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Recorder31 Day 13 | A Message from Chris Butler

Recorder31 Day 13 | A Message from Chris Butler

Today is a special day for The Early Music Shop: it's our birthday! To mark five years of ownership, our chairman Chris Butler has written this special message for today's Recorder31 feature. Here's to the next five years – and beyond!

The Early Music Shop chairman Chris Butler reflects on five years of ownership. 

August 2023 marks the 5th anniversary of my acquisition of The Early Music Shop. It has been an eventful demi-decade!

Back in 2018 the business operated from two retail sites, in Saltaire and London, and a fledgling website. The EMS brand was celebrating its 50th anniversary, having been established by Richard Wood in 1968 as the trading name of his family business, J Wood & Sons Ltd, which could trace its own roots back to 1903.

Like many new businesses we had a five-year plan, but like every company and individual we had no idea that normal life, professional and personal, would be put on hold for much of 2020 and 2021 by a global pandemic which literally changed the world. 

Faced with an unprecedented crisis our first ambition was to survive, and as our physical outlets were forcibly closed, we poured all of our energy into digital sales and promotion, and conducted all of our business via website, email and telephone. One of our lasting initiatives was the launch of Recorder31 in August 2020, a month-long celebration of ‘all things recorder’. August has traditionally been the month of UK summer schools and their necessary cancellation meant that we had to recreate as much of a teaching, performing and sales environment as we could online. We were fortunate to be supported by manufacturers, performers, and customers to the extent that when business returned to its ‘new normal’, Recorder31 retained its place in our calendar. We are delighted that this year, 2023, is its fourth edition.

The Early Music Shop styles itself as ‘the largest source of historical instruments worldwide’, and it is true that we cover all the bases from sackbuts to shawms, viols to virginals, theorbos to tabor pipes, and hurdy-gurdys to harmoniums, not to mention the more familiar lutes, spinets, crumhorns and harps. However, the recorder has always been at the centre of our offering, and we are proud to represent dozens of international makers in every register and pitch, and every conceivable species of wood. The craftsmanship is beyond compare and it is a recurring joy to see and hear. We have tried to reflect the whole spectrum of our recorder activities and we hope that you will find something to enjoy in this year’s Recorder31. Rest assured we plan to do it all again next year!

The Early Music Shop is again a family business - we are a small team, and we have a real passion for what we do. We continue to operate from Saltaire and Snape Maltings (having opened in Suffolk in December 2020), and our website reaches thousands of customers all over the world, 365 days a year. In addition to the shop’s activities, we continue to produce and promote the London International Festival of Early Music, and hope to see many of you in Blackheath in November when the festival will be celebrating its own 50th anniversary.

On behalf of myself, Ann, Peter, Alfie, Philip, Finn, Robert, Richard, Jemma and Mel, thank you for your continued support. 

Best regards
Chris Butler


The Sound of Recorder Music!

Each day this month we're highlighting an audio clip of a recorder from our extensive range. As part of our Awesome Altos showcase this weekend, have a listen to this Fehr Model 4 Alto in Grenadilla. It's a weighty instrument with an attractive matt finish, and a full, powerful sound to boot. Listen to the clips below or follow this link to find out more about this instrument.

 Vivaldi La Notte:

Bach Sarabande:


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Next article Recorder31 Day 12 | An Interview with Robert Ehrlich

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