Bringing Women Together: The Humble Recorder Fosters Music and Friendship

ByQuyen Anne

Aug 29, 2023

Graphic with recorders on the left and a group of women playing recorders on the right.

The recorder is often seen as the daggy instrument you first played at primary school.

But a small group of 50-somethings are doing all they can to change the reputation of the well-known instrument.

Each Friday in the middle of Brisbane’s CBD, the women come together to play recorders of all shapes and sizes.

Some are more than a metre in length.

Women sit together playing recorders.

These women meet every Friday to play together.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Rebecca Levingston)

“For me it’s a group thing,” said group leader Kathy Teakle.

“There’s lots of solo recorder players and they’re fantastic but we aren’t aiming for that.

“We’re aiming to do something together and it’s so much fun to do.”

The group was born a couple of years ago after the COVID pandemic.

The women wanted to play as a group and experience the love of playing together.

“We tend to play mainly Renaissance music, but we also get into some of the quirky music that’s been composed and arranged just for a recorder,” Kathy said.

‘Never picked up a recorder till now’

Former primary school teacher Lindy Morrison only began playing the recorder when she retired.

“I never picked up a recorder when I was at school, but I picked up many from the floor of my classroom,” Lindy said.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Hear on the Make Me Feel Good podcast how the recorder is bringing these ladies together.

“I thought recorders were simple enough especially since they play them in primary schools.

“Little did I know, it’s easy to make a note, it’s not easy to play well.”

Lindy plays a treble recorder, which sounds lower than the usual, everyday recorder that many of us know from our school days.

She loves the way the instrument feels in her hands and the fact that it’s made from natural wood.

“[My recorder] is a little bit lower than the diatonic recorder and it’s not plastic,” she said.

“It’s made of grenadilla [hardwood]; therefore, it has a more resonant sound, and the wood is one of the favoured ones for making good-quality recorders.

Some of Genevieve Lacey's recorders

Many of the women choose wooden recorders.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Rick Eaves)

“You get a beautiful tone out of the grenadilla ones and despite being a little bit more expensive it’s definitely worth every dollar.”

Sounds like a cello, plays like a recorder

Size does matter when it comes to recorders, especially for musician Colleen Blumen.

She plays a bass recorder, which is the lowest register of the ensemble.

“These ones are about 2 to 3 metres long, some taller than me,” Colleen said.

An illustration of a man wearing an old-fashioned wig.

J.S Bach’s cello suites can often be played on the recorder.(Public Domain)

“Many of the Bach cello suites have actually been played on this, and many very good players have actually recorded the cello suites on these recorders.”

Her unique recorder has a neck and mouth that resembles a saxophone.

“We have to have the bent neck on our recorders so we can actually reach the keys,” she said.

For the love of the recorder

The women feel strongly about their ability to play together as a group.

They believe being part of an ensemble has developed their musical skills more than they ever would have done alone.

“Some of us belong to other groups that perform in various places, but we always come back together to our group here,” Kathy said.

“One performance that’s stayed with us was playing in a stairwell at City Hall because of the acoustic and it was so, so wonderful.

“That sound has stayed with all of us.”

The group hopes people will stop giving the recorder a bad rap — and start to look at it differently.

“There’s a wealth of music that is available from all the ages that we haven’t played yet – wonderful music,” Kathy said.

“It’s such a joy to do and we plan to keep doing it.”

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