Tamesis Issue 229 January 2012
At the AGM in December two new committee members were needed to replace long-
standing members Don Gill and Neil Edington. Nick Pollock was elected on the day
and Wendy Davies was co-opted soon afterwards. A warm welcome to them both,
and another to all the new forum members who have just joined us.
ÐThe Glory of the Muses" workshop with Sally Dunkley and Philip Cave on January
21st in Oxford is fully booked for S A and B; any tenors still wanting to apply should
ring or email Diana Porteus first. If you've booked and unexpectedly find yourself
unable to come, PLEASE let Diana know as soon as possible as there are waiting lists.
If planning to use the Thornhill Park-&-Ride, live travel signs on the A40 will warn you
if by any chance the car park is full (in which case, head for a different Park-&- Ride).
Our other January event, the renaissance day, still has room if you contact David
Fletcher. IÓm looking forward to going to it, and am hoping for a renaissance loud
wind session and a medieval one, which will give me an opportunity to play my under-
used medieval recorders and harp.
The Waltham Abbey event, organised by EEMF this year, is accepting instrumentalists
by invitation only but IÓm planning to organise a workshop specifically for recorders
with Philip Thorby during the year. There is information about a projected event
involving viols on page 5, and someone has kindly offered to organise a separate viol
playing day. If either of these would interest you, please let me know. WeÓre also
thinking about a medieval workshop at some point. There is still no date for the
Oxford baroque playing day so keep an eye on the TVEMF web site for news of this.
Finally, very many thanks to everyone who helped with our Christmas event.
In recognition of their long service in support of TVEMF two former committee
members, Hazel Fenton (former Treasurer) and Chris Thorn (former Chairman) were
made honorary life members some while ago. The Committee has now decided to
give the same status to two other deserving members. Don Gill was on the
Committee from the origin of TVEMF in 1988 until 2011 and was active in the early
years, but had to care for his wife for a long while which precluded his attending our
events. Although now in his 80s he has continued to handle all the business
connected with the Charity Commissioners until now. Our President, Jeremy
Montagu, was extremely helpful when TVEMF was starting up as at that time he was
curator at the Bate Collection in Oxford and was able to get us free use of the hall at
the Faculty of Music. He was most supportive, and as a former member of David
Munrow's Early Music Consort his name as President carries a certain weight. He has
only been to one event in the last 20 or so years, since tympanists are not often
required in our music, but has paid his subscription regularly in spite of retiring from
the Bate many years ago. I felt guilty every time I sent out a renewal notice to these
two so I am very happy that they have been made honorary members.
Our two pending events in January are proving popular. The workshop in Oxford is
pretty full but there is just time to sign up for the Renaissance day in Burnham on the
29th. Our workshops with John Milsom and with Julian Perkins have been a great
success in the past so I expect a good attendance at the forthcoming ones.
Proposed future event (no date yet)
Following the success of last yearÓs Gesualdo Workshop, Gerald Place is proposing
another entitled: ÐI canÓt believe itÓs not GesualdoÈÑ This will explore music by
GesualdoÓs teacher Pomponio Nenna, fellow-Neapolitan Giovanni Trabaci and his rivals
Alfonso Fontanelli and Luzzasco Luzzaschi. He also aims to include one of the
recently-completed six-part Sacrae Cantiones by Gesualdo himself, as well as a couple
of doubtful attributions. To involve more participants this time, he would like to have
a chamber group of singers with viols.
There were many appreciative comments after the last event and we would like to
make sure that this one doesnÓt clash with anything, so it would be helpful if potential
participants could send me a list of dates to avoid in 2012 (secretarytvemf.org). A
madrigal by Nenna and one by Gesualdo can be heard and downloaded in GeraldÓs
own performances on www.englandshelicon.podbean.com.
The Art of Harmony
Many of us were very concerned when the V & A museum removed their musical
instrument collection from display. Until March next year you can see an exhibition at
the Horniman Museum. 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ, which brings
together western musical instruments and archival material from the V & A and
Horniman collections. See their web site www.horniman.ac.uk for more information.
IÓve never knowingly read a blog before, and I donÓt think this one is typical!
www.semibrevity.com is the Early Music Pioneers Archive and contains a lot of
material - documents, photos, recordings etc - about the pioneers of the early music
revival. ItÓs well worth a look.
Learn to sing online
I was looking for something on the BBC website the other day and found a whole area
devoted to singing technique. You can find the BBC Learn to Sing step by step guides
by typing in http://www.bbc.co.uk/sing/learning/
British Early Flute mailing list/group
This is a list for British based players of historical (pre-Boehm) flutes: renaissance,
baroque, classical or romantic instruments. If you want to find playing opportunities
or advertise a concert or course which might be of interest to other players in the
British Isles, please post accordingly. If you would like to provide reviews of courses
or concerts you've attended or provide links to useful early flute resources, feel free to
do so. All levels of ability are welcome, from beginners to professionals.
This list is not intended to compete with the excellent "earlyflute" Yahoo group which
is international in scope.
Access to message archives etc will be restricted to members only. If you are
applying to join our group, let us know a little about the nature of your interest and
background in early flutes. To keep out bots and spammers, generic membership
requests, eg. 'I'd like to join your group', are rejected. Please type in the following
Robert Hillier (Group Owner and Moderator)
Hassler in Amersham
Under the inimitable direction of Michael Procter, 66 singers, 19 instrumentalists and
eight versatile individuals who participated in both roles assembled in the Amersham
Community Centre for a programme of polychoral music by Hans Leo Hassler. The
Hassler family (Isaac and his three sons, Hans Leo, Kasper and Jakob) hailed from
Nuremberg and were all musicians, though Hans Leo has by far the greatest
reputation. After spending time in Venice, where he was a pupil of Andrea Gabrieli
(whose nephew Giovanni was his fellow student) he moved to Augsburg as chamber
organist to Octavian Fugger, a post he filled from 1586 to 1601. He returned to
Nuremberg in 1602 as chief Kapellmeister of the town, where he was hailed as
ÐMusicus inter Germanos sua aetate summusÑ (among the Germans, the most
complete composer of his age). This adulation did not prevent him from renouncing
his connections with Nuremberg and moving to Ulm, where he married into the
mercantile bourgeoisie. Gustav Reese (Music in the Renaissance, Dent, 1954) says of
him that he was probably the only Germanic composer of the period, other than Senfl,
who could be ranked with the great Franco-Netherlanders of the 16th century.
Michael selected six items of widely differing nature for the programme; they varied
from 10 to 18 parts and involved, variously, two, three and four choirs with different
combinations of instruments. The instruments were of a number and variety far
outweighing the somewhat mimsy collection to be found in King JesusÓ Garden or the
more imposing array at the sound of which those present in the court of King
Nebuchadnezzar were commanded to fall down and worship the golden image (Daniel
iii, 7). They included cornets, sackbuts, viols, recorders, an ÐamazementÑ of curtals
(I am indebted to Margaret Jackson-Roberts for this newly-minted collective noun),
cello, organ, and a lizard. I collect from the Mediaeval Life and Times website that
this instrument gets its name from its shallow S-shape which gives it the appearance
of a legless lizard and that it was used by (among others) troubadours. The idea of
expressing courtly love to oneÓs unattainable lady with the aid of a lizard is not one
which your reviewer finds easy to accommodate.
Michael began by drawing attention to the fact that the so-called Christmas TVEMF
event was actually taking place in Advent, for which he was liturgically garbed in a tie
of the appropriate colour. However, with the exception of Congratulamini, which is
liturgically for Eastertide, the programme was one of music for Christmas or for
general use. We began with Cantate Domino a 13 and (it being late in the day owing
to the complexity of the task of getting everyone into the right place, admirably
organised though that was by David Fletcher and the music monitors with their
dauntingly complex spreadsheets), the singers were spared the usual warm-ups, and
Michael allowed the instrumentalists to proceed on the basis (attributed to Anthony
Rooley) that Ðthe tuning was good enough for early musicÑ.
The next item was Coeli enarrant, another 13-part work. It is known that Hassler and
Giovanni Gabrieli collaborated in the composition of a wedding motet for Georg
Gruber, a wealthy Nuremberg merchant, in 1600. It was included in GruberÓs
collection of motets in memory of the two composers, published in 1615 under the
title Reliquiae sacrorum concentuum, and Michael surmised from the text, the last
section of which reads Ðet ipse tamquam sponsus procedens de thalamo suoÑ (which
is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, Ps xix, 5), that Coeli enarrant might
have been the motet in question. The pre-lunch session ended with Jubilate Deo a
15, another three-choir work which is a spectacular 117-bar setting of the well-known
psalm text. In this piece Michael drew our attention to the individualistic nature of the
sheep, as portrayed by the setting of the words Ðnos autem populus eius et oves
pascuaeÑ (for we are his people and the sheep of his pasture). Having appropriately
entered into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise, we emerged
exhilarated and ready for the bodily refreshment which had been admirably organised
by Victoria Helby and contributed to on the usual basis.
Following the lengthy and convivial lunch-break, we returned to the fray with the 4-
a 18. It was at this stage that Michael explained something that
had been baffling many of us; if the four choirs were arranged from high to low, with
choir 4 as the lowes , why was that choir called ÐPrimusÑ ? The answer is that it sings
first - simple when ou know how. Congatulamini is a piece which, apart from giving
rise to what Michae described as Ðthe curious incident of the sharp in the nightÑ
displays considerab rhythmic complexity as well as requiring the mind of a
cryptographer to un erstand its structure, exemplified by the make-up of choir 4
(Primus) consisting from top to bottom) of A, 17, 18, 7 and B. It was something of a
relief to return to th comparative simplicity of the three movements from the Missa
sine nomine which f llowed and which, according to the description in the Edition
Michael Procter, is, most unusually, in vocal clefs throughoutÑ.
After some debate i was decided to attempt the last piece, Hodie Christus natus est,
for two five-part ch rs (but very suitable for instrumental participation), before tea.
With hindsight it mi ht have been better to have ended there, because the reprise of
Congratulamini whi we attempted afterwards was not a great success. However,
that minor blemish hould not be allowed to detract from the general satisfaction
engendered by our exploration of the works of a master of polychoral writing. We are
all indebted to Michael for yet another rewarding musical experience and no doubt
many of us are looking forward to another feast of polychorality under his direction in
June 2012, when the composer will be Giovanni Gabrieli. Warmest thanks must also
go to David Fletcher and Victoria Helby for all that they did to make the day a
success, and to the volunteers, too numerous to record, who helped with the various
tasks, particularly the distribution of the music.
Handel: AlexanderÓs Feast
On November 24th in St JamesÓs, Piccadilly, the Orlando Chamber Choir gave a spirited
performance of HandelÓs oratorio ÐAlexanderÓs FeastÑ, with their conductor, James
Weeks (known to many of us as an excellent workshop tutor). This was JamesÓ final
concert with the choir as he is now based in Newcastle and it was an excellent and
well-deserved send off. For the benefit of those (like myself) not familiar with the
work, AlexanderÓs Feast was written in 1736 to a libretto adapted from an ode by
Dryden. It describes a banquet held by Alexander and his mistress, Thais, in the
captured city of Persepolis. During the feast the musician Timotheus sings and plays
his lyre, unfortunately arousing such passion in Alexander that he goes off and burns
down the city in revenge for his dead Greek soldiers.
Rather incongruously the tale then brings in Saint Cecilia and her (erroneously
credited) invention of the organ. So all ends happily with the final chorus singing:
ÐAnd may this evening ever prove sacred to harmony and loveÑ. The words, as often
with HandelÓs oratorios, are somewhat banal and reminiscent of pantomime (OK,
maybe thatÓs a bit strong, but try this: ÐWar, he sung, is toil and trouble, Honour but
an empty bubbleÈÑ) but the superb quality of the performance outweighed this slight
defect. The choir were on very good form and were supported by the Brook Street
Band augmented by trumpet and theorbo (representing the lyre) and three brilliant
soloists: soprano Elizabeth Weisberg, tenor Nicholas Mulroy and bass Jimmy Holliday.
Thoughts about posture and playing Baroque music: 5
Many of the plucked instruments are most easily played sitting, so thatÓs where IÓll
begin. Lute is popular with early music performers, so that is the instrument IÓll refer
to, but there are also guitars, citterns, theorbos and mandolins etc. All share the
same challenges: holding the instrument well and comfortably in a way which allows
the arms, fingers and hands the freedom to move on the instrument while still
supporting it securely.
The first thing is to be sure that you are sitting squarely on your sitting bones. If
youÓre not sure, trying sticking your hands under your buttocks. The sitting bones are
shaped like the rockers of a rocking chair. If youÓre still not sure, try rocking back and
forth. Sit close enough to the front edge that there is no pressure on your thighs, and
of course the thighs should be parallel to the floor to support the instrument. Your
feet should be flat on the floor. If you use a foot rest, watch what it does to your
balance by noticing whether the pressure on the sitting bones stays the same or if
thereÓs a shift, probably onto the right sitting bone, if you are right-handed. While
weÓre meant to move in and out of balance, holding one position where some muscles
are tense and others are slack leads to a habitually fixed position: even though the
problem is with balance and the sitting bones, holding the posture affects the
shoulders, and that affects arms, hands and Î most important Î fingers.
When you hold the instrument, you may notice a slight natural rotation to the left. If
you think of this as the shoulders rotating, it can lead to the same limitations as I was
talking about above, for the same reasons: the imbalance of the weight on the sitting
bones. Think instead of the rotation coming from further down, from the sitting bones
As with wind and string instruments, you want to support the lute, not hold it. If it
seems that it is going to slip from your lap, why not try a small piece of the plastic
non-skid you can get to go under carpets? Much better than tensing and holding.
When I asked Jacob for his comments on the article, he said, ÒWith the renaissance
lute, the big problem is getting the instrument high enough. If we sit in a normal-
height chair with the thighs parallel to the floor, the lute is simply too low. Either we
raise one or both legs (effectively raising the lap), sit on a very low chair or stool, or
(better) use a strap to bring the lute up off the lap. If we do the latter, then it
suddenly becomes possible to play standing up, as we no longer depend on the lap to
support the instrument at all. I do all my recitals standing up these days. I certainly
recommend a non-slip piece of rubber or leather behind the lute in this case.Ó
One way that performers keep the lute from slipping away, it seems to me, is by
wrapping themselves around it. This has a number of effects, including hampering
breathing, but also it means that the shoulders slump forward, as does the head. The
result: neck ache and upper back pain. The one right between the shoulder blades.
The arms are part of the back. Once youÓve found your sitting bones, it becomes
possible to think of letting the shoulders widen. Lifting the left shoulder to raise the
neck of the instrument only creates unnecessary effort. Try thinking of the support
for lifting the instrument as coming from the lower back, the top of the pelvis, since
this is in fact where the large lifting muscles originate.
What I said in the strings article applies here as well: think of the arms creating a big
circle from the shoulder sockets. As I also suggested for cellists, swing the arms
lightly in an arc (carefully, so the instrument doesnÓt get displaced), allowing the hand
to fall naturally onto the strings at the top of the arc. This should help with the
problem of tense fingers: the ideal is to use the optimal finger position and pressure
to get a beautiful sound; anything more is wasted effort.
Jacob Heringman is a lutenist who also studied
as an Alexander Technique teacher. Having
watched him perform, I can attest to the fact
that he moves as he needs to and no more, the
music flowing from under his fingers.
This facility and appropriate effort is crucial to
balance him or herself, as well as being in balance with the instrument.
This is the final article in the series on Alexander Technique and playing early
instruments. ItÓs led me to think about my own playing, and about the variety of
postural issues, especially as amateurs, of playing all the instrument families. There
are some elements we all share, no matter what instrument we play, including
singers: being in balance means that we donÓt waste effort in unnecessary tension
holding ourselves in position; the position of the head and neck are central to finding
this balance whether weÓre standing or sitting, and you can find the balance not by
working harder, but by releasing and working less.
I hope you enjoy all the TVEMF workshops as much as I do, and that they give you
the chance to put some of my suggestions to the test.
the performance of Early Music ornamentation.
The ornaments, especially in French music,
need to be nonchalantly elegant and graceful.
That can only be achieved if the performer is in
NEMA's Early Music Yearbook & Performers' Directory, 2012
The National Early Music Association's 2012 Yearbook arrived in November. As ever,
it's very well put together Î the Editorial Team does a splendid job, year on year; and
(again, as ever) most of the publication is devoted to the 'Directory' section, which
covers a wide range of information and contacts, plus an Instrument Buyers' Guide
and a Register of Early Music Î invaluable, if you want to contact fellow-players of the
fretted blasthorn (remember that one?) But the bit which changes every year is the
Editorial Section, and this year's selection offers us plenty of variety.
As is customary, it leads off with an article or two about composers who have special
anniversaries in 2012. In recent years, Peter Holman has been guiding us through the
so-called 'generation of 1710', dealing, in successive years, with Avison, Arne and
Boyce. In 2012, it's John Stanley (1712-1786), the blind organist and composer.
There's a very useful listing of practical and scholarly editions, mostly of Stanley's
excellent instrumental music; it's clear, though, that there are a number of vocal
works still awaiting good modern editions.
A number of important Renaissance composers have anniversaries in the coming year
(Hans Leo Hassler, De Sermisy and Sweelinck among them), but the 'biggie' is, of
course, Giovanni Gabrieli, and we get excellent articles about him from Clifford
Bartlett (a general survey of the available editions) and Martin Morell (a review of
Gabrieli's madrigals Î the part of his output least known to most of us).
Julia Craig-McFeely is an expert in the archive-quality imaging of documents, and she
writes about DIAMM (the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music). This important
resource, linked to the University of Oxford, makes available to viewers a huge
number of important manuscripts from across Europe Î go to www.diamm.co.uk for
all the details.
John Irving writes about The Institute of Musical Research in the University of London.
Sounds a bit dry? Î not, actually, if you're into 18c performance practice Î lots of
information here about the new research centre called DeNOTE, which aims to bring
performers and academics in this field together.
Lindsay Kemp is a highly experienced contributor, reviewing the performances at this
year's York Early Music International Young Artists' Competition. Rather a lot of
'damning with faint praise', I thought, though he clearly enjoyed the ultimate winners,
'Profeta della Quinta' Î an all-male five-part ensemble who sang madrigals by Cipriano
de Rore and Hebrew items by Salamone Rossi. Watch out for them!
Helen Wallace writes about music at Kings Place Î London's newest concert venue Î
and keyboard players will enjoy Pamela Nash on the British Harpsichord Society.
Anyone involved in running an Early Music Festival needs to read Clare Norburn on the
remarkably successful example at Brighton. Many 'EMF' members go to the annual
Summer Courses at Beauchamp House, near Gloucester Î they will certainly enjoy
Alan Lumsden's detailed report.
MEMF's Chairman, Edwin Griggs, was invited to write a report for this issue on the
Forum's history and work, and he's done an excellent job Î no 'puffs' there, but an
objective appraisal of 'where we're at' now. He makes no secret of the fact that Î for
as long as any of us can remember Î a large majority of our membership seems to
take no active part in the Forum's activities. One can only assume that these folk feel
that the stuff they receive from MEMF by post justifies the cost of their subscription.
The Midland area features in the final article, too Î Mark Windisch describing some
instrument collections, majoring on the important one held by Birmingham
Conservatoire Î excellently looked after by Martin Perkins.
All very recommendable, and if you're a NEMA member already you'll have received it
direct Î NEMA's website is: www.nema-uk.org or you could try e-mailing
Thanks to Beresford and the MEMF newsletter for permission to reproduce this article.
Handel's Amanuensis John Christopher Smith (1712-1795)
Julian Perkins, our tutor in March, is looking for subscribers to his recording of Six
Suites of Lessons for the Harpsichord (London, 1755) which will be released on the
Avie label this year. For more information visit www.julianperkins.com.