Tamesis Issue 212 June 2009
There are two new dates for your diary this month. The first is a choral workshop
with Alastair Dixon in Ealing. Michael Reynor, who is organising it, has asked me to
stress that this is at a new and much larger venue so all those who were disappointed
to be left out last time can be sure of getting a place this time – always assuming that
we get enough tenors.
The second is a workshop early next year with Philip Thorby on Senfl. As David says
in his Chairman’s Chat, there was a most enjoyable workshop on his music in Lincoln
which we both attended, and I immediately booked Philip to do a workshop for us.
Senfl’s style is quite idiosyncratic and he produced a great variety of music, so I’m
really looking forward to exploring more of it next March. David will probably put on a
renaissance playing (and singing) day in February to fill the gap after the January
John Milsom workshop, and I hope to get Will Carslake back again, but the rest of the
year is quite free for your suggestions.
While I was in Lincoln I took the opportunity to talk to Philip Thorby about the
recorder workshop on Sunday 4th October. It will be a day exploring the renaissance
recorder, looking at techniques and the way they and the instrument were used in the
16th and 17th centuries. We will look at descriptions by Girolamo Cardanus, Sylvestro
Ganassi, Virgiliano, Marin Mersenne and others, covering everything from extended
techniques to consort and ensemble playing. One or two people had told me that they
didn’t fancy a day of massed recorder playing, but obviously it won’t be that, and I
hope it will appeal to everyone.
There has been some discussion about the merits of playing through at the end of
workshops rather than polishing each section or piece as we finish working on it. Your
opinions on this are invited now, and we may take a vote on it for one of our
As there are not many contributions this month (reviews of Senfl at the Bergs’ and
Saul in Nottingham are suggestions for next time, as well as our own workshop on
Festa), I have taken the opportunity to include rather more information than usual
about some forthcoming non-TVEMF workshops.
There will not be a Tamesis in August, so please make sure that I have your
contributions and listings in good time for the July issue, and include as much
information for September as possible as well to allow for possible late (or early)
publication of the September issue.
One of the joys of being a member of TVEMF is that one hears about all sorts of
happenings in the world of early music. Several members have recently returned from
a course with Michael Procter in Venice which culminated in singing and playing music
by Giovanni Croce at a service in St Mark's. As a cornett player I am naturally
extremely envious of this as it is something one dreams of, though the sense of
occasion might have had an adverse effect on performance in my case. I missed out
on a previous chance to do this when I had already used all my holiday trekking in
Pategonia, but who knows what the future may hold? Those wishing to sample some
of the music by Croce should sign up for Michael's TVEMF event on the 11th & 12th
July where we perform at high mass in St Augustine's Church.
Costanso Festa is not a very familiar name, though I have come across some of his
music, but I look forward to finding out more at the TVEMF event with Peter Syrus on
27th June. Another composer who may not be very familiar is Ludvig Senfl or Sennfl
as Kathleen Berg styles him in her book on him and his music. Several TVEMF
members came to the course in Lincoln organised by her and her husband Peter,
directed by Philip Thorby, and enjoyed it enormously. There are several Senfl pieces
published by London Pro Musica which I've known and loved for a long while but it
was good to discover more gems.
10 May at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe
The centrepiece of the day was conductor Will Carslake. It was his first appearance
with TVEMF. He exuded boundless energy and enthusiasm, and came not only fully
prepared with the details of the pieces, but in the distribution of instruments and pre-
planned timing and sequence of the rehearsal work. For singers and players this kept
the efficiency and attention of the day at maximum all the time. He sat cross-legged
on a desk, conducting the 22 singers and 11 instrumentalists, which were 3 cornetti, a
sackbut (would have been better with two more) a dulcian and 6 tenor recorders.
The second thing that marked the day was that we got to do most of the “Earthquake
Mass” by A. Brumel (c1460-c1515) who was the first of the all-French composers of
the Franco-Flemish school. He replaced Obrecht at Ferrara. Why “Earthquake”?
Barbara Moir, one of the altos, found the reason for the name after the event. It is
because Brumel uses the plainchant Antiphon from Lauds for Easter which includes
the bit from St. Matthew's Gospel about the veil of the temple being rent and the
earth quaking. Brumel uses a lot of canonic effects so that the work sound
It is in 12 parts of which 6 tenor parts. For this reading 6 altos valiantly took on three
of the tenor parts, sometimes reading up an octave when it got below the staff. The
other three tenor parts had one on a part, including Margaret Jackson-Roberts holding
down the first tenor part. The three soprano parts were fairly low, too, but they had
two singers on each of them, as did the three bass parts, with two on a part. Two on
a part turned out to work well for blend and balance, even if the altos were out of
their range a lot of the time.
We were to discover an amazing piece of polyphonic writing, in Venetian- Flemish
style with all kinds of effects, including hoqueting in several parts. Carslake started
us on the Gloria and ended working on the Kyrie, which had the most complications
and merited extra work.
We also worked on Josquin’s “Tulerunt Dominum Meum” in 8 parts, with two more low
alto parts. Carslake explained how the same music from this piece later appeared
with the words “Lugebat David” (When David heard) by Gombert. Other versions
kept appearing, including another Gombert version to the incongruous words of “Je
Prends Congié” (I say goodbye). Carslake’s interpretation of the “Tulerunt” words
moved at a really different tempo from the “Lugebat” version I had sung last
Some Carslake quotes : “There was some fantastic goal-saving that time.” And “These
are the sprung bits of the piece”. I heard one alto remark at the break that the initial
warm-up Carslake had us do had induced her to sing some notes more easily than she
would have thought possible. Two of the tenors (I was one) had the same kind of
thing to say about amazing themselves, too.
Our final run-through suffered from some of fatigue the players were experiencing
and some loss of concentration from the singers that had set in. But in several places
I experienced moments of the kind of exhilarating tonality that makes Renaissance
music so worthwhile. Will Carslake is a really good addition to the Forum’s course
leaders – I look forward to more of his courses in the coming season.
Letter from France
Many of you will remember Masaomi Yanagisawa and Catherine Westover who were
TVEMF members before they went to live in France. I hoped to get over to Normandy
to visit them while I was in Jersey last month but due to a combination of gales at sea
and lack of time I didn’t manage it. I almost put this in ‘Opportunities to Make Music’.
You’ll see why at the end. Catherine writes:
Masaomi and I have been in France for almost three years now. It's been quite
a time, especially the first two years when we had huge renovation work going
on. We moved accommodation five times during that period. We then moved
into the barn just over a year ago and we really enjoy living in this small French
community. We've met with some extraordinary kindness and generosity from
local people. They seem to appreciate the fact that we turned a former cow
barn into a traditional home which guards the 'patrimoine'.
Masaomi has worked incredibly hard as a translator and I am so very grateful
to him. As I couldn't work as a teacher here (various reasons) I found work as a
nurse. However, in August, we will return to Tokyo as I've been offered a HOD
(Religious Studies) job at my old international school there. It's an exciting
proposition and move for both of us. I thoroughly enjoyed life in Japan when I
was there previously and it will be good to see old friends and former
colleagues again. Importantly, Masaomi will be able to see his now elderly
parents on a regular basis and they are delighted that we will soon be returning
to Japan. However, we will very much miss our life and home here in
Normandy. We currently have 300m2 of space but in Tokyo we'll downsize to a
50m2 apartment. Also, the population of Quettetot is 727, compared with, I
am told, 32,000,000 in Greater Tokyo - the world's largest city. I told Masaomi
that we'll never be bored! We've had to find a home for our two beautiful dogs,
Midori and Pluto, a labrador and Brittany spaniel, which will be the
truly sad part of the move, but I think we've now found a good home for them
both and they will move there in mid-July.
Even though we play music here, we miss TVEMF.
If you are inspired to take a holiday in their part of the Cotentin Peninsular, 30km
south of Cherbourg, Catherine and Masaomi are running a bed and breakfast in their
newly finished barn conversion, but obviously you will need to go before the end of
July. They are staying in Japan for six or seven years but plan to return to France
each summer. Meanwhile they are hoping to let their barn for 6 to 8 months from
mid-August, perhaps to a retired couple wishing to experience life for a while in a
rural French village. It sounds most appealing, with new kitchen and bathrooms,
underfloor heating and kitchen garden, and as an added attraction they can introduce
you to local musicians (baroque music and string quartets). If you would like to
contact Masaomi and Catherine their email addresses are
masaomi.yanagisawanifty.com and catherine.westoverorange.fr