Tamesis Issue 223 January 2011
Jim Wills has now retired from the office of TVEMF Treasurer and David King was
elected at the AGM. Many thanks to Jim for all his hard work and efficiency. He will
be a hard act to follow.
Thanks too to everyone who helped at the Christmas event. I didn’t have the
opportunity to say anything at the time, but this sort of event doesn’t work without a
lot of help from everyone there, and I thought it ran very smoothly as a result. The
bring-and-share lunch was probably the best one we have ever had. I would be
interested to know which hall people prefer - the larger one at Amersham Community
Centre, so handy for the station, or the smaller one at Amersham Common where
numbers have to be restricted but we can have the food in a separate room. We were
so lucky with the weather that day, but even so a number of people had to cancel
because of travel or health problems. Some people donated their fee for the course to
TVEMF even though they could not come. As you know, we w ill always shred your
cheque if you let us know you cannot come in reasonable time, and you should never
feel that your ought to donate your fee, but on this occasion it certainly helped to
balance the books, so many thanks for this.
Applications for Eamonn Dougan's workshop are still flooding in. The waiting list is
now getting embarrassingly large so David King has asked me to say that
unfortunately no more bookings for 29th Jan can be accepted. In fact the waiting list
is so large that we are wondering whether we should simply run the course again at a
There are a number of forms for our forum events with this mailing - David Fletcher’s
renaissance playing (and singing) day in February, William Carslake’s workshop in
March, the baroque playing day in April and the grand Striggio workshop at the end of
We need a lot of players and singers for the Striggio workshop. This will be a great
opportunity to do the magnificent 40-part mass (with 60-part Agnus) which has only
recently become available for workshops. If you want to listen to the music in
advance it has just been recorded by I Fagiolini and the recording will be released on
The workshop for choir and orchestra with William Carslake on 6th March has only just
been finalised and we are still investigating sources for the music. I can say however
that it will mostly be by Rameau including some of his Grands Motets. If it turns out
to be necessary to typeset some of the music on to computer for printing out, we
would welcome offers of help with this. If you might be able to help please contact
David Fletcher (davidtvemf.org).
A happy and musical new year to you all!
The disruption from the snow left me feeling a bit short of music over the Christmas
period but things seem to be back to normal for the time being. Eamonn Dougan's
Victoria workshop this month is fully booked but we have more music by that
wonderful composer later in the year for those who missed out.
The plethora of free music available for downloading from the Internet is not without
accompanying problems. There are many different music typesetting programs, each
with its own format for storing the result, and even though I have three such
programs I am still often unable to extract parts or transpose pieces into more
suitable keys. My Christmas task was to write a program to inter-convert several
music formats but this proved even more difficult than I had envisaged. My
immediate target was to be able to produce a transposed of Victoria's Missa Salve
which we need for the workshop on the 29th of January based on the version
published by Nancho Alvarez at www.uma.es/victoria, which has comprehensive
settings of the works of Victoria, Morales and Guerrero. Some of you will recall that
Nancho came and sang with us when we used his setting of Missa Laetatus Sum for
our Christmas event in 2007. He uses the LilyPond system for his pieces and my
program can now comprehend enough of this rather arcane format to be able to read
Missa Salve and translate it for NoteWorthy Composer. I hope to add the ability to
read and write MusicXML and MIDI formats in the next few weeks but going beyond
this will involve decoding some proprietary formats.
All the music typesetting programs I have encountered seem to have annoying
restrictions or idiosyncrasies so it would be good to hear people's experience in using
various programs - please do write to me if you use one so that we can perhaps
publish a comparison of the various ones available.
There are lots of leaflets with this Tamesis, including two for the 19th February when
unfortunately my Renaissance day clashes with David Allinson's Victoria workshop for
SEMF. Apologies for this, though I don't think there is much of a conflict. Singers are
welcome at my event as long as they can hold a part by themselves and it would be
good to have a few more than last time, especially tenors (why does this sound
Letters to the Editor
To the editor.
The article by Thomas Green in the last issue of Tamesis (Unexpected Music: tips for
beachcombers) will be greatly appreciated by your readers, and is a very useful piece
of work. However it does illustrate the difficulty, in making fair comment, of ensuring
that it is actually fair. He discovers on the Green Man Press website the Purcell ode
Raise, raise the voice, but comments that it is” not such amazing value” as his
previous item. But Hey! This title comprises no fewer than 4 scores, as well as all the
instrument parts, total of 98 pages. At £7.90 it is, I submit, amazing value.
He also comments that this piece is “not listed on the Purcell page”, and wonders
what this means – I can tell him; it means that I haven’t managed to keep all the
pages updated. Thanks for pointing it out Thomas.
In response to Mr Cedric Lee - as one Green Man to another ................
Your courteous chiding is entirely correct. Your edition of Purcell's ode, a proper
performing edition containing 98 pages, with 4 scores plus all the instrumental parts,
certainly is excellent value, and I take my hat off to my namesake's press.
Of course, I meant no aspersion on your publications and if anyone formed that
impression I apologise. I had simply misunderstood what I would be getting for the
money. I hadn't meant to sound critical, merely not-quite-so-amazed as with the
previous item I found in my search; but had I realised that it was a proper performing
edition, I would have made no such remark. Your website does promise that on the
front page but it's easily missed (perhaps you might make that promise a touch more
There's a moral in that: do one's research properly. I am delighted to be corrected.
Folks, if you have the right forces for performing it, go buy it!
This is a good moment to say that the dedication, commitment and generosity of all
you creators of small-run imprints fills me with astonishment and gratitude. How
much we all owe to you. Thank you.
Best wishes to the Green Man Press
Thoughts about posture and playing Baroque music:
We all know what it’s like on TVEMF playing days when things are going well: the
notes flow, and we just want to go on and on. It’s days like these that make it all
worthwhile. When things are going well, we don’t think about the way we’re doing
what we’re doing.
It’s only when things start to hurt or affect our playing that we notice. In this series of
short essays, I will consider the principles of the Alexander Technique, and how they
apply to playing Baroque instruments. Posture affects how long as well as how well
you play. Excessive tension means working harder to no benefit. It’s like driving a car
with the handbrake on. It’s also not in keeping with the aesthetics of the Baroque.
In L’art de toucher le clavecin, Couperin said that ‘one should have an air of ease at
one’s harpsichord.’ The goal, writers on performance practice agreed, was an elegant
nonchalance when playing. Posture is central to making this possible.
Couperin also stated that the arms should be parallel to the ground, with the right
foot extended. However, I think stability is key: so, for me, the most important thing
is not the feet , but the sitting bones. I try to make sure, with feet flat on the ground,
that I’m neither slumping (sitting behind the sitting bones) nor perching (sitting in
front of the sitting bones).
Playing harpsichord differs from the piano: the plucked, not hammered, mechanism
means the fingers need to move just enough to engage the action. Once the str ing
has been plucked, any extra force is excessive and counterproductive. The supporting
joint is the shoulder, while the elbow acts as a pivot, so the forearm (taking the wrist,
hand and fingers with it) can move sideways to new positions.
In playing the piano, the forearm has an active role; on the harpsichord, it helps to
think of the back supporting the shoulders which in turn support the arms. This allows
the forearms to move freely, achieving the effortless elegance that Couperin sought.
A common habit, even among professional musicians, is the upward creep of
shoulders, which does nothing for technique or sound. Ideally, keeping the shoulders
open and relaxed will give the support the arms and wrists need to let the fingers
Couperin also talks about the ideal position of the wrist as being in a straight line with
the arm. My experience confirms this: if my wrists are too high, I lose contact with
the keys. Trills in particular suffer. The other extreme is no better: wrists too low
mean tensed and therefore shortened fingers.
We tend to lock into comfortable, familiar playing positions, but experimenting at
home can really pay off in the long term: are you sitting on the sitting bones? Are
your wrists really parallel to the floor? What’s going on with the shoulders? Exactly
how much pressure does it take to engage a key? Can you use less and get the same
One of the principles of the Alexander Technique is direction. Musicians talk about the
‘direction of the phrase’. It’s not something you try to micromanage. You think about
where the phrase is going, and look for the arc. Then you let the music sing. In a
similar way, in the Alexander Technique we talk about ‘our directions’. It’s not
something that we ‘do’: it is a mental check to make sure that we are in dynamic
balance, and especially that we’re not getting in our own way by tightening necks or
shoulders, the knock-on effects of which include tensing arms and legs. One thought,
even while playing: ‘is my head balanced on top of my spine’. This let the neck relax,
which lets the shoulders release, and so on. You might find the effects filter all the
way down through the shoulders, arms and wrists to the fingers.
In future columns, I plan to talk about: bowed instruments; the lute family; wind; and
singing. Each of these family groups have their own challenges for performance.
Getting caught up in the music is fabulous; but we shouldn’t forget that we need a
body to create that music, and that what the body is doing has a huge and immediate
impact on the way the music sounds.
1, The harpsichord
NEMA's Early Music Yearbook & Performers' Directory, 2011
Once again, it's time for my brief review of the National Early Music Association's
Yearbook. It's always an extremely useful publication, which must represent a very
great deal of voluntary hard work on the part of those responsible for producing it.
As ever, the bit which changes most, year-on-year, and is always well worth reading
in detail, is the Editorial section, starting with the coming year's 'anniversary
composers'. Now I do know that some people find these anniversaries a bit tiresome,
but (through exposure in concert, and on Radio 3) they serve to remind us – and in a
lot more depth than usual – of some composers who get neglected as a general rule.
Peter Holman leads off by re-assessing the music of William Boyce (1711-1779). He
points out that we're in the middle of a series of anniversaries of the major figures,
born in the generation after Handel, who were active in the British music of the mid-
18th-century: Avison (b.1709); Arne (b.1710); Boyce (b.1711) and Stanley (b.1712).
OK – I do know Boyce's attractive Eight Symphonies (1760), but what else do I know
by him? Er, not sure ... do I, in fact, know anything? Seems there's lots of good stuff,
but not much published. Scope for an EMF to organise a Boyce day, perhaps?
The other anniversary is a really important one – Tomás Luis de Victoria (d.1611),
whose music is reviewed at some length and in some detail here by Peter Leech. I
expect most of the EMFs will be holding a Victoria day next year – MEMF will be
working on his superb Requiem with David Hill on 2nd April 2011.
What else? - an article about 'Voluntary Arts England' and an update on the National
Centre for Early Music in York. Dick Pyper on The Society of Recorder Players (many
readers will probably be SRP members) and Sharon Butler on Early Dance. Mary
O'Neill writes about Birmingham Early Music Festival (the 2010 Festival just
completed, as I write) and the redoubtable Andrew van der Beek contributes an article
about Lacock Summer Schools. Southern EMF is in the spotlight this year, Mark
Windisch writes about the historic musical instruments in Paris's Musée de la Musique
and Jamie Savan surveys what he calls 'lip-reed' instrument makers in Britain (most
of us ordinary mortals would probably say 'historical brass', or something like that).
All very recommendable, and if you're a NEMA member already (£22 a year), you'll
have received it direct – NEMA's website is: www.nema-uk.org or you could try e-
mailing enq1610nema-uk.org .
Thanks to the author and to MEMF for permission to reproduce this article from their
Orlando Chamber Choir concert review
On Friday 12th November, St James’ Piccadilly was host to an extravaganza in the
form of a splendid concert by the Orlando Chamber Choir under their conductor James
Weeks (one of our recent excellent new TVEMF workshop tutors) with the English
Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble and members of the Monteverdi Str ing Band. The
concert, entitled “Grand Vespers for Doge and Duke” consisted chiefly of music by
Schütz and Monteverdi, the latter represented by some well known and loved items
including his Dixit Dominus secondo which will be remembered by those TVEMF
members who came to James’ workshop in September.
The Orlando choir gave an excellent and energetic performance of this tricky piece –
certainly a considerable improvement on our efforts in Ealing. The choir sang
Monteverdi’s “Adoramus te Christe” and “Christe, adoramus te” from memory – a
brave and almost successful rendering. Interspersed with these were 6 short works
by Schütz mainly from his Symphoniae sacrae, some for a cappella choir and some for
solo voices and various players from the two instrumental groups. The vocal soloists
were 2 excellent young sopranos, both former Oxbridge choral scholars, who among
other items performed Monteverdi’s “Pulchra es” heart-rendingly, accompanied by
Robert Howarth (organ) & Paula Chateauneuf (theorbo) and 2 excel lent young tenors,
both in the choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge who sang Schütz’ Latin motet
“Anima mea liquefacta est”, accompanied by the cornettists of the English Cornett &
Sackbut Ensemble, with some exquisite mute cornett playing. Between these vocal
pieces we were treated to some delightful canzonas for varying numbers of
instruments, by Giovanni Gabrieli, Giovanni Picchi, Biagio Marini and Johann
Vierdanck. The concert ended with a spirited performance of one Monteverdi’s
settings of the “Magnificat” with all the performers taking part. It was interesting to
note the strong influence of Giovanni Gabrieli and Monteverdi on the music of Schütz,
both of whom were his teachers.
Opportunities to make music
There is still room for singers and instruments at the Eastern Early Music Forum
workshop on Saturday 12th February in the Chapel of Girton College, Cambridge
(where there is plenty of parking space). Philip Cave and Sally Dunkley, both
founder-members of The Tallis Scholars, will be co-directing a day of music by Rogier,
a contemporary of Victoria who would have been much better-known had more of his
output survived. His music is hugely engaging and rich, and this is a rare opportunity
to learn about it with some leading experts. The workshop will work on some music a
cappella, and other pieces with cornetts, sackbuts etc. They still have space for more
singers in all parts except soprano, and for a couple of bass viols, theorbo and more
brass players. Please apply as soon as possible to reserve your place. Contact:
01223 847330 selenecantab.net. You can find a copy of the booking form with
more information on the EEMF web site www.eemf.org.uk.
Benslow still has places available on the Consorting Recorders course which runs from
31 January to 2 February and for which the tutors will be Jean McCreery and Elizabeth
Page. If you are a reasonably advanced player and are either already in a consort
which might want to go as a unit or are simply an individual player who would like to
spend a weekend meeting and playing in consort with other recorder players, please
contact them on 01462 459446 or email infobenslow.org .
As you know, Michael Procter is now running the Kilburn course himself and it’s no
longer a TVEMF event, but members are invited to apply as usual and I recommend
doing so as soon as possible as he has already circulated the details to his own
mailing list. An application form is included in this mailing, and you’re asked to note
that the date on it should of course be 20-27 May 2011, not 2010. If you need
another one, it is on Michael’s website to download: www.Michael-Procter.com (find
the course in the Calendar). The weekend begins – and this is new – with a rehearsal
on the Friday evening, 7.30 to 9.30, and ends before lunch.
A London Community Baroque Orchestra is being started at the Foundling
Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ, with regular rehearsals on
Saturday mornings. The contact details for more information are: 020 7841 3600
enquiriesfoundlingmuseum.org.uk and zozmolavventuralondon.co.uk
York Early Music International Young Artists Competition 2011
The Competition will take place during the York Early Music Festival in July 2011.
Full details can be found on the National Centre for Early Music website at
www.ncem.co.uk/youngartists The closing date for applications 21st January 2011.
If you have any questions regarding the competition, please contact:
Janet Cromartie, Music Administrator, National Centre for Early Music
Can someone who has access to north west London, please help me to 'burn' some
musical items onto a CD? I am preparing a short course on Handel's oratorios and
need to make a demo disc of musical extracts.
For any technical type out there who has the time, I would be so grateful and can
offer you lunch/tea/ dinner and free parking.
Thanks. Helen Dymond 0208 965 1497 helenNW10hotmail.com
One key traverse flute with soft case. Stained boxwood with artificial ivory endcap and
joints, pitch 415. Copy of a Palanca of about 1760 made by Jan de Winne. £745.
shelaghalexander-teacher.com (020 7722 2996)
Opportunity to buy a library of music
Those of you with a lot space may be interested in Michael Procter’s Huge Music Sale.
He is selling off his entire choir library of some 700 sets, mainly of Renaissance
sacred repertoire but with some mild exceptions both secular and more modern.
The catalogue is on the Web at www.michael-procter.com/pdf-doc/Music-sale.pdf.
The sets will be sold to those who ask for them first. Michael asks us to point out that
this sale is his own private collection; it does not affect his music publishing, Edition
Michael Procter. If you do not have easy internet access TVEMF member Sarah Young
is happy for you to ring her on 0208 669 8648 and she will do what she can to assist.
A small sharp knife in a plastic wallet was left at the Christmas event – get in touch
with David Fletcher if it’s yours.
Please call Katharine May (GRSM Hons, ARCM) on 01628 783272 or email
available from teacher with over 18 years experience.
Whether you are looking to pass exams, diplomas,
improve your continuo playing, or just want to learn for fun,
lessons are designed to suit individual needs.