Profile: Helen Hooker, recorder player, educator and conductor

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

At the age of 16 I attended the Recorder Summer School where I met Philip Thorby, who then became my inspirational teacher. Philip is probably the most rounded musician I’ve ever met – his depth of knowledge never fails to inspire me, and he shares this with such good humour and charisma. The Recorder Summer School was also hugely influential on me as it allowed me to see a world in which I could imagine myself working as a recorder player. Seven years after that first course I returned as a tutor and I later chaired the course for fourteen years.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Like many other musicians, I worked out how to make something positive out of the adversity that Covid brought. I began recording multitrack videos of recorder consort music to try to help keep everyone playing. I found that there are plenty of people for whom these videos (and the sheet music too) remain immensely useful, so I have continued to create them, sharing a new piece of music and an educational blog every two weeks. Visit my downloads page.

As the result of my educational work during the pandemic, I was deeply honoured to be elected a Vice President of the Society of Recorder Players in April 2022.

What are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

It’s wonderful to be able to bounce ideas off other musicians. For example, with the Parnassian Ensemble we are always bouncing ideas off each other as we seek out and rehearse lesser-known music. In my teaching and conducting, I love helping people make the best of their abilities.

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity? 

Bach was immensely creative and composed astoundingly good music. I only wish he’d composed more pieces for the recorder!

I’ve had a close professional relationship with the composer Steve Marshall, whose music can be found here. His works are sympathetic for the instrument and recently he’s written a piece for the Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia which we’ll be premiering in 2024. Steve is also a good friend and we regularly teach together on courses for adult recorder players. Over the years he’s written lots of new pieces of music for me, from concertos to smaller scale works and his prolific creativity never fails to amaze me!

Which performances are you most proud of?

I held a workshop day in Suffolk in 2010 where we played Steve Marshall’s wonderful Sinfonietta No. 2. It all came together so well, with some magical moments. The Sinfonietta ends quietly and slowly, requiring a high degree of control and musical sensitivity. As we played the final notes everyone in the room knew we’d created something very special in that performance.

What are your most memorable experiences as a performer?

In 2004 the Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia travelled to The Hague to join up with the Praetorius Recorder Orchestra which is based in Leiden in the Netherlands, where I performed as a soloist. It was a great time for collaboration and comparison of playing styles.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Don’t be afraid to give things a go. Be creative and be prepared to diversify.

How would you define success as a musician?

Being able to thoroughly enjoy one’s career, and to help others enjoy their own music making!

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

More of the same. I’ve achieved a good balance in pursuing two quite different interests: I’m also a keen photographer. See my photography website.

About Helen


Helen studied recorder at Trinity College of Music with Philip Thorby, graduating with a first class degree and the Post-Graduate Certificate in performance with distinction.  She also won the Grace Wylie Thesis Prize and the Louise Band Prize for musicianship.  Helen has performed widely in chamber ensembles and as a soloist.  Recent critically acclaimed performances have included the Walter Bergmann Centenary Concert in London and concerto performances in The Hague and Leiden.  In 2009 Helen released her first solo CD, Helen and Friends, which includes Steve Marshall’s Recorder Concerto No.2, a work written for and dedicated to Helen.  She is also Musical Director of the Thames Valley Recorder Orchestra and works as guest conductor with recorder ensembles and orchestras throughout the British Isles.

In the area around Portsmouth, she’s best known as the conductor of the Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia, and also plays with the Parnassian Ensemble and the Consort of Twelve. On Sunday 10 September, she will be playing in a programme of Italian Baroque music at St. John’s Chapel, Chichester with the Consort, and on Sunday 5 November she will be directing the Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia in an afternoon concert.

Go to her website to find out more about Helen.





Ads
Event Search