On the occasion of Fiori Musicali’s performance of their ‘Vivaldi’s Venice’ at Bilton Grange Chapel, I thought I’d have a chat with one of the main instrumentalists of the evening, Heidi Fardell. Heidi’s instrument is quite familiar for many of us. It’s often the first experience that we have playing music. ‘London’s Burning’ might give you a clue.
Aged 6 Heidi picked up the recorder and knew instantly that all she wanted to do was play music. During our phone conversation Heidi recalled that she was good at playing the recorder (much better than at maths) and that just ‘got’ it, which is probably why she enjoyed it so much. Although she dabbled with the flute at secondary school, Heidi found that it was much more competitive and that she enjoyed the recorder more. This may well be down to having a teacher who played the recorder more seriously and she was therefore able to learn more pieces of music -she hasn’t really looked back since.
You’d think that having a natural talent with music meant that Heidi came from a musical family but you’d be mistaken. Her mother was a dinner lady and her father a caretaker so when they found her playing well known themes on a friend’s piano, they wondered what they should do with their daughter’s talent, the result of which was recorder lessons in nearby Nottingham, although Heidi remembers that her parents were never pushy. She wanted to pursue her love of music and was just lucky to be supported.
Heidi describes herself as a true geek when it comes to music. Growing up in Grantham, she explains, some friends were musical but many weren’t and her brother wasn’t interested either, so she became creative in playing duets! At home she’d record the duet part of a piece of music and then play opposite her recorded self. Geeky perhaps, practically genius… I think so!
All the practice obviously paid off because Heidi went on to study (read) music at the renowned Goldsmith University in London where she was surrounded by creativity and increased her repertoire (the amount of music she could play). She graduated rather impressively with Bmus and Mmus degrees (I know, it sounds posh doesn’t it? They stand for Bachelor of Music and Master of Music).
But as Heidi hadn’t continued with other instruments as many other Baroque recorder players do (Baroque composers would often write music where the instruments could be interchanged), she struggled to convert her passion into a career.
“Studying was really intense so after uni I think I probably just wanted a break. I taught a bit and played all the time but after my masters, I had to make some money.” – Heidi Fardell
Heidi found herself working for the BBC at Maida Vale and BBC Radio 3 (they’re pretty impressive), but when asked by her manager how she wanted to progress, again she knew that in her heart of hearts playing was what she wanted to do. And as the path of a recorder player is a tricky one, she decided to make her own path and create her own opportunities.
This clever recorder-playing cookie connected particularly well with teaching. Heidi is a recorder and flute teacher but also joins forces with Saltarello.co.uk to combine teaching with performing in educational workshops where children are given the historical context to the music they’re being taught. In order to give it a real feel, you’ll find Heidi in all sorts of guises. Apparently she’s even been Leonardo Da Vinci, banging a drum!
But even though Heidi is a very experienced teacher and performer, she is under no illusions as to the public image of the recorder. “It’s a great way of getting into music, I’m not precious about people being too serious as it gives children an opportunity to have their first go at playing.” She told me that she spends a lot of time educating people about what the recorder is capable of and that it’s more than a plastic way of playing Frère Jacques!
It must be tough playing an instrument that has little or no public image and I doff my cap to Heidi for following her heart (cheesy yes I know) and making it work as a career. Nice lesson there, love what you do!
But, I don’t know about you but listening to music is one of my main ways to relax. So what do you do if your work is music?
Well for Heidi, TV, film or speech radio (when she’s not running around after her little ones) help do the job. Or walking her very energetic collie!
“I don’t have to be switched on to watch TV or films. My brain can just turn to mush!
“I like listening to 1xtra (Urban music radio station). I’m into hip hop, dance, drum and bass. Maybe because they are so different to the music I play”.
Quite a difference there from Vivaldi; I guess we can say that Heidi’s got eclectic taste in music!
“I like Talib Kwali Common, The Streets (first album mainly) and fell in love with Alt J when I was waiting for a coffee (in a well known coffee shop) near Trinity College. I asked who it was and waited for the woman who’d added it as she was on her break!”