Between 1965 and 1988 Doreen and I, as a husband and wife team, gave many hundreds of concerts at home and abroad, playing early music and folk music. We played many instruments and, wherever possible, matched the instruments and music to the appropriate period or country. Doreen played the spinet (a small harpsichord), string instruments and percussion, while I played the wind instruments, based on my experience as a professional clarinettist. We inspired young people to think about the origins of our modern instruments and how they worked, as well as introducing them to a wealth of music from many periods.

Passing through Paris we saw a street entertainer dressed in French peasant costume of the Auvergne, brilliantly playing a hurdy-gurdy; Doreen was immediately smitten and resolved to play the instrument. We found a 19th century instrument in London and then attended a week-long course in Montluçon, France, tutored by Gaston Rivière, who taught Doreen all she needed to know to get started, while I played the cornemuse, a French bagpipe traditionally played without a drone and always played with the vielle, as the hurdy-gurdy is known in France.

After that it was all down to perseverance and before long we were contacted by other people also trying to learn to play, so Doreen began to give weekend courses, with myself as technician and later as teacher. The need for a method from which to work soon became apparent and in 1979 the first edition was published – the famous red cover edition. Although the book was Doreen’s inspiration we worked on it together, as we did with subsequent editions. The text was typed, the music hand-written and then pasted in – a fiddly job. The 200 copies were quickly snapped up.

The 2nd edition (1982) ran to two impressions. By 1985 I had my own printing press and produced the French edition at the request of our French friends to help with their courses. For the 3rd edition (1998) new computer technology enabled me to reset music and text, presenting a good opportunity to make a final revision.

It has been enormously rewarding for us to work together on this project, and to know that the Method has helped so many people all over the world to become hurdy-gurdy players, enabling them to share the joys of this wonderful instrument and its music.

Michael Muskett
September 2007