THE rich and varied sounds of the recorder will be explored at a festival attracting hundreds of players to a North-East cultural attraction.

Ushaw, near Durham, will host the Society of Recorder Players (SRP) National Festival over the weekend of April 13 and 14.

The SRP Festival is held once a year, in different venues around the country, and is not normally open to the public. However, the choice this year of Ushaw as the festival venue has given the SRP the scope to develop a number of new initiatives designed to show off all the glories of the recorder.

They range from the sweet bird-like sound of the tiny sopranino, down to the rich tones of the contra- and great-bass instruments, with a repertoire taking in everything from medieval and folk music through to jazz, contemporary music and world-premiere performances.

Throughout the festival weekend, some of the most exciting young professional recorder players in the country will be giving free pop-up performances, in the first-ever SRP Fringe Festival.

Fringe participants include the only two recorder players to reach the concerto final of BBC Young Musician of the Year: Charlotte Barbour-Condini and Sophie Westbrooke.

Tom Ridout, who was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician Jazz Award 2016, brings a programme built around jazz improvisations on one of Handel’s recorder sonatas.

Members of the public are also invited to an informal lunchtime concert for families given by the group Lux Musicae London at 11am on Sunday 14 April.

The group perform on a mixture of early instruments, including recorders, lutes, harp and viola da gamba, and will give a programme that takes a sonic journey through the streets of 16th and 17th century London, travelling along the Thames taking in theatres, law courts, the Tower of London and Whitehall.

Although often thought of as an ‘early music’ instrument, the recorder enjoys a wide repertoire of contemporary music, which will be added to over the weekend when the festival hosts the finals of a new composers' competition sponsored by the SRP.

Visitors will be able to watch the exciting young recorder quartet Block4 performing and workshopping a shortlist of nine new works. The society’s president, composer Jonathan Dove, will adjudicate and announce the winners at the end of the day.

The following day, Block4 will give an additional concert, to include the winning compositions alongside a alongside a programme entitled Stargazing - music across the centuries, inspired by the heavens.

Children often learn the recorder in school as an introduction to music before moving on to other instruments, leaving many people to think of the recorder as a “toy” instrument.

As part of the SRP’s commitment to encouraging young people to play the recorder, the festival is introducing a Youth Strand, with session led by experienced teachers and the award-winning recorder trio Parandrus, comprising Charlotte Barbour-Condini, Sophie Westbrooke and Daniel Swami.

The range of public activities on offer at this year’s festival has been made possible by the involvement of Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels & Gardens.

Yvonne Wilkinson, marketing and events officer at Ushaw said “We’re delighted to be welcoming the SRP Festival in April as part of an increasing range of conference and events held at Ushaw.

"This is a great opportunity to introduce the hidden gem of Ushaw to people from around the country, and to showcase the recorder world to our local visitors."

Mary Tyers, chair of the SRP Festival Committee added: “We’re very excited about the possibilities that Ushaw offers us to present the recorder music in general, and the work of the SRP, to a wider audience.

"As visitors wander enjoy the architectural treasures of Ushaw, they’ll be accompanied by musical delights of our fringe visitors and the festival participants”

Society of Recorder Players National Festival

Ushaw Historic House and Chapels 13 and 14 April 2019

Normal Ushaw admission charges apply. See for opening times and prices and for tickets to the Lux Musicae concert.