Deeping St James concert from Freshe Ayre

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Their music is a breath of fresh air, yet some of what they are playing may have been heard in the 16th century.

Freshe Ayre – a pun because their instruments need air to work and because Ayre apparently means a tune – is a recorder group that plays instruments not recognisable to the modern school pupil.

Philip and Jo Astle perform on descant recorder and rebec. Photo: SG240413-111NG

Philip and Jo Astle perform on descant recorder and rebec. Photo: SG240413-111NG

Freshe Ayre was started in August last year soon after Philip Astle and his wife Jo moved from Crowland to Deeping St James.

Philip, a professional early musician for many years, says: “Five of the six are connected with the Priory Church in Deeping St James. One is choirmaster John Worthington, three sing in the choir and one is the vicar, the Rev Janet Donaldson.

“We are all music trained, in fact all six of us have been or are music teachers. Even the vicar started off as a musician.”

Philip specialised in the period from the 9th century up to 1651 and says the early sheet music is readily available, if you know where to look.

Philip and Jo say recorder playing has lost its image as the compulsory school instrument and become big business, particularly with the older generation.

“It’s important to say the fascination is partly with the unusual instruments,” says Philip.

The musicians play things such as a sackbut, a form of trombone from the time of Henry VIII – although their instruments are all reconstructions. The rebec is one of two predecessors of the violin, with three strings, while the timbrel is the original name for the tamborine.

Philip also plays the soprano cornemuse, something the experimental Tudors came up with to create new sounds, much as we did with the keyboard.

However, the group will also bring out the electronic keyboard and bass guitar for more modern pieces.

The group members – in addition to Philip, Jo, John Worthington and Janet Donaldson, there is Ann Wright and Victoria Worthington – performed their first concert at Christmas. There was just one empty chair and the group was asked if they would perform again, this time in the much bigger Priory Church.

As a result of that they are performing Music for the Merry Month of May in the Priory Church on Sunday, May 19 at 3pm.

Tickets cost £6/£4 children, to include light refreshments, available from 01778 346879 or 01778 343860 or on the door.