by Anthony Morgan
I’ve just returned from the annual WCAMS Music Camp July 17 – 24 at Trinity Western University and thought that Recorder Society people might be interested in my experience. A number of our members were there and others have done it in past. Being a glutton for recorder playing, my comments will focus on that. However the over-arching characteristic of camp is its “amateur” quality in the sense of that word’s origin in the Latin “to love”. Everyone from the many world-class faculty to the most tuning-challenged beginner is there because of their pleasure in making music and supporting others. All have the opportunity to perform in small groups and huge ensembles and magical things happen. ..............
The weather this year was pleasantly cool so the dorm rooms were not the saunas they can sometimes be; accommodation is not the best feature of TWU! The food is plentiful and adequate, though the “scrambled eggs” were the butt of many jokes.
A run down of my daily schedule will give an idea of what’s possible. My morning shower was sometimes serenaded by a cellist roommate warming up. Then, toting a bag full of instruments and scores, off to breakfast immediately followed by a mini-concert of, typically, four groups performing up to five minutes of music each. Anyone is welcome to sign up to present anything and there’s often an element of humour. This was followed by a quick trek to Freedom Hall for a full choir rehearsal with Lars Kaario. Lars is a gifted conductor and vocal coach who gives the best vocal warm-up I’ve experienced. The atmosphere is demanding but optimistic and I’m often surprised by how good we sound – especially when there are seasoned singers on either side helping me find my pitches.
Next I have merely to cross the hall to a classroom for a chamber group of Jan Bearney and myself on recorders and Jim Whittaker on viola da gamba. Stacy Boal, violist with the Victoria Symphony and recorder player, is a fine coach, leading us through three “Fancies” by Michael East and some symphonies of Purcell. Phrasing, articulation and ensemble cuing improve daily, leading to a Friday evening performance of East’s 'Stay Yet Awhile.'
After a quick communal snack it’s Early Music with Karen Epp where a mixed group of voices, recorders and other instruments works through a number of possible arrangements of songs by Dowland, Arcadelt and Anon. Karen was the senior faculty member at this year’s camp and there are many who wouldn’t miss an opportunity to work under her clear, warm pedagogy and deep musicality. In the session just before lunch, however, I choose to skip Karen’s Intermediate Recorder class because she’s said it will really be a beginner/elementary level and instead rehearse a Telemann Partita for soprano and continuo with a cellist friend for the Saturday mini concert. Lunch provides another chance to refuel and visit with campers at whatever table has a spare seat.
There’s a mandated quiet hour in residences after lunch. Many people reserve a practice room elsewhere but this year I lie on my bed and do a combination of score study and napping. Choir sectional rehearsals come next followed for me by advanced recorder with Stacy. About ten of us spend an hour with Dowland and Hans Martin Linde, settling on preparing a performance of a lovely little Argentinian tango that Stacy has arranged to both challenge and seduce us. After this session I have a bit of time to find a corner for practice to try to absorb all of the information that I’ve been given. Camp can be almost over-stimulating if you try to do everything! Other possible sessions include SATB choir, adult vocal jazz, celtic instrumental, orchestra, orchestra 101, string orchestra, wind orchestra, workshops for flutes, cellos, low brass and all kinds of coached chamber groups.
Evenings there are rehearsals for several large ensembles followed by faculty concerts Tuesday through Thursday. Count on hearing a number of beautifully performed chamber works. Many faculty use the concerts to showcase new, unusual or fun pieces. Everyone is there for the love of music, everyone performs, and everyone I’ve spoken to plans to return.