Piping Hot Recorders
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 Who Are We?

Piping Hot is a group of women who enjoy playing the recorder. We play many different sizes of instrument, from the very small garklein, through sopranino, descant, treble (alto), tenor to the bass.... and now, to our delight, we have just added a lovely Moeck Great Bass to our lineup.

We are based in North West Cumbria, in the Cockermouth area, in the north of England. We started off playing at the concerts by Nova Cantica, our wonderful and talented local choir, but now we have grown up, and can play anywhere in the area.

Please visit our Diary and Contacts Page if you'd like us to play, or if you'd like to join our mailing list.


Our three founder members were all foreigners on Cumbrian soil: Rachel from the USA, Val from Northern Ireland and Ally from Scotland.

Rachel McConkey

RACHEL HECHT McCONKEY: 1999 - present
I am one of the 'founder members' of Piping Hot, and am really pleased that I have a group of real musicians to play with at last. I grew up in the USA, and learned to read music at the same time as words, and have played various things including piano (hard to escape when your mother is a piano teacher!), oboe and cor anglais, cello, but principally flute and recorder since I was about 10.

I was fortunate to be able to go a very musical highschool in New York State, and from the band and orchestra conductors I got a broad musical education, playing everything from Vivaldi to music so modern that it was still handwritten, since it was commissioned for our concert band! Also played in the pit band for things like West Side Story, and then while at Cornell University played for the Gilbert and Sullivan society productions. It wasn't until I came to England that I really got into recorders again, since a recorder was easier to pack in a suitcase than a flute.

However, I now have my flute and plenty of recorders, and live with my husband and two daughters in a house overflowing with music! I spend my time making things like earrings when I am not busy teaching music, or finding things for Piping Hot to play in the next concert. .

ALLY McGURK: 1999 - present
Born and bred north of the Border in Edinburgh, I'm the third founder member of Piping Hot. Music has been at the centre of my life as long as I can remember. My first forays into music making were in the days when I had to undertake a certain amount of mountaineering to reach the top of the piano stool, and ever since then it has been impossible to keep me quiet.

Over the years I have, in no particular order, taught guitar and recorder; sung in choirs, including one that entertained our present queen and King Olav of Norway; organised children's orchestras; studied musical instrument repair, during which time I had to learn to play violin, clarinet, flute and tenor horn all at once; sung and played guitar at folk clubs; gone busking; played oboe in the Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra; and I currently play sax for Belfagan Women's Morris and earn a living as part of Marshall McGurk musical instrument repair.

I started playing recorder by accident, but spent many years with no-one to play with unless I taught them first. Meeting Rachel and Val and setting up Piping Hot was one of the happiest adventures I've ever been involved in - proper musicians to play with at last!

I'm also responsible for the design of this website, so if you have any comments or complaints please email me.

Ally McGurk

Ruth Smith

RUTH SMITH: 2000 - present

Ruth has always been too busy bringing up her two sons to write anything about herself so I'd like to say what a stalwart, reliable and expert musician she is. Since she is now taking over as manager of one of Cockermouth's bookshops it seems even less likely that she'll have time to write an autobiography for us!

JANE BEBBINGTON: 2000 - present

You can't keep a good woman down, you know. Jane tried to leave us, but keeps coming back for more! We're delighted to have her back, especially as she has become an expert on our super-duper Great Bass.

Jane Bebbington

Sam Willis

SAMANTHA WILLIS 2004 - present

After living in Sussex, Tyneside, Devon & Cornwall and Sussex again, I moved to Cumbria nearly 2 years ago with my family. This completed my ambition to sample life in all four corners of England and I now live near Wigton with my husband, 2 sons, dog and 2 cats.

I started playing the recorder at infant school and took up the flute a few years later. From youth orchestras to early music groups, via a student "pop" band and wind bands, I have never really stopped playing! I joined Piping Hot with great relief: finding a good recorder ensemble to play with after you have passed the age of 16, is more challenging than you would think.

I don't weave, morris dance, make chairs or do anything arty like the rest of the group - I spend my time being a domestic goddess (i.e. wife and mother; cook, cleaner, gardener, dog-walker,etc) but plan to return to real life sometime in the future.

BRIDGET HILTON 2005 - present

After a lifetime of playing a variety of instruments - accordion, piano, violin, clarinet, crumhorn, rackett, percussion and, of course, recorders, it has been good to find an outlet for at least two of them in my new life in Cumbria. As a (retired) full-time teacher of music and French, (still full-time) mother of three musicians and granny to six more potential musicians, the luxury of time to play is quite something to be savoured. Piping Hot has been a welcome enhancement to life in this respect!

Bridget Hilton

Kathleen Robertshaw


I suppose it all started with my amazing grandad, who worked as a miner, but who was a talented, self-taught musician and artist. I began violin lessons at school, at the age of 7, and haven't stopped making music since, adding on other instruments as I go, most recently the Northumbrian Smallpipes. I trained as a Primary teacher, specialising in music, but have worked in other fields, including a short time as an assistant reindeer herder! A few years ago I was able to fulfil a long-held ambition, and train as a luthier, and now make guitars and related instruments, as well as repairing stringed instruments. Throughout the journey I have played in orchestras and ensembles, and, for twelve years, in a highly successful folk/ceilidh band. After two years of resisting the lure of fiddle and accordian bands in the Highlands of Scotland, I am glad to be back 'int' North', and delighted to be able to make music again.


Jenny and Rachael are hugely talented young women and we were sorry to lose them, but once people leave school there's a whole world out there for them: we wish them much success in their chosen careers.

Sharon has placed herself on the opposite side of the planet, so, sadly, guest appearances from her are somewhat unlikely. We hear, however, that she has found a group of enthusiastic kiwi recorderists to keep her out of mischief.

Val will be sorely missed, but we feel her family deserve to see her occasionally, in between everything else she does. Somehow, the show will go on without her.

Helen moved south, away from the lumpy landscape of Cumbria to the flatlands in the fens. Too far to commute, I fear.

HELEN PENNY 2006 - 2008

Helen, a retired Arts College head teacher, moved to Cumbria in October 2005 and joined Piping Hot in January 2006. We benefitted from her musicianship for only a couple of years, but in that short time she became very much part of the gang, and produced some fine arrangements for us while she was here. We miss her, and hope that life in the flatlands down south is treating her well.

Helen Penny

Val Hetherington

One of the original 3 founder members, Val hails from Belfast, but is so busy running the music department in one of our local secondary schools she has so far never found the time to write anything about herself. For 7 years she has guided us with her skilful professionalism, but sadly she now finds herself with too many irons in the fire and has handed in her red scarf.

RACHAEL GIMBER: 2001 - 2003 Rachel Gimber

Jenny McAlone

JENNY McALONE: 2002 - 2003

SHARON TAYLOR: 2002- 2006

Sharon spent her childhood in London, and has progressed north, via Canterbury, Mid Glamorgan and West Yorkshire, over the years. She has always had an active interest in music, covering a range of areas; stage productions, choirs, folk groups and piano. She joined Piping Hot in Autumn 2002 and this was a return to recorders after 25 years. In her "spare time" she is a hand spinner and weaver.

Sadly for us, Sharon has now moved to New Zealand, husband, sons, cat and all: despite her great enthusiasm for the group, even Sharon finds it a bit far to commute. She has found a choir to sing with in the Antipodes. (Lucky them!) We all miss her greatly.

Sharon Taylor

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