The Autumn Recorder Orchestra Weekend

22nd - 24th November 2019

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



Bookings for the 2019 course are going fast, and we now have only non-resident places available. We can provide a list of nearby B&Bs and hotels for anyone who would like to attend but doesn’t live locally. Please do book quickly if you’d like to join us!

The Autumn Recorder Orchestra Weekend (AROW) is now in its fifth year, once again administered by Helen Hooker.

The 2019 course will follow the same format as in previous years, taking place at the High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire EN11 8SG. 

Steve Marshall conducting at the 2018 course

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?

We've kept the same team of tutors for 2019 - after all, if you have a winning formula, why change it?!

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 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 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 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 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.

Photos from the 2018 course - click on each the arrows to make the slide show move to the next image.

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 2018.

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.

The Saturday night massed playing session at AROW has become a highlight, featuring a large scale work, specially composed or arranged for the course. 2019 will continue this tradition with a double choir extravaganza, featuring the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and a brand new piece by our own Steve Marshall!


The 2019 timetable is still in preparation but you may find it helpful to look at our timetable for 2018.  The basic structure of the weekend will remain the same for 2019 although, of course, the music will change!  You can take a look at the timetable here.

Which instruments are needed?

What is the venue like?

It is likely that all pieces will require descant down to contrabass, and some will require sopranino and/or subcontrabass. Whatever the instrumentation, you can be assured of a wonderful sound in every session!


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).

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 2019 is now open! The easiest way to reserve a place on this popular course is to book online here and pay your course fees by debit or credit card. If you would prefer to complete a paper form and pay by cheque you can also do this. A PDF booking form is available by clicking here.

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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