The Autumn Recorder Orchestra Weekend

20th - 22nd October 2017

High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire EN11 8SG.  



Bookings for the 2017 Autumn Recorder Orchestra Course have now closed. If you would like to join the mailing list to receive news about the 2018 course as soon as it's released please complete the form at the bottom of this page.

The Autumn Recorder Orchestra Weekend (AROW) was created by Ann and Steve Marshall in 2015.  The course has been very popular and is now being administered by Helen Hooker. 

The 2017 course will follow the same format as in previous years, taking places at the High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire EN11 8SG. 


The weekend is entirely devoted to playing in recorder orchestras.  In six of the ten sessions you will have a choice of playing in an 'easier' or 'harder' orchestra, and in the other four we will all play together, to experience the thrilling sound of a large band of recorders. 

Registration begins at 4.00 on Friday, and the first playing session is at 5.15. The course ends at 3.30 on Sunday.

Who are the tutors?


The 2016 Autumn Recorder Orchestra Weekend - Steve Marshall conducting the massed players, with Rosemary Robinson at the Spinet

All four of our tutors have a great interest in recorder orchestras. Between them they have impressive experience of conducting such bands, as well as composing and arranging for them. The tutors are as follows (in the interests of space, the comments omit their other recorder skills, such as playing)…

Helen Hooker. Helen is quite simply one of the UK’s best-respected and best-liked conductors. She is Musical Director of the Thames Valley Recorder Orchestra and the eight foot band – Mellow Tones Recorder Orchestra. Helen also conducts on several recorder orchestra courses. Her keen ear misses nothing, and she makes required changes with boundless good humour.

Ruth Burbidge. Ruth is conductor of The Eleven, a one-to-a-part recorder orchestra. She also conducts at many other recorder events. She manages to demand much from her players, while soothing them with her genial manner. Thanks to her ownership of Recorder MusicMail, Ruth has an unparalleled knowledge of recorder orchestra repertoire.

Steve Marshall. Steve conducts the Orchestra on the Hill, and is frequently found conducting on courses and festivals. He is a particular specialist in recorder orchestra, to the extent that he says that if they did not exist, he would probably go back to playing the guitar. Steve writes for orchestras, plays in orchestras, and conducts orchestras – an all-round recorder orchestra nut.

Ann Marshall. Ann’s conducting experience ranges from conducting on large recorder courses to events aimed at players of modest technical ability. As a prolific composer and arranger, she is ideally placed to provide music that is perfectly suited to the players in front of her. Ann specialises in working at the easier end of the recorder-playing spectrum.

What will the music be like?

The four tutors will again liaise closely, to ensure that the music will represent a wide range of time periods and idioms.  'Easier' orchestra will be suitable for most SRP players, and stronger U3A players. However, it is not music for beginners or near-beginners and, like all orchestral music, it requires an ability to rarely get lost. If your much-preferred instrument is the descant, you will need to be a genuinely good player.

'Harder' orchestra is aimed at people who play in regular recorder orchestras, or at strong SRP players. The music will largely comprise standard recorder orchestra repertoire, or music of similar difficulty. All parts are liable to present a challenge, but the parts for treble and higher particularly so.

We again intend to have one session of 'Eight-Foot Orchestra' (tenors and bigger only), and at least one session of 'Genuinely Easy Orchestra', the latter giving every single course participant something they can enjoy without experiencing undue stress. Both of these orchestras were exceptionally well-attended and well-received in 2016.

Massed playing sessions tend to lie between 'easier' and 'harder' difficulty, and the large number of players tends to ensure that there is safety in numbers, and everyone revels in the marvellous ensemble sound.

At previous AROW courses the Saturday night massed playing has become a highlight, featuring a large scale work, specially composed or arranged for the course. 2017 will continue this tradition with a big work which will no doubt be an event to write home about! 


The final 2017 timetable is still in preparation but you may find it helpful to look at our draft timetable for 2017.  The timings are the same as in 2016 and it gives you an idea of the outline of each day.  You can take a look at the timetable here.

Which instruments are needed?


It is likely that all pieces will require descant down to contrabass, and some will require sopranino and/or subcontrabass.

Several weeks before the weekend itself, we will send joining instructions, and these will include a detailed timetable, which will show the pieces to be played and their exact instrumentation. You will then be asked, for certain sessions, to indicate whether you would like to play sopranino, descant and (possibly) treble. To achieve a good balance, relatively few of these instruments are required, so in the interests of fairness, we will allocate players to these parts before the course starts. This system seemed to work well last year. 


We are delighted to say that all of your urges to spend money on recorder things can be satisfied on the course.  In attendance will be The Early Music Shop (to sell you the instruments), Recorder MusicMail (to sell you the music to play) and Anthony Barrett (to fix anything that might go wrong, perhaps after excessive practice).

What is the venue like?


The venue is High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire EN11 8SG. It sits in 40 acres of lawns, parkland and woodland, and has a tranquil feel, despite being convenient for transport links. High Leigh is a specialist conference centre, with nearly a hundred years of experience of hosting large events such as ours. To learn more about High Leigh click here.

All rooms are provided with towels, linen, soap, and facilities to make a hot drink. Disabled access is good, but if you would like further information relating to your individual circumstance, please contact us. Many of the bedrooms are on the ground floor, and the two playing rooms are conveniently near to one another.


Booking for AROW 2017 is now open!  To reserve your place on the course please visit the AROW booking page here.

Please note that all bedrooms are now full but there are still non-resident places available for those who wish to book a local B&B or hotel and attend the course.  We have compiled a list of local accommodation from tourist information sources.  The B&Bs and hotels on the list are not recommendations but it does at least give you a starting point to work from when searching.  You can download the list by clicking here.


PDF Brochure and booking form

If you would like a copy of the 2017 course brochure and booking form to download and print, perhaps for your records or to pass on to a friend you can download them in PDF format by clicking on the links below.

2017 Brochure

2017 Booking form

If you would like to hear about future AROW courses please do complete the simple form below to join our mailing list.  Please rest assured you won't get bombarded with lots of emails and your information won't be shared with anyone else. 

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