Tamesis Issue 192 June 2007
Enclosed is the form for the John Milsom workshop on 22nd September. Iíve
been asked to stress that plenty of menís voices are needed, and if they apply
well in advance it won't be necessary to turn sopranos away needlessly. The
Headington venue is a new one, and is conveniently on the London to Oxford
coach route with a choice of two coach companies and six boarding points,
about which Diana Porteus can supply more information. Her contact details
are on the form. Sheís willing to send out coach timetables and maps of
coach/bus stops, together with transport companiesí contact details, if you
send a stamped addressed envelope. She says that the coach is a real doddle
from London and comes complete with loos, laptop sockets, coach stop
announcements, etc. If youíre coming by car and youíre familiar with the
Headington (or Green Road) Roundabout, you might like to know that it has
been completely redesigned in the last nine months or so.
Iím sorry Tamesis is later than expected this month. Alan (husband) and I
suddenly decided that the end of May was the best time for us to take a
holiday, so at a momentís notice we went cycling in the Veneto. We really
enjoyed it, though the weather varied from extremely hot to extremely wet. It
wasnít a very musical experience, as you might expect, except that we spent
four days in Venice at the end where we had the pleasure of hearing Michael
Procterís Venice course concert. We also attended the high mass at St Markís
where they sang up in the organ lofts. Apparently they are the only visiting
choir who are allowed to do this. The concert was in a church on the Zattere
whose name Iíve forgotten, with a glorious acoustic, and the music by Croce,
Willaert, Donato, Merulo and Ingegneri, sounded wonderful. I particularly
enjoyed the Donato, and wonder whether he would be a suitable composer for
a TVEMF event.
The same music performed in St Markís was much more difficult to hear, and I
was reminded that the singers would originally have been reinforced by
instruments. According to Bryant in his New Grove article on Gabrieli, up to
six instrumentalists, playing cornetti and trombones, held salaried positions at
St. Markís during the latter part of the sixteenth century, and these could be
supplemented by as many as fourteen extra players for major festivals of the
church such as Christmas, Easter and Ascension. This would certainly have
made the music, though not the words, more audible. Michael Procterís choir
sounded extremely beautiful, however, if rather more ethereal than they had
at their concert, and coped magnificently with the extremely complicated
service. It was just a shame that the choir arriving to sing for the next service
got the applause from the congregation!
We also went to a concert of motets for soprano and continuo, by Gabrieli,
Cavalli, Monteverdi and others, at the Palazzo Querini Stampalia. These short
concerts held on Fridays and Saturdays at 5pm and 8.30, in conjunction with
the Scuola Musica Antica Venezia, are well worth going to if you happen to be
in Venice, and are included in the price of your admission to the palazzo (which
also happens to be one of my favourite Venetian buildings). They make a very
pleasant change from the endless Vivaldi offered at almost all the other
concerts in Venice.
This year I decided to have a change from Beauchamp House at which I have
been a regular, and have just returned from the VVR (Viols, Voices and
Recorders) course, held for the first time at Halsway Manor. It's always tricky
to balance the pros and cons of the numerous early music courses -
Beauchamp has Philip Thorby, Alan Lumsden and Clifford Bartlett as tutors,
and a fine assembly of cornett, sackbut and curtal players with some excellent
singers and strings (though not many of the latter). However, the cost has
been rising steadily over the years and there is no accommodation on the site
unless you camp. I decided that my camping days are over, but there are B &
B's so I shall review the situation after I return from the NWEMF course in July.
The VVR course is untutored and therefore substantially cheaper than most.
Halsway Manor, dating in part back to the 15th century, is an excellent venue,
being on the edge of the Quantock hills with good accommodation and friendly
staff. Michael Sharman and his team had done a good job of organisation and
things ran pretty smoothly. There was a good variety of large-scale music in
the evening, conducted by Delyth Holland, Helen France and Martin Grayson.
In the other sessions I ended up doing rather more recorder playing than I had
hoped, simply because of a shortage of tenor voices and sackbuts, but it was a
chance to meet up with some old friends and I had a good time. Several of us
continued playing until the 11pm deadline each evening and in the afternoons
there was walking, more playing, or a game of croquet. In spite of the course
title there were sufficient other instruments for some enjoyable "loud wind"
sessions as well as the advertised ones.
I know many of you go to one or more summer schools, so let us have some
reviews so that members can compare the courses.
Letter to the editor
As the originator of the word Tamesis as the title of this newsletter so many
years ago I suppose I should say something. I expect that you all know (that's
the way to irritate one's audience) that Tamesis (rhymes with stammer, sis) is
the Latin name for the Thames as illustrated in the cover design which came
from my teenage daughter at the time. I contradict our chairman with
trepidation, but I think I was made aware of tmesis by our good friend Tim
Samuelson from SEMF, another member of the Early Music Pedants'
Association. This was some time after we had got going, and my reaction may
well have been "so what?" More pertinently, I once found to my horror that (if
I recall correctly) Reading University had a magazine called Tamesis in the
1920s. Perhaps it's no longer going: they've never complained, anyway. If I
had known that I might have called this organ Musica Tam - what is the
genitive of Tamesis?
It's still Tamesis! But according to my dictionary the Romans also used Tamesa
(genitive Tamesae). Victoria (Ed)
VOICES AND VIOLS
The Voices and Viols weekend was more successful than ever this year. Some
twenty people, including various TVEMF members, converged on Hitchin to
explore the large repertoire in which individual voices and viols can be
combined in various ways. Alison Crum was joined as tutor by Peter Syrus for
the first time. Their choice of music (Palestrina, Marenzio, Byrd and SchŁtz,
among others) went down very well and included motets, verse anthems,
consort songs and a 24-part polychoral mass by Annibale Padovano for which
we didnít have quite enough people, although the gaps didn't seem to matter
Most of the participants were viol players with different combinations of treble,
tenor and bass instruments, and different preferences for clefs, which must
have made the programming of the sessions a complex task. More bass
players would have been welcome. As usual there was a shortage of singers,
especially men, although some people could both sing and play. Normally we
were divided into three groups, with plenary sessions at the start and the end
of the course. We were offered mostly vocal music, often in transposition, in
any number of parts from four to 24, and each part fits one size of instrument.
The available voices took whatever part suited each singer's range, sometimes
doubled by a viol. When the balance was well adjusted the overall effect was
Alison and Peter are a very well matched partnership as they are both
particularly patient and helpful tutors with immense knowledge of the
repertoire and the problems of ensemble playing/singing. Alison is the more
technically minded of the two. She pays great attention to the need to get the
viols to play with appropriate attack and bowing style to match the vocal
quality of the music. Peter uses his academic experience to great effect and his
own editions, which are available to buy, are immaculately prepared. One of
the Byrd pieces was a verse anthem he had reconstructed himself from an
Many people commented on the extra enjoyment they had had from the
weekend. There was a noticeable sense of bonding in both the tutti and smaller
groups which was most satisfying. Benslow food is also of a high standard
nowadays, and a kind of family atmosphere was generated, which was good.
At table one day Alison managed to utter a meaningful sentence that included
the phrase I'd never heard before: "crumhorn phrasing". I later found that if
you Google that phrase you will be told that it doesn't match any documents
on the Internet!
Inevitably most of the participants were the 'usual suspects', but we did have
one visitor from Belgium and one from France. Perhaps a slightly fuller
attendance next year will lead to even better results.
Benslow Music Trust, 11-13 May 2007
Wild Ruby Crossword competition results
Wild Ruby (www.wildruby.co.uk) is happy to announce that the winner of the
Early Music Prize Crossword competition is Ruth Harris, who will receive a
copy of our CD of Sephardic Songs. Chris North and Mark Leonard deserve
honourable mention for also providing correct solutions, though they were
defeated by the random selection process.
I hope that more people took part in this than sent in answers. Perhaps
it should have been a little easier (though of course the aim of the
selection process is to generate exactly one winner, so I was within two
replies of the perfect puzzle...) I enjoyed creating it immensely and I
plan to compose some more to put on the Wild Ruby website in the future.
The solution is as follows:
Across: 7 SEMITONES 8 SLURS 10 FALSETTO 11 ATTACK 12 ALTO 1 3
DULCIANS 15 REPEATS 17 SPINETS 20 DIES IRAE 22 REST 25 A TEMPO 26
PASSAGES 27 TRILL 28 TRANSPOSE
Down: 1 PEDAL 2 MISSAL 3 KORTHOLT 4 SECONDO 5 FLAT SIGN 6 GRACE
NOTE 9 TAIL 14 REGISTERS 16 ENSEMBLE 18 PHRASING 19 TEMPERS 21
ROOT 23 SHARPS 24 VERSE
Please do another one for Tamesis next year, Andrew. And yes, at least one
more person is enjoying doing it. I forgot to take it on holiday with me so am
about to have another go at it, and have so far managed not to look at the
answers! Victoria (Ed)
Can you help SEMF (if only by joining)?
Iíve recently received the Forum reports given at the recent Interfora meeting
Most of them were optimistic, but Iím printing here a slightly shortened version
of the report which Tim Samuelson wrote on behalf of the Southern Early Music
Forum. From it you will see that SEMF is struggling to survive. This may be
partly our fault, because, as you will see, Tim thinks that members are being
seduced away by the ďbright lights of TVEMFĒ. Please think what you could do
to help if you live in the southern part of our region. It doesnít cost much to
join SEMF. Then perhaps you could also join the committee, or organise an
informal playing day or plan a tutored event. Iím thinking about suggesting a
joint event next year, perhaps a visit to Finchcocks, but that doesnít solve the
immediate problem and it would be a shame if SEMF became the second forum
to disappear. Iím pleased to read that our member Pat Stewart, who has just
moved into the SEMF area, has already offered her help. SEMF obviously still
has a role to play in organising informal playing sessions, and in fact I would
like to see TVEMF do more of this. They are also about to hold a workshop on
reedcap instruments, which I would love to attend if only my stamina didnít
come into their lowest category (need break after 10 minutes)! Itís worth
bearing in mind though, Tim, when youíre worrying about finding active
committee members, that TVEMF never has committee meetings at all. These
were always hard to arrange and now our only formal meeting is the annual
AGM. Otherwise we simply email each other and discuss things informally
when we meet at events. We are also lucky to have several non-committee
members who organise occasional events.
Southern Early Music Forum
Reading through last year's SEMF report Ö I see that very little has changed.
We have had six 'consort playing days', which follow a similar format. There
are 3 sessions during the day where groups of varying sizes are made up, and
generally tutored by a member of the group, followed by a final session where
everyone comes together to work at a larger work (12-24 parts) and
conducted by one of our more experienced musicians. The consort days have
been at Haywards Heath, East Grinstead, Horsmonden, Canterbury, Lewes and
Bradbourne House, near Maidstone. These have been generally successful,
and are enjoyed by those who come. The only tutored day was for singers
only, given by David Allinson (Ad Fugam!) at Challock, in Kent, and this has
become an annual event.
In addition, there is the day at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at
Singleton (near Chichester), where groups are invited to entertain the public
by playing music in the historic houses on the site. This was originally set up
as a joint venture between SEMF and the Museum, but these days is not really
a playing day as such, and is co-ordinated by the museum.
Allied to the playing days, but not under the auspices of SEMF, is the series of
6 'Cori Spezzati' days, organized by John and Stephanie Chambers at Paddock
Wood, in Kent at monthly intervals from September to March. These generally
have a loyal following, and attract between 15 and 20 early musicians
(including a few singers), most of whom are SEMF members.
On the other hand, the monthly get-togethers at St Mildred's Church in
Canterbury, run by David Shaw, are done through SEMF. Numbers have
dropped over the years (the St Mildred evenings have been going for well over
10 years) but we generally get between 4 and 8 players, and it is a worthwhile
venture. We had hoped that people might organize similar gatherings
elsewhere in the SEMF territory, but it never happened.
Two points become apparent from the above:
1. Apart from Singleton, which is a different type of event, there is no SEMF
activity West of the M23 (the London to Brighton road)
2. We only have only one day, which specializes in singing, and is taken by a
The David Allinson event attracts about 50 singers, but a minority are SEMF
members, and there is not much incentive for the rest (mainly TVEMF
members) to join SEMF, as we do not have anyone willing to organize similar
SEMF numbers have dropped steadily over the last 10 years, and a number
have been seduced away by the bright lights of TVEMF. Indeed, as members of
other fora such as TVEMF can come to SEMF at a reduced rate, there is no
great incentive to join SEMF, apart from my scintillating newsletter! (Well
worth reading. Ed.) There is a serious point here, and i wonder if the partitions
between the different Early Music Fora have much meaning these days, as
many of us cross the borders and go to each others' events.
The main problem that SEMF has had over the last few years is finding people
enthusiastic enough to organize anything. Out of the 10 Committee members,
only 6 have organized any playing daysÖ It looks as if it will be make or break
time at the AGM in May (the Secretary is resigning, having had enough).
On the positive side, SEMF has been useful in putting people of similar
interests together. In Kent, there is a group of recorder and viol players who
meet regularly at the house of one of our members near to Canterbury.
Similarly, there is a thriving group of up to 6 players of renaissance and baroc
flutes who meet in Maidstone (and some of whom are entertaining the public
at an informal open day near here next week!)
p.s. This is a somewhat personal view of SEMF. It might have been preferable
to have got someone different from last year to write the report. But my
inability to find anyone else on the committee to do it somewhat proves my