Why I joined a Recorder Ensemble

As a 60 and a bit year old single woman with a vision impairment (nothing that a pair of glasses was ever going to fix – but thanks to the folks who suggested it), I sold up in Hobart, Tasmania  and moved to Melbourne, Victoria. I’ve never admitted it before, but the move was huge. I had to leave my friends, my family, sell my house that my children grew up in, get rid of most of my belongings and those of my thirty something aged kids, two of whom had flown the coop and moved to Melbourne at least 10 years earlier and hadn’t taken their stuff.

But then ….

A couple of years before deciding to pack up and leave Tasmania, my third and youngest child also made a huge move. After spending several years living and working overseas, she moved back to Tasmania and returned to the family nest. At that time, our relationship developed into something more akin to a couple of really close roommates. And to top it off, Bianca, originally from the Philippines, moved in shortly after Sarah’s return. Bianca worked as a nurse at Calvary Hospital which was only around the corner from home. A four-minute walk to be exact.

Leaving at one of the happiest times of my life

For the first time since becoming an empty nester, the house was brimming with life again.  But deep down I was torn. I was missing my children in Melbourne who were starting their own families.  I also needed the kind of support for my vision loss that wasn’t available in Tasmania as well as access to public transport so that I could regain some independence in my life. And maybe I would have the opportunity to work as a teacher again. Obviously, my relocation meant that Sarah and Bianca had to find new digs as well but they both decided to stay in Tasmania.

I did it!

I arrived in Melbourne with just a suitcase and my no longer recognisable cat in my handbag. Puss was in a tiny draw string deep purple velvet bag full of ashes that I kept in a wooden box.  It was a very lonely time despite living with my daughter and her family and regularly seeing my son on weekends. But I kept busy.   By day, I spent hours in the library applying for jobs. By night, I spent hours on the internet researching how to make some new friends. That’s how I stumbled across the University of the Third Age (U3A) and the recorder ensemble.

Make friends, play music – the recorder ensemble offered it all

After nearly six decades, I decided to take up the recorder again, an instrument I had last played unwillingly in Grade 5. Joining the group was like making a whole bunch of new friends. Everyone was so welcoming and eager to help me settle in.  Especially Katalin, the conductor and group organiser who took me shopping for a new recorder. Not only that, she gave me some free lessons to get me started on my beautiful wooden alto recorder.

Three years on …..

I’m still in the recorder group and just took part in my first concert. I even got to do a harp solo. Thanks Katalin for the music …. And the opportunity.

Following is an article I wrote for the latest edition of the U3A newsletter.

Recorder Ensemble in concert – 10 May 2023

On a wet Wednesday morning in May, the recorder ensemble put together a concert that featured pieces from a variety of musical eras. Led by our conductor, mentor and teacher, Katalin Holl, the group had been rehearsing for weeks to put on the performance. Due to different circumstances, many members were unable to attend all the weekly rehearsals. Fortunately, this did not seem to affect the outcome of the concert judging by the positive reaction from the audience.

The conductor

Katalin’s dedication to her craft was evident throughout the rehearsals, as she motivated us to work harder and achieve our best possible performance. She had chosen the theme ‘Seasons’ to showcase some of the different moods and emotions that each season evokes. The audience seemed captivated by the seamless transitions between pieces and the harmonies that filled the room.

More than just recorders

The inclusion of three additional musical acts featuring members of the ensemble, provided some variety to the performance. To start off, Annette played a rendition of Canon in D on the Celtic harp. After that, Timna took to the stage on flute, accompanied by her husband Tony, who performed two original compositions that were both beautiful and mellow.

The Badger’s Buskers

The Badgers Buskers, consisting of six musicians all playing different instruments were up next.  Jim from the ensemble led the band on his banjo, while the others joined in on clarinet, trumpet, trombone, double bass, wash board and vocals. They really knew how to get  feet tapping as they played Sweet Georgia Brown followed by Dark Town Strutter’s Ball.

Finally, it was back to the ensemble to wrap up the concert with our most difficult pieces. It was evident by the comments and warmth from the audience that our hard work had paid off. After the concert, we all gathered together to chat and share morning tea that was provided by members of the ensemble. It was proud moment for all of us, but especially for Katlin who had inspired and guided us throughout this musical journey.

A special thank you goes to Katalin for her dedication in successfully putting together such a great concert. Also, thank you to Katalin’s son Tom, who took the time to film the whole performance. And not forgetting the wonderful volunteers from the U3A office who ushered, helped set up chairs, and made coffee and tea for everyone.




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