The recorder is a unique instrument with a storied past. The first recorder has been traced back to the Middle Ages, then later gained popularity among Renaissance- and Baroque-era musicians. Since the mid-20th century, teachers have been using the instrument as a teaching tool to introduce elementary school children to music.
Then, a short 15 years ago, the Colorado Recorder Orchestra began crafting beautiful ensemble music with the antique woodwind instrument.
The Boulder-based Colorado Recorder Orchestra is celebrating its 15th season with an upcoming concert at the Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Road, Broomfield at 3 p.m. Oct. 20. In addition to marking 15 years as a group, the Colorado Recorder Orchestra (CRO) will also be celebrating the 80th anniversary of the American Recorder Society, a group that aided with the local orchestra’s launch.
In 2004, Rose Marie Terada and two of her colleagues were attending an American Recorder Society workshop when Ken Andresen presented his work for the group. Terada and her colleagues, who would eventually become the three founding members of CRO, were inspired to create a performance from Andresen’s work, so they gathered performers from across Colorado.
“We organized so that we could know the strengths and best instruments for each of the people to play,” said Terada, who serves as the conductor (but is sometimes substituted by guest conductors) and organizer of the CRO. She said the group’s first rehearsal was in June of 2004, followed by the first performance in October of the same year. “I was about finished, but a month later I got an email asking, ‘what are we going to do next?’
Since, the orchestra has been performing across Colorado with recorders of various sizes and with a musical range that spans the sounds of a piccolo to a cello, producing almost a pipe organ sound when played in unison. The group has improved remarkably over the years, and now boasts some of the best recorder players in the area.
“It’s fun to be in a social group with a common goal of making beautiful music together,” Terada said. “With the Recorder Orchestra, we have tried to improve skills from the very beginning, to the point that most of the people … in the group are playing at an advanced-intermediate level for recorder players. I’m really proud of that. There are some that are still insecure, and we help them along, and that’s what rehearsals are for.”
Musicians come from across the state to practice with the Colorado Recorder Orchestra, some traveling more than an hour for the monthly rehearsals in Boulder. This practice and ability will be put on display at its Broomfield show titled “A Colorado Celebration.” The show blends traditional Renaissance music with more contemporary compositions to create a dynamic performance for both the musicians and the audience.
“I hope the audience does not expect us to be doing a production of Renaissance music just because the instruments date back to the 15, 16 and 1700s,” Terada said. “The instrument can be used to play our music, the music of today. Music of yesterday is fine, but there’s no reason why we can’t do something else, too.”
The members of the orchestra also work with the community to spread the love they have of music and their instrument. They have spent time working with local school groups, and have an annual grant of $500 that’s dedicated to educators who teach the recorder in classrooms. The grant goes directly to the teacher, rather than the school, meaning that even if the teacher relocates, the grant’s purchases can travel with them.
During most concerts (although this upcoming fall show is an exception), each iteration of the recorder is individually introduced with a solo and display so that audience members can see and hear the differences in the instruments. Even during their performances, the group is dedicated to educating and informing others while sharing their passion.
“Above all, with the Recorder Orchestra and presentations that I do and the ensembles we make in schools, we always try to emphasize the joy that it brings to the people who play and the people we play for,” Terada said. “We teach people to listen, we teach them the sound of the instruments, the style of the music, its history — it’s all tied together in a bundle. I would expect that people would come with a curious attitude, an appreciation of musical effort and a willingness to enjoy and let the sound enter their hearts.”
If You Go:
What: Colorado Recorder Orchestra presents “A Colorado Celebration” concert
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20
Where: Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Road, Broomfield
More Info: coloradorecorderorchestra.org