Fifty years plus
The B.C. Recorder Society was founded fifty years ago as a resource for the province’s recorder players.
In the early 1960s, Dr. Frank E. Gamble, Professor of Music Education at the University of British Columbia, felt very strongly that the recorder was an excellent instrument for use in the public school system, particularly by teachers who had little or no musical back ground. He used it extensively for his university classes.
Frank also felt that it was an appropriate instrument for use by adult non-musicians to gain some musical skills or for those who had long forgotten what music they had learned in their youth. Consequently he instituted night school classes in recorder playing, first at the Kerrisdale Community Centre and later at U.B.C.
Soon the growing number of recorder players decided it would be worthwhile to form an association for the exchange of information and music and more important, to play together on a regular basis. In late 1962, a core group of about eight or ten selected an ad hoc “executive”, established the B.C. Recorder Society and publicized its first meeting.
That meeting took place at 8 pm, Saturday, 12 January 1963 in the auditorium of the College of Education building, U.B.C. Frank began the meeting with a talk: “The History of the Recorder”. A brief recital by a quartet (Frank, his oldest daughter Carolyn, with Derek and Siri McLean, all accomplished players) followed. Next there was a business meeting during which the Society was formally established. The first president of the Society was the late Reverend John Low. The balance of the evening was spent playing a number pieces en masse.
The subsequent monthly meetings followed that same general pattern, a brief talk on the subject of recorders, recorder music (mediaeval, renaissance, baroque or contemporary), dance forms from those eras, etc., then a business meeting, and concluding with a playing session. The emphasis was, of course, on the playing.
By the end of its first year, the Society had over ninety members and close to half of them regularly attended the meetings. All of which was fine… except that music for the meetings became a problem. This was when photocopying was labourious, expensive and not readily available. Overhead projectors were neither widely used nor conveniently transportable. As we all realize, it is not easy for five or six people to play from a single score. Everyone was urged to “bring all your music” which was not quite so difficult as it may sound; none of us had a lot, not much was available, but fortunately what we had was largely the same. Also, Frank arranged a number of pieces for recorder and duplicated them as purple “ditto” copies. Another approach that worked reasonably well was to photograph the scores as transparencies and project them onto a screen.
That was also a time when the price of recorders was significantly less than now. What with a strong Canadian dollar and a devalued deutsche mark, quite good recorders were available from Germany at a cost of less than $10 for a descant, $20 for an alto, $30 for a tenor, and $50 for a bass. And since postage was 4 cents, the Society’s newsletter was mailed very frequently. The newsletter, letterhead, etc., used this as Society’s logo. Membership dues were correspondingly low at one dollar per year.
Frank often spoke, only partly in jest, of leading one thousand recorder players as they performed on stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Although that never happened by the time of his death in December 1991, it would have been easy to come up with more than enough from those of us he taught, from the hundreds of students who benefited during his years at UBC, and from the thousands of pupils in schools throughout and beyond BC who also received the benefit of his teaching.
He doubtless would be delighted to know the Society remains so active and that so many of us continue to enjoy the pleasures of music making.