Tamesis Issue 193 July 2007
Very many thanks to all our contributors this month. There’s only enough
space to say that there won’t be a September issue, so please send me your
autumn information in time for August. I hope you all have a lovely summer
with plenty of music.
Michael Sharman has pointed out that in my last Chat I should have said that
this was the first Whitsun VVR course held at Halsway Manor, as Hazel Fenton
runs the autumn course there. He kindly gave a brief history of the courses
which are long-standing and very successful - see the article in this issue. Bill
Gregson and Ena Pick who started the VVR courses were friends of mine but
sadly are both now dead. Bill was a great character whose enthusiasm
sometimes outstripped his organisational skills. Even with her calm
temperament Ena struggled to make a success of the venture but between
them they managed it. As well as being the Chairman (I think) of the Oxford
SRP, Bill was a competent bassoonist and towards the end of his life acquired
the tenor shawm which once belonged to David Munrow. He bought this
instrument from our former chairman, Chris Thorn, who also owned the bass
shawm from the same source, and the two of them would sometimes join
forces at my "Loud Wind in Wycombe" sessions to good effect.
I gather that the mass in St. Augustine's with Michael Procter went well, and
though the forces were fewer than last year, the musical result was excellent.
There is now a gap whilst many of us attend summer schools (don't forget the
reviews) but I'm looking forward to the event in September when John Milsom,
now back in this country after some years abroad, conducts music by
Richafort. I only know a few pieces by this composer, all good, so this will be
an opportunity to expand my knowledge
Letter to the editor
I was slightly (but not excessively) embarrassed to see my SEMF report for the
interforum pow-wow printed in Tamesis. To put it into context, so that it does
not appear that i was just having a whinge: shortly before the interforum
meeting, I had an e-mail from the convenor saying that he had contacted
Those Who Must Not Be Named in SEMF asking for a report, but had heard
nothing. So i knocked off a report straight away, but was feeling a bit irritated
What SEMF needs is more people who have enthusiasm for organizing, or even
attending events (rather than just joining, as our finances are one of the few
things that are OK). We do seem to have rather a lot of people who claim to be
too busy to contribute anything except criticism for what we do organize. It is
largely an attitude of mind. It took me only about 40 minutes to sit down and
type up a report for the interforum meeting, and i can generally do a write-up
of an event in well under an hour.
Incidentally, i agree that committee meetings should be unnecessary, but
some committee members hardly ever turn up to our SEMF events and are
difficult to make contact with, unfortunately.
Lobo/John the Baptist weekend 23/24 June 2007
As one of the 25 singers who took part in this weekend course, culminating in
singing the Lobo mass liturgically at St Augustine's, Kilburn, I must say it was
a most enjoyable and rewarding experience. The 'Missa Elisabeth and
Zacchariae' is a parody mass on a motet by Guerrero, and we sang the motet
during communion. Though the group was smaller than in previous years, (and
therefore had problems with breaking even), it was well balanced and
everyone said how much they had enjoyed themselves.
A few of the group had to leave immediately after the service, but most came
back after Sunday lunch to sing through Palestrina's motet 'Fuit homo missus
a Deo'. There was also a discussion about the format of the weekend, and
whether a workshop would be preferable. The consensus was in favour of the
weekend with the aim of singing a mass liturgically - it gave the proceedings a
Thanks are due to Neil Edington for his organisation for TVEMF, to Michael
Procter for his music direction and editorial work on the mass and motet, and
to Penny Vinson for her assistance in liaising with the church.
Weekend for singers, directed by Michael Procter
TVEMF’s annual weekend at St Augustine’s, Kilburn, with Michael Procter took
place on June 23rd/24th. This was a different date from previous similar
weekends and for various reasons was rather under-subscribed compared with
previously, with only 25 singers attending. Reasons for this drop in
participants are not clear but possibly the Saturday could have clashed with
other choir summer concerts (as in fact happened with my own but I was able
to do both!!) or with school events (post-exams or pre-end of term).
However, those of us who were there thoroughly enjoyed the smaller group
which was well-balanced and achieved a very good standard.
The music was Duarte Lobo’s “Missa Elisabeth Zachariae” with the Guerrero
motet of the same name, on which the parody mass was based, being sung
during communion. June 24th being the Nativity of St John Baptist, all the
music was chosen accordingly, including some very long hymns with extremely
strange words! The service went well on the Sunday morning and after lunch
we sang through the Credo from the mass and a beautiful Palestrina motet
“Fuit homo missus a Deo”.
The downside of the smaller group was something of a shortfall in “takings”,
which was of some concern to Neil, who was the organiser of the weekend.
This particular weekend is always more expensive than other 2-day events but
there was considerable support by those present for Michael to continue with
the Kilburn weekend. He is going to consider dates for next year and also
consider dates and locations for re-starting the Cambridge weekend. Two-day
workshops have been very successful and popular in the past and perhaps
more could be planned in the future.
Ut queant laxis - a diversion
Ut queant laxis, Resonare fibris, Mira gestorum, Famuli tuorum, Solve polluti,
Labii reatum Sancte Johannes
This was one of our Sunday afternoon treats at Michael Procter’s weekend. I
had not progressed quite far enough with my OU course “Continuing Classical
Latin” to volunteer a translation on the spot, but I discovered in Donald Grout’s
History of Western Music the following, which seemed to me pretty accurate :-
So that all your servants may freely sing forth the wonders of your
deeds, remove all stain of guilt from their unclean l, O saint John.
The one obvious departure from the text is “freely” for “laxis…fibris” which, as
far as my various dictionaries tell me, means, if “fibris” relates to a body part,
“with loose entrails”. I have come across one other version which reads “with
loosened voices” - scarcely what Michael would want from us, I suspect.
E. Cobham Brewer, the original compiler of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and
Fable and Brewer’s Readers’ Handbook, produced the following ingenious
rendering (it fits where it touches, so to speak) which preserves the opening
Uttered be thy wondrous story Reprehensive though I be
Me make mindful of thy glory Famous son of Zacharee
Solace to my spirit bring Labouring thy praise to sing
Ut queant laxis is the first verse of a hymn generally attributed to Paulo
Diacono (aka Paul Warnefrido, ca 720-790), which runs to 13 verses. Other
verses are sometimes sung; e.g., according to the Roman Breviary, Ut queant
laxis is sung at Vespers, verse 5 (Antra deserti Teneris sub annis Civium
turmas Fugiens, petisti Ne levi saltum Maculare vitam Famine posses) at
Matins, and verse 9 (O nimis felix Meritique celsi Nesciens labem Nivei pudoris
Prepotens martyr Heremique cultor Maxime vatum !) at Lauds.
Deacon Paul seems, from such works of his as survive, to have been
acquainted with the works of Horace, since Ut queant laxis is in the Sapphic
metre which Horace used extensively in his Odes, it being the next commonest
after the Alcaic. The Sapphic metre (126.96.36.199, as the English Hymnal would
designate it) is very rarely found in English verse, though Isaac Watts, the
composer of, among others “When I survey the Wondrous Cross” and “O God,
our help in ages past” wrote a poem in Sapphics on “The Day of Judgment”,
the last verse of which is:-
”Oh may I sit here when he comes triumphant
Dooming the nations, then ascend to glory
While our hosannas all along the passage
Shout the Redeemer”
which may help to explain why he hasn’t had many imitators.
Deacon Paul also turned his hand to secular matters; among his compositions
is a short poem commemorating the death of a boy who was frozen in a
glacier, a eulogy to one Peter of Pisa in which he compares him to Horace (as
well as Homer and Virgil), and a laudatory poem of ca. 782 to “regem
Karolum” who is, presumably, Charlemagne (742-814). Perhaps we should
consider founding a Paulo Diacono Appreciation Society at whose meetings all
13 verses of Ut queant laxis are performed?
Baroque Orchestra Day at Bourne End
For those of us who know their musical history, there is the Ivy Benson Band,
then the magnificent Spice Girls and now Tamesis has its very own Norma’s
Band! Of course with a mixed gender base, the Thames Baroque Orchestra’s
inaugural play day held at Bourne End was an outstanding success. Conducted
by Michael Sanderson, we kicked off with Handel’s Water Music, quite
appropriate I thought in view of the heavy rain and flooding we’ve had
recently. Michael spoke of the importance of phrasing in this work,
demonstrating many examples on his violin.
The Vivaldi concerto for two violins, played by our own splendid principal
violins, was a different kettle of fish. Here Michael went to the phrasing and
the style of the work which is very different from the Handel. I quite like
Vivaldi’s music – it is very atmospheric and has an astonishing range of
moods, and with such simple notes too. The Rameau suite we played is the
height of the French Baroque. It is of course very difficult music to play, but
we coped well I thought, with loads of ornaments and inégale and goodness
know what else. I just wish that we had had more time to spend on it.
The Community Centre at Bourne End was very clean and has a nice bar
stocking some fine real ales. There is also a Somerfields and a Co-op nearby
where you can buy a sandwich. Hard working Caroline provided tea and coffee
and biscuits all day. After such a lovely day we all had, I do hope Norma’s
Band can organise many more playing days.
En route recently to the ENO, as it was a Wednesday I called in at the National
Gallery to see what was happening on the early evening music front. To my
delight I caught about 3/4 of a really exquisite concert, given by a group called
"Tarquinia", consisting of young musicians either students or graduates of the
Royal College of Music (the concert was one of a series on Wednesdays all by
RCM members). The group consisted of 3 sopranos, all of whom had beautiful
voices, no vibrato in evidence at all (Andrew Benson Wilson please note, if you
read this!) and which blended extremely well in a series of solos, duets and
trios, in the manner of Concert delle Donne of the Ferrara Court, accompanied
by a talented young theorbo played. A baroque cello player was advertised,
but her non-appearance was apologised for but not explained! They
played/sang songs by Luzzaschi, Monteverdi, Barbara Strozzi, Francesca
Caccini, Frescobaldi, Carissimi among others. The name Tarquinia derives from
one of the period's most celebrated singers.
After this glorious hour or so of delights, I proceeded to ENO to a total contrast
- Britten's "Death in Venice"!!
Viols, Voices and Recorders
The VVR course was started by Bill Gregson and Ena Pick at Magdalen College
School, Oxford. After a few years it moved out to the Manor House in a small
village called Charney Bassett. The Manor belongs to the Society of Friends.
The course has been running for at least 20 years.
At a course called "Spiritual Music" run jointly by the Quakers & Bill, he met
John Smith who managed a similar Quaker House at Dormansland, near
Lingfield. John invited Bill to start another course there. This ran for a couple of
years before Bill's death.
Hazel Fenton took over running this offshoot course but moved it to Halsway
Manor. The courses at Charney Manor continued twice a year. Helen France
teamed up with Hazel for Halsway. So you can see the courses are really blood
brothers and the only differences are the personalities of the people organising
The format of the courses is extremely similar. After Bill's death the
organisation at Charney was taken over by Felix Jaffé and Rosalie Cornwallis,
and after several years by Richard & Tricia King
A brief history
Broadside Ballads and popular street songs of 17th century England
a lecture recital at Benslow Music Trust
Lucie Skeaping (presenter of BBC 3's Early Music Show) and Robin Jeffrey
(Musical Director for Shakespeare's Globe) are holding a lecture-recital on 17th
century Broadside Ballads and songs at Benslow Music Trust in Hitchin on 11th
Comical, sentimental, political or just plain lewd, these delightful songs were
the pop music of their day, the music of the common man, whistled and
hummed in all walks of life from courtier to ploughman. They were heard in the
streets, taverns, theatres and countryside between the time of William Byrd
and Henry Purcell. Distributed and sung up and down the land by an army of
rough peddlers, they also acted like today’s tabloid newspapers or magazines,
featuring everything from the Gunpowder Plot or the Fire of London to lively
comic tales of country bumpkins, fashion and royal stories. All were set to
some of the prettiest melodies England has every produced.
Lucie and Robin will perform a variety of ballads, discuss their tunes, their
meanings and instrumentation - and perhaps teach you a chorus or two!
Through projected images you’ll also explore the way these ballads were
printed and sold. The cost is £28, including lunch