The week-long camp, now in its 34th year, provides amateur musicians a unique opportunity to make music. Faculty-in-residence are professional musicians who provide friendly instruction focusing on building confidence and musical skills. Campers may choose from a broad range of activities ranging from full orchestras to small chamber groups in various styles from classical to jazz.
For those interested in performing, ample opportunities to do so are available with three daily mini-concerts and ensemble performances at the end of the week.
One of the reasons for returning to the WCAMS Camp is the excellent calibre of the faculty. Karen Epp taught the Early Music, Intermediate, and Advanced Recorder sessions and Amy Stephen taught the Celtic Music sessions. Both are generous and kind teachers of amazing musical ability.
Early Music This class was an ensemble comprising about 50% singers (SATB), 30% recorders (SATB), and 20% strings (harp, guitars, violin) plus other miscellaneous instruments. Little did I know on Monday that we'd be performing on the Friday evening!
The music was quite easy, so the main focus was on the ensemble playing. This was my first time playing in a mixed instrumental ensemble in support of a group of singers. The priorities are quite different from playing in a recorders-only consort as special attention is required to tonguing and phrasing to suit the song lyrics. As instrumentalists, our role was to support the singers.
Karen worked with us on clean presentation and on balancing the sound of voices and instruments to create a pleasing performance. I watched with interest as Karen made decisions about alternating the voices and instruments. By Thursday each of us had a performance “road map” outlining the order of sections and number of repetitions. Karen provided tips on marking up our music to guide our eyes while reading it, and coached us on having our sheets performance-ready well ahead of our stage time. We were first on the programme.
After the concert an audience member told me how much they had enjoyed the Early Music performance. I kept to myself that this had been the first time I'd ever performed and had been so nervous that here and there I'd flubbed my music!
The ensemble performed three Renaissance songs:
Browning / arr by Karen Epp (5 parts)
Alas Fair Face Why doth that Smoothed Brow / Francis Pilkington (4 parts)
Now is the Month of Maying / Thomas Morley (5 parts)
Participating in the Early Music ensemble was a priceless experience. As well as ensemble participation and performance somehow it transported me into the past and conveyed the feeling of what it might have been like to be a court musician, perhaps playing at a feast to entertain those of noble estate.
Intermediate Recorder About twelve of us attended Karen's Intermediate Recorder session. We started the first class by focusing on the physical instrument: our bodies. Facial and body muscles relaxed – the recorder embouchure requires loose lips and mouth. The vagaries of tonguing became clearer after demonstration, practice, and application explained of too, too – too, doo – doo, doo – and doodle, doodle. Next came the importance of playing in tune – especially in the descant – and learning to listen, to really listen to one's fellow part-players, and to the other instruments' parts.
As we read through the beautiful music, and each day we met, Karen nudged our awareness of these rudiments and encouraged us to remember them each time we picked up our instruments.
Non t'ho possuto mai, donna mostrare / Baldassare Donato (c.1530–1603) (4 parts)
Non t'ho possuto mai (3 parts)
Bransle Gay / Claude Gervaise (4 parts)
Madonna, io son un medico perfetto (3 parts)
Browning my dear / Clement Woodcock (5 parts)
The Streets of Laredo (3 parts)
Sourwood Mountain (3 parts)
Advanced Recorder This was a fast-paced session with a higher level of musicianship and prior knowledge of the rudiments expected. After a fast initial reading of the text, we were expected to find our way back into a piece if we lost our place.
Skills and drills: tonguing and more tonguing; breath planning; phrasing and tonguing in support of lyrics; memorizing; playing by ear and the same melody in different keys; working with scales and patterns; embracing chromatics; applying different rhythms to a note string; critical text analysis (e.g. considering the possibility of editorial errors).
The repertoire tested our skills with mid-piece time and key signature shifts; tricky chromatic passages; high notes; rhythmic challenges; parts playing one against the other; and more parts with fewer players.
Karen encouraged us to cultivate our abilities on C and F instruments, read in treble and bass clef, and to transpose – this all in aid of becoming better and more flexible consort members.
A Browning of 3 voices / John Baldwine
Content Desir (3 parts)
The Faerie-round / Athony Holborne (c.1545–1602) (5 parts)
The Silver Swan / Orlando Gibbons (5 parts)
Frankie and Johnny (3 parts)
Summa für Blockflötenquartett (1977) / Arvo Pärt (4 parts)
Beginner/Intermediate Celtic Instrumental Amy Stephen's class encompassed music of the Cornish, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, and Cape Breton traditions. This music is usually played in informal setttings at “sessions” where players on various instruments gather to learn and share tunes.
This was a relaxing class for me as we played tunes with one melodic line in a session-like environment. The one technique we looked at was the Celtic tradition of ornamentation. Our mixed group included recorder, accordion, harp, violin, penny whistle, guitar, double bass, and cello, playing hornpipes, reels, jigs, polkas, marches, waltzes, and airs. On request Amy emailed us the tune books. Based on her experience as a session player, and should any of of us be seeking the opportunity, Amy shared what we could expect and the etiquette of joining in on a traditional Celtic session.
There were a few BCRS members at Camp and in coming years it would be terrific to see a stronger recorder contingent. If you are looking to improve your play and enjoy meeting like-minded music makers, I strongly recommend this camp. At the end of the week I came away with approximately 25 hours of play, inspiration to improve, and having enjoyed the company of many interesting and lovely people. I can hardly wait for Camp 2018!
For more information, including a copy of the Camp Booklet and Schedule, check the WCAMS website at http://wcams.com