Tamesis Issue 210 April 2009
There are two forms with this issue. The date of the workshop by Will Carslake, 10th
May, was only announced last month but I hope plenty of you have it in your diaries.
It is to be on Brumel’s Earthquake Mass at a new venue for us, the drama studio at
the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. The town has a good train service from
London and coach services from London, Oxford and a number of other places, but
the school is at the top of the hill in the Amersham direction, so if you’re arriving by
public transport a bus up the hill is recommended. The second form is for Peter
Syrus’s workshop on Festa at Ickenham in June. The recorder workshop with Philip
Thorby in October has now been confirmed, and I will be sorting out the details of that
and the Christmas 2010 workshop when I see him in Lincoln in May at Kathleen and
Peter Berg’s Senfl weekend.
Nobody has reviewed the Baroque Chamber Music Playing Day which took place last
month in Oxford, but as usual it was a triumph of organisation by Peter Collier. I
believe there were over sixty people playing Peter’s music in various combinations. It
was great to see so many TVEMF members there as well as regulars from the summer
Please note that as the first Monday in the month is a bank holiday in May, the copy
date will be brought forward to the preceding Monday, 27th April.
I gather that the Baroque day on the 28th of March was its usual success but
unfortunately I was unable to attend as I have damaged my left thumb so that playing
the recorder is not currently possible. There is a good chance that I shall regain
enough function eventually but until then I am limited to singing and playing the
cornett where precise thumb control is not required. Indeed I discover that for pieces
of a high enough tessitura the thumb hole can remain covered throughout, but this is
not an entirely satisfactory option as it exchanges comfort of fingering for total
exhaustion after a couple of such pieces.
One of the benefits of the Forum is that one hears of other events in which members
are participating or which they organise. There is a review of one such workshop
elsewhere in the magazine, and on the 29th of March I was asked to sing in a
performance of parts 2 and 3 of The Messiah in Waltham St Lawrence which was also
In High Wycombe on the 10th of May we are once more tackling that extraordinary
masterpiece the 12-part "earthquake" mass by Brumel. I remember studying this
work at a Beauchamp Summer School years ago and being very taken with it and
Alan Lumsden led a successful workshop for TVEMF the same year. This is the first
event in which Will Carslake has directed us but he comes highly recommended so I
am really looking forward to it.
Kate Kuhn 1954-2009
Kate was a member of TVEMF for the first ten or so years of its existence and was a
keen recorder player and competent pianist. When she gave up playing she sold of
most of her extensive collection of music for charity and quite a few of us still enjoy
using it. As well as being a GP Kate did bereavement counselling, started a drop-in
centre in Wycombe and travelled extensively. Her fitness gained by walking, rowing
and long-distance swimming meant that she manage to survive her cancer longer
than expected but she eventually succumbed on the 23rd of March. There is a
gathering of her friends on the 9th of May in the church hall of Our Lady of Grace
Church, 29 Squirrel Lane, Booker, High Wycombe, HP12 4RY from about 3pm. There
will be some photos on view, refreshments, conversation and perhaps some music.
Let me know if you would like to come.
Thanks for the renaissance day
This is belated thanks for another excellent day of varied music making at the
Renaissance Day on 1st March. You are welcome to use it in Tamesis if you have the
My voice was my instrument and I sang the bottom line of everything that came along
during the four sessions of the day. We made judicious decisions when music was
either clearly too difficult or not quickly rewarding; but with such a wealth of material
available there were enough spontaneous smiles of pleasure, concerted cries of "This
is wonderful" and "We must have more of this" to make it a successful day.
At the first session I discovered the mellow combination of sackbuts and voices and
met Audrey, whose feelings for her sackbut rivalled those for her grandchildren. We
were to meet again in the final session in thrilling music by John East. As he increased
the tension with rising sequential phrases, Audrey and I found ourselves moving in
parallel thirds for bar after bar. I sat closer to savour the moment. Our eyes met. We
knew why we were there.
I later reflected on what a positive experience the day had been. 32 people doing
what they love to do and with the skills to do it well. If only this could be a model for
society in general how much happier we all would be. We must indeed have more of
Thames Baroque Orchestra Workshop at Bourne End
Although not a TVEMF event, this one-day workshop for the Thames Baroque
Orchestra was organised by one of our stalwarts, Norma Herdson, and there were a
fair few TVEMF members there.
The day was very well organised, with staged start times for different groups of
participants throughout the morning – and different fees charged to reflect the overall
time spent by each group participating in the workshop. Good quality scores and
parts had been hired from various music libraries.
I get the impression that singers were a fairly unusual addition to the Baroque
Orchestra’s usual playing day format – it turned out that getting the right balance (i.e.
finding enough tenors and basses) wasn’t achieved until just before the event – the
last-minute advert in Tamesis apparently helped here. (Another explanation for the
problem with choral balance might have been because tenors and basses are just that
much more attentive to their mothers? …I must admit that when I signed up early for
the event I hadn’t actually realised it was going to take place on Mothering Sunday).
Michael Sanderson was an ideal choice for musical director for this workshop with his
extensive performance experience of both singing and playing baroque violin. He was
kindly encouraging and knowledgeable and managed, I feel, to get the most from the
The whole orchestra sounded great and I was especially impressed by the oboists; it
was a lovely backdrop for the choir’s vocal efforts. We worked on all of the choruses
and selected arias – the Galatea ones being shared out between sopranos who had
expressed eagerness to have a go.
A week before the event I was told that I was still the only tenor signed up, so I
thought I’d better prepare one of Acis’s arias; I volunteered to have a shot at “Love
sounds th’alarm”. The start of this number is instrumental with the violins and oboes
playing very fanfare-like motifs. Michael told the violin section that they had to
consider themselves more “trumpets” than “violins”. Having once been a trumpet
player myself, I couldn’t resist cheekily remarking that this was “quite a promotion”
for them; this caused a certain degree of uproar with hilarity from some quarters and
distinctly indignant looks from others… perhaps I am unlikely to be invited back?
Luckily, by the day of the event, a really good tenor from our TVEMF number had also
signed up and did one of the Damon arias and some of the other Acis numbers, so we
had much more of the whole story line filled in. One certain* TVEMF chairman filled in
the famous Polyphemus aria “O ruddier than the cherry” with our illustrious secretary
accompanying on the sopranino recorder… very enjoyable!
In order to make amends somewhat to my mum for my being out on a music course
on Mothering Sunday, and having checked it was OK with Michael, who was totally
amenable, I invited her to come along to Bourne End for the play-though at 4pm; my
wife and daughters came along too. Michael was most hospitable and gave a nice
informative introduction to the music for them. They seemed to enjoy the music on
offer, which included a piece by Biber the orchestra had been working on earlier in the
morning, and I have caught them at various time since humming some of the tunes
from the day which must be a good sign!
In summary, I thought this a really good varied day where quite a few people were
tempted outside their “comfort zones” with great results.
*Note from David: I think this should read 'uncertain chairman'.
This play, written by TVEMF member Helen Dymond, was performed on the 5th of April
at the Grosvenor Chapel as part of the Handel Festival. It is based on a number of
known facts about Handel such as his love of food, shortage of money and his
relationship with his servant Peter le Blond and librettist Charles Jennens. Helen’s
imagined conversation between Handel and Jennens amusingly portrayed the tension
between the practical musician with an eye on his paying audience and the
aristocratic, rather high-minded librettist. She managed to work in known facts such
as the premier of The Messiah in Dublin and the statue of Handel in the Vauxhall
gardens which, perhaps surprisingly, features the score of Alexander’s Feast. There
were a number of musical interludes, played and sung beautifully by an ensemble led
by Lawrence Cummings, and the actors were excellent. Indeed the audience insisted
on their return after they had left the stage and seemed rather reluctant to take
another bow. Helen herself declined to acknowledge the lengthy applause but must be
very pleased with the way the performance went.
News of Members’ Activities
Background Baroque, consisting of TVEMF members Victoria Helby, Hazel Fenton,
Norma Herdson and Barbara Moir, managed to play nineteen trio sonatas in just under
two hours at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead on Red Nose Day in aid
of Comic Relief. If only we had managed twenty it would have made the subsequent
calculations so much easier, but we hadn’t got anything short enough for the couple of
minutes we had left over at the end. We played one sonata each by Boismortier,
Corbet, Falconiero, Keller, Rossi and Valentine, two by Handel, Purcell and Williams,
three by Naudot and four by Telemann. We would like to thank everyone who
sponsored us, Norden Farm for the use of their café bar for the performance, and the
people who came to listen, one from quite a long way away. There were also some
candidates waiting for their Associated Board exams – I wonder what they thought!
We’ve collected almost all the money now and the grand total is going to be well over
£1600, but it isn’t too late if you would like to sponsor us after the event. You can do
it on line at www.myrednoseday.com/backgroundbaroquegroup or send a cheque
(made out to Red Nose Day 2009) to me (Victoria) if you prefer to use the post.
Don’t worry if you’ve lost the form, but I’ll need your full address if you want to gift
aid your donation.