My Fred Morgan Story
Just as so many recorder players, I’ve always admired Fred Morgan’s instruments but, unfortunately, I was never able to get one of his recorders before his untimely passing in 1999. Two things impeded it: first, I was only 21 back in 1999, having just the economic resources of a young student who was trying to survive in The Netherlands, where I was studying at that time. Second, even when I always did my best to collect the money, it was necessarily a slow process, which paired with the fact that I only once managed to get an answer to my letters from busy Fred —and it only happened when I discovered that mentioning my famous Dutch teachers Jeanette van Wingerden and Marion Verbruggen would do the trick—, delayed the whole process till it was too late.
At that time, I was lucky to try some instruments by Fred occasionally (I still remember an incredible Ganassi g alto made in ivory that I briefly tried at a friend’s toilet in The Hague— thanks Beto!). I’ve always felt a higher affinity to earlier repertories than Baroque music, but I’m sure not having baroque instruments that fully satisfied me also played an essential part in this fact. Thus, I’ve exclusively played, toured and recorded always using Renaissance recorders in my professional projects, both Ganassi-like and consort instruments mainly by recorder maker Bob Marvin, which I’ve always loved and have given me continuously more than the necessary inspiration to pursue good projects and hard work.
Back in 2009, I heard about a third-hand Morgan Debey from someone in the USA. I took the risk and bought it without even trying it (paying a crazy sum for it). Fortunately, everything went fine, and I was happy with the instrument. But, used as I was to the full blowing level required by the enormous Renaissance recorders’ bores, I wasn’t able to instantly adapt to the old, delicate Debey and continued focusing on earlier models for a long time — though I kept the old Debey as a valuable treasure, of course. Here it is:
Later in 2009, I came across Swiss genius recorder maker Ernst Meyer’s instruments, which surprised me since they connected very well with my (mainly used to Renaissance recorders) playing, due to its wide voicing measures and proportions. It was the first time modern copies of Baroque recorders truly inspired me — and they still inspire me: I love Ernst’s work and can’t wait to make a recording project with his instruments.
But again, an unexpected event changed my mind about modern copies of Baroque recorders in 2012: a Spanish colleague, player and teacher decided to start a new career and consequently put his recorder collection for sale. Even when he asked, again, for a crazy sum, I thought it was my first real opportunity to get some instruments by Fred finally, and decided I’d go for them. Since it was a really high sum that would force me to ask for a considerable bank loan, I tried to convince my colleague only to get the Bressan alto, but he insisted on selling his three Morgan recorders together, and I finally accepted, thinking that I could always sell the other two instruments later if I needed to (the others were instruments that I thought I wouldn’t really need that often, such as a Stanesby soprano and a Ganassi g alto, always useful for me but I had just received the Morgan/Ronimus version of the same instrument only a few months earlier). Here’s the Bressan:
Three years later, I’m still paying for them, but it’s clear to me that I don’t want to sell any of them, and I sure have professional plans for them. These three instruments are still inspiring me every day, and my appreciation for them is still growing in an ongoing process, being deeply impressed by the qualities of Fred Morgan’s instruments. Since I got them, I’ve done my first professional Baroque concert ever (I mean, as a personal project instead of just a collaboration in someone else’s project) —in a career of about 20 years— in 2013, which I naturally dedicated to Fred. I have written a bit about his ‘playing in’ process for new instruments, which I truly admire. His work as a maker has raised so much my level of consciousness and appreciation of the great job made by the finest recorder makers today, that I also dedicated a program to four of them, including Fred, of course. I’ve finally come to really appreciate the old Debey; and I’m now planning to publish here some practical information about his work, including the list of instruments and their descriptions as they appeared in his catalogue, to make it publicly available as the historical document that they represent.
Last but not least, all of this would not have been possible without the extraordinary help of Danish recorder player, teacher and maker Nikolaj Ronimus, whose expert knowledge on Fred’s recorders and voicing techniques has enabled me to enjoy Fred’s instruments thoroughly — I wish to express here my heartfelt thanks to him.
And of course, my Fred Morgan story doesn’t finish here. It’s happening right now, every day in my daily practice sessions and every time I use them in concerts. ¡Viva Fred!
Update (May 12, 2015): To my surprise, Ann Morgan did let me know that I published this piece on what would have been Fred’s 75th birthday (see this link). What a coincidence!
- Update 2 (December 24, 2016): Published a new, related article: The Fred Morgan recorder catalogue.