Southeast Washington Recorder Band Celebrates the Holidays

By Anna King

We’ve heard a lot about whistleblowers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. Some workers there have gone public with serious concerns about how the government is cleaning up radioactive waste. But Anna King has this story of a different kind of Hanford Whistleblower. 

Every Sunday evening at 7:15 sharp, Chris Doran welcomes several Hanford Whistleblowers into his book-filled home. His wife Nancy brings out the tea and homemade baked goods. They sit and chat politely. And then, they start to play.

The Hanford Whistleblowers have been playing recorders for 30 years. Doran says a former member’s husband came up with the catchy band name only 15 years ago.

Chris Doran: “Recorders are a type of whistle. And so he thought, ‘Oh! It’s the Hanford Whistleblowers.’ Because most of the people have had some connection, directly or indirectly, with Hanford.”

In fact, they’re all science and engineering professionals and retirees from Richland. The recorders this group plays aren’t like the smelly, plastic loaner one that I played in fourth grade. No, these are high-priced machines of beauty.

Some of their recorders are as small as a sharpie pen.

Some are bigger than a fence post in your backyard.

This low-toned behemoth is played by the petite Debbie Berkowitz. It takes a lot of breath. She says she loves playing recorder with this group because …

Debbie Berkowitz: “I think we just do it because we enjoy each other and we have a lot of fun when we get together and we enjoy Nancy’s baking which we have before we play every week. So it’s just been, it’s just been a good time.”

The recorder is deeply rooted in classical music. Many of the great composers originally wrote for the recorder. Think Telemann, Handel and Vivaldi. Later, the music was switched for the louder flute. Doran says even after about 30 years of playing the recorder …

Chris Doran: “It takes a long time to get better at it. It’s an easy instrument to play badly, and a tough instrument to play well. So, we’re still working on it.”

As I start to wrap up my cords, and say my goodbyes, I casually mention I had a plastic recorder once, and played the flute for almost half-a-year. The mild-mannered group suddenly turned on me. Here’s Nancy Welliver …

Nancy Welliver: “You played flute, and you played the recorder when you were in
fourth grade so you are totally in.”

Chris Doran: “We’ll see you Sunday night.”

Anna King: “You guys are trying to recruit me right now ….. I have to back
away from the recorder group here.”

Nancy Welliver: “Well, we’re expecting you next week, we’ll have chocolate brownies on the table at 7:15.”

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

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