I am a United Methodist Church music director, and as a complement to our instrumental music programs, I'm interested in forming a recorder ensemble. I'm thinking right now of just a quartet. I've heard ensembles and think they are just incredible. The thing is, I have no idea how to go about choosing instruments or the best way to go about forming the group. I'm a piano guy and a trumpet hacker from high school and college. Woodwinds are a bit of a mystery.
Looking through catalogs, I notice that Yamaha makes recorders as well as Hohner and Aulos. Is there a better choice among these, or is there another instrument maker that I'm not aware of? This would be a group that would start at square zero, so is there a particular method book that we should go through?
Since this idea is still in the germination phase, I'm not interested in spending a ton of money. Will plastic suffice for now, or should I commit to going with wood?
Any other advice you have would be much appreciated.
Mike, I just joined 8notes and I noticed no one has responded. I'm not an expert but I've played the recorder for several years and go to recorder concerts whenever I can find them. I actually live a couple hours down the road from you.
Anyway, I own both wood and resin and to begin with I would suggest buying some nice resin recorders. I prefer Yamaha though it may not matter. I remember having an Aulos and not liking it much but that was many years ago. Since you're forming an ensemble, it may be more important that they "match." For beginners, the resin instruments are great--if they're instrument quality of course. For the lower voices at least, the resin instruments tend to be easier to play for beginners (in my opinion). Some wood instruments are temperamental and need to be played consistently to get the best sound. The only downside is that the resin recorders can get sort of full of spit if they're played for a long period of time--like brass instruments.
Anyway, I wouldn't commit to wood at first. They're expensive and really aren't necessary. Save your money so you can afford to purchase a bass. Even the resin bass recorders can be pricey but if you want all four voices you'll have to splurge. Let me know how it goes. I know at least one very expert recorder player/teacher in this area. He also plays the oboe and English horn in the symphony here. If you need more info I can get you together.
PS: My favorite "beginning book" is: The Recorder Guide by Johanna E. Kulbach and Arthur Nitka. (http://www.amazon.com/Recorder-Guide-Oak-Arthur-Nitka/dp/0825600200/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249306462&sr=8-1)It introduces both the Soprano and Alto fingerings (so you can use it for everyone); assumes no prior musical knowledge; and is suitable for both adults and children. The exercises are based on folk songs from around the world and have universal appeal. Musicality is important to me and I really like this book as a result. Most of the songs are soprano/alto duets so your group will be learning ensemble playing form the start. Once your folks are trained on the soprano and alto voices, you can switch those with larger hands to tenor and bass.
I hope it's going well for you. I just wanted to second the notion that it's better to start with plastic (resin? I call pretty much everything plastic, sorry), especially if on a budget. There some cheap but awful wooden recorders available. The nice ones will cost you a pretty penny and require more care (from what I've read- I can't afford them). I've been pretty happy with plastic Yamaha recorders. Anyway, if you're still around, that's my two cents worth. Good luck. Let us know how it goes. =)
Penny Gardner has a book of beginning consort music that you could try playing from at some point, as well. Choral voices can line up decently with recorder voices if you want to try practicing just playing from hymn books. That could start you off on making your own arrangements, too.