Tamesis Issue 200 April 2008
This is the 200th edition of Tamesis – it’s hard to believe that we have been going so
long. Thanks very much for all the contributions this month.
If you were planning to send a late booking for David Allison’s workshop on 26th April,
I’m sorry to tell you that it is completely full, except that it might be possible to
squeeze in one or two more tenors.
In case anyone hasn’t realised, our baroque playing day in Oxford is on Sunday, not
Saturday as accidentally got onto the form. Peter Collier has asked me to mention
that he is very short of keyboard players. He has a few spare instruments so it won’t
be necessary to bring your own if you can’t. Perhaps you are a pianist who has
always wanted to try a harpsichord – this is your opportunity. Contact details are in
the Events listing.
I was checking the date for the Greenwich exhibition on the Early Music Shop web site
and noticed that there is a picture of the platform in the Painted Hall with a view of
last year’s TVEMF stand. No members though. To see it go to http://www.e-m-
s.com/exhib/gifem2007.htm and click on the second picture.
I have just returned from the Easter Early Music Course, which I last attended in 1984
when it was in Swansea (see my review elsewhere in Tamesis) and am off to the
Newark Cornett & Sackbut course after less than a week at home. This means that,
sadly, I won't be at the Baroque Day in Oxford but I'm sure it will be as successful as
ever. There are plenty of events to look forward to, including David Allinson's "After
Josquin" workshop - full unless you are a tenor, and the annual Waltham Abbey joint
TVEMF/EEMF event with Philip Thorby.
Easter Early Music Course
The Easter Early Music Course began life as the Welsh Early Music Week at Swansea.
Originally run by the much-loved Theo Wyatt, the course has moved to St George's
School near Ascot and this year the tutors were, in alphabetical order, Ibi Aziz,
Andrew Collis, Jane Francis, Chris Hartland, David Hatcher and Eileen Silcocks. All
were excellent in their various ways, and brought a diversity of interests and
experience. The course is primarily for recorders and viols, so as a singer and
cornett-player I knew this was not the perfect course for me, but then no such course
Each participant is assigned to a permanent group, usually four or five strong, which
meets every day. There are then non-permanent groups, ensemble sessions and
specialist lectures, with the afternoons free for informal music if you wish. I like this
structure, but it has its hazards. If your permanent group is uncongenial then you
can ask to change it, but many people come with a pre-formed group which limits the
possibilities for re-assignment. For me the disappointments were firstly that, whilst
there were at least five bassoons and three shawms, there were no sackbut players
this year. Secondly, although some of the ensemble sessions could accommodate a
cornett or voices, the evening ones (for everyone) did not always do so. I felt
sometimes as if I had been transported back a quarter of a century or more when I
saw so many massed recorders and discovered that voices were not required for
Handel's Zadok the Priest.
For viol or or recorder players this is an excellent course as the quality of the tuition is
first class, as is the food and the accommodation perfectly adequate. There are
opportunities to sing and to play other instruments so I did use my cornett quite a bit.
The informal music was very varied, and for me was the most interesting aspect of
the course. Some unbarred music in original note value was on offer and I played a
cantus firmus for a Senfl Ave Maria where my notes consisted mainly of longas and
maximas with an occasional exciting breve or two. Late-night sessions often went on
beyond the theoretical curfew and though I stopped around 11pm, I gather Ibi Aziz
gave an impromptu recital one night starting well after this. Ibi is brilliant and so full
of energy that he bounces about, sometimes perhaps too much for comfort. I don't
recommend letting him hold the music if you are sharing a part with him!
There is a daily choir for an hour each evening, directed very ably by David Hatcher.
This year we studied the Richafort Requiem, probably written in memory of Josquin,
which TVEMF did with John Milsom last year. We were given instruction in appropriate
pronunciation, which mostly seemed to involve leaving off final consonants, so this
was actually in some ways easier than Italian Latin, though the French "u" sound
caused us problems. David proved to be very versatile, playing recorder , viol, cello
and shawm with equal ease. A recorder version of a four-part Gabrieli canzona was
memorable for his extravagant divisions on the bass, which if rendered on the sackbut
would have made the slide too hot to touch!
One of the ensemble sessions was devoted to the Kyrie from the twelve-part Brumel
"Earthquake" mass, which I first encountered at a Beauchamp course but we also
sampled at a TVEMF event. This is an amazing piece and Eileen Silcocks managed to
conjure a marvellous sound from the assorted forces at her disposal.
Will I go to the Ascot course again? Possibly. I certainly enjoyed myself and found
plenty of friends and much good music.
Tamesis readers might be interested in some recent research culled from the pages of
various early music journals over the last few months.
It seems that the reason for the extremely dissonant nature of some of Gesualdo's
madrigals is that, being a duke, he sometime found it necessary to communicate in
secret. This he did by assigning a letter to notes on the stave of a piece of 'music'.
Unfortunately he was careless in assigning the letters so that, for example, 'e'
happened to come out as D#, with unfortunate consequences for the harmony.
A police report reveals that they now believe that Anon is a pseudonym used by more
than one composer, so the bigamy charges can be dropped, but Trad is still under
A Gabrieli outed
It had long been thought that Andrea Gabrieli was Giovanni's uncle but DNA samples
now reveal that she was his gay aunt as many people had always suspected.
A medieval catalogue of children's toys confirms that the rebec was just a cut-down
fiddle for use by a child, and the sopranino recorder was originally made without a
windway, thus being a silent plaything.
Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight of the bumblebee' is now believed to have been originally
composed for the kazoo. However, the theory that this piece was originally entitled
'Fight of the bumblebee' has now been discounted.
A fascinating paper on the hemiola trade routes in the Middle East in the fifteenth
century explains how they were taken by boat from Venice and then by camel to be
exchanged for glissandi and appoggiaturas in Baghdad.
For the sources of these stories see www.tvemf.org/April
From Chris Thorn, the first editor of Tamesis
I have been asked to write something in my capacity of an earlier editor of Tamesis,
indeed the original editor. I thought of the name and got my then teenage daughter
to design the cover logo. It started out as an A4 quarterly, but soon shrank to A5 and
started appearing monthly, not to the pleasure of the committee. Why did I not seek
their approval? As my mother was always saying, I would not take no for an answer.
Since then it has had at least 4 editors, but it is still recognisably my magazine: same
order, same Chairman’s Notes, same monthly(ish) frequency: you might not notice
that I’ve gone!
As a total non-sequitur, I was recently asked about a choice of wind instrument
(louder than the recorder) for general early music use. There is really no contest: you
need a discantus shawm in the key of g. No instrument was used over such a long
time, from the fifteenth to seventeenth century. Unlike its smaller cousin the klein
discant in c or d, it can be played quietly enough to fit into most groups. Two other
fine instruments, the trombone and bass curtal, do not appear until the 16th century
so much early repertoire is not strictly appropriate to them.
I know my advice will not be heeded, for the instrument is in g, and those who have
learned the baroque treble recorder will not rethink their fingerings, despite the fact
that for much of the period treble pitch instruments in f are wrong, and there are a
whole raft of other instruments in g: flutes, crumhorns, cornetts… People will spend
zillions on one of these in f, often (as in the case of the crumhorn) for an instrument
which never existed. If these people ran an early zoo they would populate it with
gryphons and unicorns.
Owing to an annoying clash I shall not be attending the loud music event at the
beginning of June. That is another recommendation to attend.
Rough Guide to Early Modern English/Elizabethan Pronunciation
by Gerald Place
This is really designed for singers, but the brave may attempt a sonnet or two.
I put it together for the recent England’s Helicon workshop, and it is a conflation of
ideas put forward by David Crystal and Ross Duffin. As a rule of thumb it tends
towards West Country noises, with a bit of Yorkshire and Scots thrown in, but any hint
of “Mummerset” should be avoided…
“r” after vowels—as in American usage: “far out”. Ben Jonson said it’s like a dog
“h” strongly aspirated in words like “what”— as in Scots usage
“t” & “s” in middle of words eg “nater” & “plezur” (nature & pleasure!)
final “g” dropped of cf upper-class English usage—“nothin”
no “l” in “fault” ie “fawte” (cf Fr “Fault”) or “shoulders” (shawduz)
no “v” in “devil” (often printed “deuil”)—by the way “often” always “awfun”
“i” “e” “u” eg pit, pet, put: all the same as modern English
“a” eg pat: between modern upper-class and northern,
but forward in the mouth (nearly “pet”)
“o” eg love: like northern “cup”, or German “mutter” but without the lips rounded
“oo” as in “shoe” as modern english
“ee” as in “see” could be as ME or more like “pear” (no diphthong!)
“a” as “father” more forward like “hat” (Irish?)
“saw” “law” more like “sohh” with mouth more open (American)
“daughter” &c = “dahter”
“mercy” closer to dialectal “marcy”
“tie” & “toy” = “tuh-ee” also the sound in “lively”
“go” = “gaaw”
“one”, “none” & “nothing” have long vowels: “awn”
“fellow” always “feller”
“banquet” = “banket”
“quoth” = “koth” (like modern “quoit”)
Here is a version of Full Fathom Five from The Tempest
Folio Text with original spelling
Full fadom fiue thy Father lies,
Of his bones are Corrall made:
Those are pearles that were his eies,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a Sea-change
Into something rich, & strange:
Sea-Nimphs hourly ring his knell.
Fuhl fahthom fuheeve thuhee fahtherr luhees
Of ‘is bawnes arre cawraal mehde
Thawse arre perrles that were ‘is uhees
Noothing of ‘im that dooth fehde
Boot dooth sooferr a sehe chenge
Intuh soomething rrich an’ strrenge
Sehe nymphs uhuhrrlee rring ‘is nell
Harrk nuoo uhee herr them
Ding dong bell
“rr” not rolled but a reminder to sound the consonant
“oo” represents Yorkshire “u” sound and is short as in “but”
“his” could be as modern English or the more colourful “ ‘is” as here
Opportunities to make music
As part of Norden Farm’s Courtly Delights early music series in May, Gary Cooper will
be leading a masterclass for musicians interested in exploring performance practices
in baroque chamber music. With extra focus on the continuo player, harpsichordists
are invited to bring along members of their chamber groups or an instrumental soloist
to perform any piece or movements of their choice (maximum 6 minutes).
Harpsichordists may also, if they wish, offer a short solo piece (maximum 4 minutes).
The masterclass takes place between 2.30pm – 5.30pm on Sunday 18 May 2008 in
the Courtyard Theatre at Norden Farm. The cost for participants is £10 (£5 for
accompanying musicians). Contact details for Nordern Farm Centre for the Arts are in
the Concerts listings.
According to their latest newsletter, the Midlands Early Music Forum have some
instruments for loan to their members, including two bass viols and two baroque style
violins. If you live at the MEMF end of our area and are thinking of trying out a viol or
baroque violin, it might be worth joining. The newsletter also has a number of
advertisements for instruments for sale. MEMF contact details are inside our front