The appeal of this retreat is in the diverse range of musical experiences. The early music sessions spanned the usual range of medieval and renaissance music, but, unlike any other workshop, included the earliest known music of all, dating back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, several millennia BCE....
Each day, a highlight was the Tutti La Banda sessions each led by a different instructor. Again, these were highly diverse, involving the usual material but also jazz and classical music. Two memorable cases were excellent arrangements of Ravel’s Bolero and Handel’s Lascia ch’io pianga from the opera Rinaldo. Amazingly, during the Lascia session, eight people were so moved as to volunteer to sing the operatic libretto (which was available but was not planned to be sung) as part of the performance! The Tutti sessions were enriched by people playing double bass, baritone saxophone and bass dulcian. In most sessions there were four great bass (in C) and one contrabass recorder (in F) playing. All these bass instruments lent amazing power and drive to the Bolero.
The faculty were an accomplished set of American performers and musicologists. Lisette Kielson (Illinois), current president of the American Recorder Society, taught popular sessions on renaissance music and music by J. S. Bach for the recorder. Vicki Boeckman (Seattle) taught various early and contemporary classes. Laura Kuhlman (Illinois, and President-Elect of the ARS) is a specialist in playing early reeds. The Newmans (Gayle and Phil) from Portland, are not only accomplished performers of early music, ragtime and folk music, but also instrument designers and makers. At the faculty concert the Newmans presented music on several unusual early instruments they themselves had made, a tartold (a bass reed instrument with a ceramic body shaped like a dragon), and a duçaine, (a reed instrument resembling a stretched-out shawm, based on an original recovered from the sunken galleon of Henry the 8th, the Mary Rose). They also played some haunting ancient Greek tunes, based on primitive notation in tomb inscriptions, using copies they had made of ancient instruments, the aulos, the lyre and a type of small violin.
One evening session was a primer in renaissance country dancing, with the option of donning period costumes from a collection provided by a member of the PRS, and accompanied by a band of appropriate instruments, led by the Newmans.
The Menucha Center, admirably located on a wooded ridge overlooking the Columbia River, provided a range of accommodations from shared to private suites, and all meals were communal. Days were full, ending with impromptu sessions stretching to midnight.
The Portland Recorder Society has a group of enthusiastic musicians who, although specializing in recorder, are interested in exploring music using a truly eclectic range of instruments. As a case in point, one member alone (although admittedly an extreme case) had on hand several complete sets
of recorders (baroque and renaissance), a set of crummhorns, a set of dulcians, a set of cornamuses, several saxophones, a bass viol, a guitar, and, last but not least, several rackets. The organizing committee, led by Jeanne Lynch, did a superb job, as did all the instructors. This was indeed a rich and enjoyable experience and, as it is an annual affair, is highly recommended for next year (2012 dates March 16-19).