in the repertoire combining elements of Ragtime,Blues and Bossa Nova into its three movements. It is a piece which obviosly appeals greatly to Andrew as he communicates a tremendous sense of fun, particularly in the outer movements.  Furthermore,the effect created in the Blues seems to provide the perfect contrast.  The Entr''acte by Ibert does not work as well for recorder as it does in its original form for flute.  Howeve, Andrew''s performance here is so convincing that my opinion is in danger of changing.  The only other piece with guitar is the Larghetto from Francaix''s Sonata here played most eloquently on the tenor.

Overall, with exception of one or two reservations I have concerning the production, I found this to be an enjoyable disc.  And although it lacks the perfection one takes for granted from recordings these days, the performances are crammed full of vitality and musicianship. "Exposure" is certainly a disc I shall listen to time and again.

  Adam J Dopadlik         Recorder Magazine 1999

                       DUO RICERCARE


           SATURDAY 30TH SEPTEMBER 2006

Duo Ricercare is Andrew Collis (recorders) and Graham Roberts (guitar), who presented a programme entitled "Renaissance to Rumba" on a wild and windy night at the end of September.  Much was at stake-it was my wife''s birthday, and a recital of guitar and recorder was not top of her list for a birthday night out!   I had, however, been at my persuasive best, as a visit by a top-flight recorder player is something of a rarity in our part of the world.

From the start it was clear we were in for a very pleasurable evening of music making.  In the first group of Renaissance pieces the attraction of blending guitar and recorder was immeadiately obvious-both instruments are capable of exploring many moods, from calm and peaceful to driving and exciting, and in Andrew and Graham we had two players with the technique and musicality to encourage their instruments to deliver all of these things.

The range of pieces we heard was considerable-certainly, as advertised, from Renaissance to Rumba, but the journey between the two was wide-ranging, including Romanian folk dances by Bartok, Mozart''s Turkish March and a Partita by Telemann.  However for me two pieces were clear stand-outs among what was already a superb concert:Ember/ Kindle by Paul Burnell and The Voice of the Crocodile by Benjamin Thorn.  The Burnell piece, written for Duo Ricercare, had been given its first performance only a week earlier, and comprised two linked pieces-the first quiet and atmospheric, the second building to a very rhythmic and exciting climax.  The Voice of the Crocodile was for solo bass recorder and is meant to evoke sounds of a crocodile, but quite frankly this programme was quickly forgotten as we were spellbound by Andrew''s audacious performance, involving singing into the instrument, shouting and thumping the recorder-a barnstorming performance of a remarkable piece which drew a wildly enthusiastic response from the audience.

As is often the case at concerts involving the recorder, many people in the audience  play the instrument, and are accompanied by family members with varying degrees of reluctance.  Every comment which I heard during the interval and in the bar afterwards was enthusiastic and positive, from players and non-players alike-a real tribute to Duo Ricercare, who achieved this feat while playing a class (sometimes "challenging") programme, without the slightest whiff of dumbing-down.  Please come back soon.  And-the ultimate accolade-my wife enjoyed the concert very much and saw it as a most appropriate part of her birthday celebration-thanks Andrew and Graham!

         Steve Marshall     Recorder Magazine 2006

                        DUO RICERCARE 


           SATURDAY 29TH OCTOBER 2005

Anyone not present at this recital missed a real treat!   The Riverhouse Barn is a small concert hall with the audience sitting around tables at which their entertainment can be accompanied by liquid refreshment (of one sort or another).   This informal and intimate setting was ideal for this unusual combination of instruments.

The interesting and well devised programme included music from a great variety of styles and periods, from the lively Salterello(anon.14thC Italian) for solo descant recorder complete with foot stamping, through to the present day.

The guitar and recorders complemented each other well and there was excellent rapport between the two players who clearly enjoyed themselves.

A veritable feast of gems was started off with a group containing two Recercada by Ortiz  (16thC), energetic pieces with the guitar supplying some drum effects, the Salterello, and Canarios  a guitar solo by Sanz (17thC) in which Graham produced some beautiful shades of tone.

There followed Dowland Divisions by the English composer Timothy Moore who died as recently as 2003 aged 81.  Andrew alternated between tenor and descant recorders for the three sections, producing some beautiful tone in the doleful tenor parts interspersed with bird-like twittering on the descant in between.

In a most effective arrangement of the well known piano pieces Mouvements Perpetuals by Poulenc, Andrew demonstrated the large dynamic range that can be achieved on recorders by an expert player together with some deft fingerwork including fast trills and end-hole stopping for the high notes.

The first half ended with History of the Tango by the 20th C composer Piazzola. This was a substantial work which was interesting and thoroughly enjoyable taking us through the development of the tango (Bordel 1900, Cafe 1930, Nightclub 1960, Present Day).  Here Andrew alternated between a treble recorder featuring impressively executed glissandi and a tenor where a beautiful sonorous tone and long sustained notes were very effective.

After the interval we heard the Canzona detta La Bernardinia by Frescobaldi, a piece well known to recorder students.  Andrew''s admirable control of dynamics was again a feature here.

La Romenesca by Sor was followed by Rondeau Hongrois by Krahmer.  This was a truly virtuosic performance by both players which had the audience on the edge of their seats.

We came down to earth with the haunting tenor tones of the second movement of Francaix''s 1984 Sonata.

Next we were treated to a spectacular solo from each player.  Graham played Asturias by Albeniz.  Origianlly composed for the piano this piece is best known in the guitar arrangement.  Graham''s superb control of the rippling accompaniment figure with the sustainted melodic line was a delight.

Andrew then played Big Baboon by the contemporary Dutch virtuoso Paul Leenhouts.  This is a humorous work for tenor recorder telling the story of the baboon''s capture from the jungle to be sent to a zoo, followed by his escape and return.  It features some very tricky rhythms and avant-garde techniques including baboon-like grunts which Andrew clearly relished.  This was great fun.

The programme was brought to a very satisfying end with Pacocoa by the contemporary Brazillian composer Machado, although Andrew and Graham came back for an encore which was another foray into tango realms, this time El Choco.

The obvious enjoyment of this programme by the audience was reflected in a remark made by a non-recorder player-"this is one of the best things I have ever heard at the barn".  It  is encouraging to know that such excellent playing has helped boost the image of the recorder to at least one member of the wider public.

Jenny and Bernard Barton  Recorder Magazine 2006




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