Music from the King’s Court

Presented as the Revels Artist-in-Residence

With characteristic panache, David Coffin has been delighting audiences both young and old in demonstrating his collection of Early Wind Instruments. His engaging presentation covers the history of the recorder from the primitive ocarina through the medieval gemshorns and the recorders of the Renaissance and Baroque periods..

David began playing his first recorder at the age of four. He actually achieved hero status amongst his peers as a recorder player in the third grade.

Today, with characteristic panache, he delights audiences both young and old in demonstrating his collection of Early Wind Instruments. His entertaining presentation covers the history of the recorder from the primitive ocarina and the newly discovered Paleolithic bone-flute, through medieval gemshorns, to the refined recorders of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. With his complete set of beautifully crafted instruments, David demonstrates period examples of music written for each particular instrument. He illustrates with humor and vitality the evolution of the Early Winds. How have some evolved into modern instruments? Which continue to be used in their historic forms? Which are now extinct?

As a support for the school curriculum guides, David neatly inserts a “Science of Sound” unit that informs as it entertains. Vibrating air through ordinary household implements, he demonstrates how to alter the wavelengths that create sound and pitch, piquing children’s curiosity and enriching their understanding of sound potential, starting with a basic drinking straw!

David’s instrument collection expands far beyond the recorders. He has a broad sampling of “buzzies” and free reeds, namely: the cornemuse, the most unusual bass hirtun shalmei, shawms, rackets, rauschpfieffes, Breton bombards (hold on to your hats) and the Scottish pibcorn. As well, he demonstrates a complete set of pennywhistles, including haunting octave whistles and a few stray organ pipes to round out the wind section. David also plays English concertina to accompany his Maritime Music performances.

“If you’re going to play an instrument, it’s really important to understand what makes it go.” - David Coffin

David's interactive program gets even the most reluctant of young musicians to come forward and try one of these rare and often curious instruments. His natural gift for inspiring the young (and the young at heart) might make you want to rush right out and trade the family car for a bombard all your own.

Versed in various genres of traditional music, including Celtic, Folk and Maritime, in addition to his formal training in the repertoire of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, David’s playing enlivens his collection with a creative style all his own. His presentations impress students with an understanding of how these Early Wind Instruments were played, what sort of music was made with them, and, most essentially, the principles by which they still produce their wonderfully distinctive sounds.

“From the moment that David Coffin arrived bearing his fascinating collection of gemshorns, recorders, bombards, shawms, ocarinas, rauschpfieffes ,etc.., the children (and staff) were captivated by his rendition of the history of wind instruments. David is a master entertainer, not only through impeccable musical talent but also his natural ability to draw in his audience. He is a music historian, comedian, virtuoso player and singer all rolled into one.”

Stephen Smith
Waring School Summer Music Festival