A Detailed History of the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra

In the spring of 1962 Ampex engineer William Barnhart invited some of his fellow recorder players to a day of music making in the woods of Huddart Park.  About one hundred and fifty people showed up.  Encouraged by this turnout, Bill decided to form an ensemble in the Palo Alto area devoted to exploring the musical repertoire for recorders and other early instruments.  The first meeting of this ensemble took place in the fall of 1962, and the Mid-Peninsula recorder Orchestra was born. 

When Bill Barnhart left the Bay Area in 1967, Angela Owen took over as Music Director and President from 1967 until 1987.  A Board of Directors was established and the orchestra developed close ties with the Palo Alto Division of Arts and Culture, giving annual performances under the city's auspices at the Palo Alto Cultural Center. 

From its inception the orchestra hs had close ties with Stanford University, the City of Palo Alto and the surrounding communities, first through the pioneering effors and leadership of Bill Barnhart and his wife, Ilse, and then under the very capable direction and organization of Angela Owen.  During its early years the orchestra appeared on Public Television station KQED, performed at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, gave several concerts in collaboration with the City of Palo Alto, and presented workshops directed by LaNoue Davenport, Friedrich von Huene, Hans Ulrich Staeps and George Houle.  The orchestra has also commissioned or presented premiere performances of works by several local composers and has appeared regularly at local community centers. 

Picture Courtesy of Kris Lieb, 1992
Frederic Palmer Directs Members of the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra
Photo courtesy of Kris Lieb, 1992
Frederic Palmer, who has served as music director since 1988, has continued the orchestra's tradition of close ties with the community, regular public performances and promoting new ensemble music for the recorder.  During this time the orchestra has presented performances with the Palo Alto Unitarian Church Choir, has featured Susan Witt of the San Francisco Opera Chorus as soloist in a work by Palo Alto composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen, has performed at Mission San Jose with the California State University, Hayward Oratorio Society, and has offered workshops directed by Marilyn Boneau, Gloria Ramsey, Ken Johnson, and John Tyson. 

In 1994, Under the leadership of then MPRO Board President Diana Fischer, the MPRO applied for and received affiliate status with the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS).  This move not only provided for greater exposure of the orchestra to the Early Music community of the Bay Area, but also allowed for adoption of non-profit status thru SFEMS. 

The orchestra continues to have close ties both with SFEMS, and more recently the American Recorder Society (ARS).  In June 1999 the orchestra was invited to perform at the Berkeley Early Music Festival, as the featured entertainment for the reception given by the American Recorder Society.  In July of 1999 the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra became an official ARS Consort.  The 1999 season also saw the world permiere of an original piece of music composed for the MPRO by Mari Canfield-Kermit, entitled Aboriginal Wind, at the orchestra's Spring Concert. 


MPRO Workshops Over the Years

October 15, 1988 Andrea Gabrieli's Missa Brevis Frederic Palmer and
Dr. David Stein
October 14, 1989 The Franco-Flemish Music of Josquin des Près and His Contemporaries Marilyn Boenau
October 19, 1991 Exploring Bach's Art of the Fugue Ken Johnson
February 1, 1992 Off the Beaten Track -- the Freedom of Rhythm in Renaissance Music John Tyson
October 31, 1992 Parlamenti Musicali -- Music of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque
Also a session on recorder repair
Frances Feldon
February 6, 1993 Playing Renaissance Double Reed or Brass Instruments Robert Dawson
October 16, 1993 Exploring the Sounds of Medieval Europe Shira Kammen
January 29, 1994 A Panorama of German Ensemble Music Peter Seibert
October 15, 1994 Courtly Entertainments: The Jacobean Masque Eileen Hadidian
January 21, 1995 The Expressive Recorder John Tyson
October 28, 1995 Recorders, Krummhorns and Beyond Joanna Bramel Young
January 27, 1996 Reading, Writing and Rhythm -- Reading Sixteenth-century Musical Notation John Tyson
October 26, 1996 The Flowering of the English Renaissance from Parsley to Purcell Judith Linsenberg
October 11, 1997 Exploring the Choral Music of J.S. Bach Roger Morris
January 24, 1998 The Art of Playing Vocal Music Expressively Martha Bixler
October 10, 1998 Exploring the Music of Sixteenth-Century Spain Mark Davenport
January 30, 1999 Instrumental Music of the Early German Baroque,
The Suites of Posch, Peuerl and Scheidt
Vernon Read
November 13, 1999 Music of the French Baroque John Tyson
January 22, 2000 Exploring the Sacred and Secular Music of Heinrich Isaac Hanneke van Proosdij
October 28, 2000 The Music of Peter Philips and His Contemporaries Frances Blaker
January 20, 2001 The Instrumental Music of Schein, Scheidt and Muffat Kim Pineda
November 10, 2001 Old Wine in New Bottles Shelley Gruskin
January 26, 2002 The Splendor of Venice Letitia Berlin
October 26, 2002 Italians as Innovators of Musical Expressions Frances Feldon
January 25, 2003 The Swing of Latin Music through the Centuries Clea Galhano
October 18, 2003 The Recorder Orchestra Experience Ken Andresen
January 10, 2004 Auld Lang Syne: The End of the Renaissance---Prima prattica vs. Seconda prattica---the Old and the New Judy Linsenberg
October 23, 2004 Reading Between the Notes Tom Bickley
January 29, 2005 Getting to the Heart of the Matter… Making the Music Come Alive Vicki Boekman
October 22, 2005 The Wedding of Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria and Renée of Lorraine Cindy Beitmen
January 28, 2006 A Golden Century of Polish Music: 1530 - 1630 Tom Zajac