Tamesis Issue 231 May 2012
I was getting Tamesis ready for printing when the very sad news reached me last
week that Michael Procter had died suddenly at home in Germany, aged 61. By the
time you read this there will have been a service in Germany, and though it is likely
that some sort of musical tribute will take place in this country, it is too soon for any
plans to have been made. A fund is being set up for small donations which will be
dedicated to help provide for the university education of Michael's son Benedict in
about five years time and details will appear on Michael’s website in due course. I
owe such a lot to Michael for all the wonderful music-making he provided and the
enjoyable social life which always seemed to be such a feature of his courses, from
the Benslow baroque operas and the first Venice course to his TVEMF events and the
Proctet. I feel rather at a loss for words, so many thanks to Neil Edington for his
piece about Michael which I am sure speaks for us all. You can add your own tribute
to Michael’s page on Facebook. Sidney Ross’s review of Michae l’s ‘Melancholia in
Music’ was written about a month ago and appears unchanged, and I should stress
that although there is one review this month which should be taken with a pinch of
salt, this is not it.
Thanks to all our contributors for making this such an interesting issue, and to Andrew
Black whose review ‘Inspired by Tallis - a contemporary forty-part motet’ appeared
unattributed in the March Tamesis.
Philip Thorby’s recorder workshop could now be on a Friday. If so, this would be the
first TVEMF event not to take place at the weekend, so please let me know if this
could work for you, or not.
TVEMF has over the years built up a small music library. Is there anyone who has
space to keep it at their house? You would of course be able to make use of it
yourself, and we might occasionally lend items to another forum.
I have just returned from a few days away to hear the shocking news of Michael
Procter's untimely death. Never having been on one of his Venice courses, I was
keenly looking forward to attending this year's one featuring Giovanni Gabrieli, which
it is now hoped will commemorate Michael's life and work as well as that of the
composer. Those of us who attended any of his many excellent workshops, such as
our Christmas event last year or the annual masses at St Augustine's, will miss him
I enjoyed the three TVEMF events that have taken place in the last couple of months.
The Monteverdi Magnificat and other pieces with Julian Perkins seemed to go very well
and we managed to attract the requisite instrumentalists and voices. Instrumental
parts can often be problematical when getting material from the public domain
Internet sites. I had used some technical jiggery-pokery on the original PDFs to move
the note heads half a space up or down so as to convert the sackbut parts from C
clefs to octave treble. To my relief this pretty much worked - I had taken precautions
to avoid moving the rests, which would have converted semibreve rests into minim
ones or vice-versa!
The Dufay mass Ave Regina Celorum is a wonderfully complex piece and I was
impressed that we managed to make a pretty good showing with it, thanks to Eamonn
Dougan's excellent direction. I and a number of other people did find the length of
the warm-up excessive, as we didn't start singing until 11.10 am but I know this view
was not universal, so it would be interesting to hear other opinions. An extra half
hour might have allowed us to tackle the Agnus Dei, the omission of which left a
slightly unfinished feel, but nevertheless it was a good day.
The last of the three events was a Baroque Chamber Music Day run by Victoria Helby
as a replacement for the one we usually have jointly with the Oxford Baroque Week.
Inevitably the attendance was somewhat lower than we normally get at the joint
events but enough for a good variety of sessions, and I had a very enjoyable day.
Victoria was faced with a very late cancellation which necessitated much reworking of
groups in all four sessions, which she completed extremely satisfactorily though it
must have added to the already high stress of organising such an event, for which
Sadly I can't get to the Biber workshop at Waltham Abbey but hope to see some of
you at Gerald Place's "I can't believe it's not Gesualdo" workshop, at which a few
more could be accommodated, especially tenors and viol players. Then I look forward
to the Stoltzer workshop with Peter Syrus as I would like to know more of Stoltzer's
music and Peter's workshops are always a joy.
Michael Procter: in memoriam
Michael collapsed and died on Thursday, 3 May. Virtually all the music for his Venice
Academy was prepared, and he was getting ready to come to Ammerdown Retreat to
lead a group of us in a spread of ‘ Early English Church Music’. The weekend went
ahead, but the shock of Michael’s death still reverberates.
I am not qualified to write an account of Michael’s musical contributions. To say that
he was the first counter tenor at St Paul’s cathedral, that he was Director of Benslow,
that he resurrected and directed the Renaissance Singers, that he created and
directed Early Music Courses throughout Europe, and that Hofkapelle, his all male
ensemble, were his pride and joy, is but to list some of the things that I know about
He chose to dedicate himself to a precarious living by these Early Music courses,
which he did with great creativity, verve, and vivacity: and we have been the
beneficiaries for many years.
Many of us will hear his voice saying (when it was in common time), “look for the
threes”: and when the music went into three, “don’t worry about the time change, the
pulse is the same”: and with increasing emphasis, “text, text,TEXT”. The latter was,
for Michael, not just a piece of technical interpretation, but at the heart of a strong
personal faith. That the music was written to celebrate the liturgy was his inspiration,
and he an excellent exponent of its interpretation. It was no chance event that many
of his courses culminated in a liturgical performance. I was fortunate enough to
celebrate around a decade of visits to Abbaye Mondaye in Normandy, to San Marco in
Venice, to St Augustine’s Church in London and more recently the chapel of Caius and
Gonville College, Cambridge.
His constant production of his own editions of music is its own tribute to his
scholarship, which must have had a peak with the publication of the complete works
of Croce in conjunction with Marty Morell. His own publications constantly reflect his
crusading for original pitch, which so colours the sound of the music.
I have lost a friend who enriched my life with his zest for living, so obviously in music,
but also in the beautiful places where we celebrated the liturgy. Our hearts go out to
Claudia and Beni.
Not the well-known Royal Albert Hall concerts which I haven’t had time to list this
month, but the Production and Reading of Music Resources, a research project for the
study of manuscripts and printed books containing polyphonic music 1480-1530. If
you’re interested, look at their web site http://www.proms.ac.uk/.
Recorder player in the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition
It was great to see a recorder player, 15-year old Charlotte Barbour-Condini from
Stoke Newington, win the wind category final. What a pity that the programme had
so much chat that they had to start her Castello Sonata II half-way through. Don’t
miss her in the semi-finals, and let’s hope she gets through to the concerto final.
Monteverdi “Selva morale e spirituale”
Once again, the Ickenham United Reformed Church proved to be a comfortable,
convenient, and pleasant venue for this workshop. The layout of the building did
present some challenges to the performance of early music requiring large forces, as
became apparent when a row of sopranos were forced to squeeze into the narrow
space behind the orchestra, and the organ had to be located in a different post code
from the rest of the continuo section due to the lack of electric outlets. Nevertheless,
Julian and the participants coped bravely with these minor limitations, and got the
workshop underway in good time. I must admit to some scepticism about the
feasibility of tackling pieces in a large workshop setting that were written for small
groups of virtuoso singers and instrumentalists to perform principally in large spaces,
but my fears proved unfounded, and the workshop must have left all the participants
with a great sense of satisfaction. The pieces covered during the day were Dixit
Dominus primo, Laudate Dominum secondo, and the double-choir Magnificat a 10/14.
We assembled an appropriately Venetian ensemble of organ, cello, violins, sackbuts,
cornetti, recorders, curtal and two “throbbing” (sic) theorbos.
The day illustrated both the value and the limitations of public domain Internet music
publishing. On the one hand, it was very useful to have access to the music
beforehand (particularly for the singers) and David Fletcher had helpfully produced
compact scores for use on the day. On the other hand, having bar numbers in the
orchestral parts but not in the vocal scores was undoubtedly a distraction, and the
lack of figuring in some of the continuo parts required a considerable amount of pre-
A workshop for chorus and instruments directed by Julian Perkins
Julian took us through the characteristic features of the 17 century Venetian style:
messa di voce, trilli, stretto or “narrow” passages, frequent changes of time signature,
and various cadential figures which had helpfully been e-mailed in advance. Not
having to participate myself, I particularly enjoyed the “baboon noises” technique for
working up a really impressive esclamazione – the denizens of Monkey World would
have been envious. Congratulations to David King and the Julian for organising such
an excellent day.
The Third Tutorial
As our chairman so astutely remarked in his last chat, the workshops with John
Milsom become increasingly like an Oxford Tutorial. The first in this series was at
Headington on various composers setting the first phrase of the plainsong requiem as
an introit; one of the composers being Richafort. The second, also at Headington,
looked at the plainsong Alma Redemptoris being translated into polyphony, with
Festa, da Silva, and Victoria being the protagonists. The third occurred on March17 in
Fitzwilliam College Chapel looking at the majority of the Richafort Requiem: and what
a treat that was [as were the others!].
I do wonder if there is going to be a learned tome coming out of all this: ‘ Translations
of plainsong into polyphony; 14th – 16th Centuries: comparisons and considerations’:
presumably required reading for any undergraduate course in early music?
The third tutorial was a particular delight, not least because it was a rainy day and the
modern chapel was a first floor vessel of light with a golden floor and furniture in a
concrete frame, but also because the number of singers magically came out as 21
able singers, with three voices to each of the six parts [so there were 7 sopranos –
but it was a lovely sound] [and perhaps four basses]. I did wonder if the fact that
John had introduced the Richafort in the first tutorial had reduced numbers. If so it
was to underestimate the interest of the full work.
As in the second, much reviewed, tutorial, there were two cantus firmus voices [let us
call them A2 and T1 ] in the middle of the score - and often in canon. As in tutorial 2
they were apparently seated at the ends of the semicircle so that they could be heard
almost antpihonally: but in the Fitzwilliam Chapel we experimented with swapping
these two voices with the A1 and T2 who were sitting in the centre of the semicircle.
John’s opinion was that he preferred this latter arrangement. It certainly did keep the
inner voices on their toes as well as giving them insight into singing the different lines
[sometimes both by the repeat of a section – when you had changed halfway!]. A
small group also paid off here.
Those who remember the Richafort introit from tutorial 1 might remember that it was
notably Josquinesque; which John again illustrated with facsimile reading of a similar
piece by Josquin – with a strange text referring to nymphs and Sylphs. But this is
where the Richafort Requiem then really began to take off – as we moved through
Kyrie to the Gradual and Offertory, where the key changed from one to two sharps;
but the two cantus firmus voices stayed firmly in G major, leading to milkable
juxtapositions of c naturals and sharps: very aptly illustrated by singing a new section
through with just the two cantus firmus voices and then adding extra layers: squidgy!
So you can see that we had a good day under the kind auspices of EEMF and our
organiser Ellen Sarewitz.
[As an addendum, if there were those who thought that the Fitzwilliam College is
rather far out of town for the carless, the no 1 bus from the railway station stops just
before Magdelene bridge. It is then a 10 minute walk up Castleton Rd and Huntingdon
Rd, or you can catch a 5 or 6 bus: and you can usually see a student accessing the
college from Huntingdon Rd.]
Alma redemptoris mater
As the unaccustomed February sunshine beat down on the utilitarian façade of the
A workshop for singers directed by John Milsom
Headington Community Centre, the 47 singers who attended the TVEMF event on 25
February were bathed in illumination of a completely different nature; singing early
music is not primarily (or, perhaps, even at all) about making beautiful sounds, but
about understanding the structure of the work and realising the composer’s
We can always expect John Milsom to take us on a voyage into the unknown -
Richafort, Loyset Compere and Philip van Wilder come to mind from previous
occasions - but this time he provided an intriguing mixture of the familiar viewed in
unfamiliar ways, and the totally unfamiliar. We began with the well-known plainchant
Alma redemptoris mater, but we explored it in small sections which were put into the
context of the polyphony of the setting by Constanzo Festa, the first of the three
motets to be studied.
It is perhaps surprising that a composer so famous in his time as Festa (“musicus
eccelentissimus et cantor egregius” as he was described at his burial), and so prolific
both as a composer of sacred music and a madrigalist, should be so little known, and
to our lack of acquaintance with his music, John added another layer of separation -
the process of “de-familiarisation”. This was achieved by presenting the music on the
page in an unaccustomed format, which involved reading right across a double page,
dispensing to a large extent with the underlay, and arranging the parts in an
unexpected order, so that the two parts making up the canon (A1 and T1) were at the
top of the system, with the others (S1, S2, T2 and B) below. As was also the case on
Michael Procter’s Hassler day last December, it became clear that we are creatures of
habit who expect the highest part to be at the top of the system and are particularly
disconcerted by any part designated 1 lying lower in the voice than the corresponding
Festa served as a focus for the question “For whom was the composer writing ?”. The
answer, emphatically, is not the audience except, perhaps, to the extent that they
wished their patrons to be satisfied with the music which they commissioned; it is
other composers. In music, as in the visual arts, there was the desire to emulate, and
to surpass their peers. Such was the route to recognition and prestigious
appointments - in Festa’s case, the court of Louis XII and the Sistine Chapel.
Commercial considerations were also prominent. In 1536, Festa wrote to his patron,
Filippo Strozzi of the Florentine banking family, addressing him as “Magnificent Sir”
and asking him to have one of his agents find a printer in Venice for his hymns and
Magnificats “and if he wants them, I want not less than 150 scudi, and if he wants the
basse, 200 in all” (Allan W Atlas, Renaissance Music, Norton, 1998, p.466).
There are no such anecdotes about the composer of the second setting which we
studied. Not even the years of the birth and death of Andreas de Silva are known,
and although there are several references to him both in Reese, Music in the
Renaissance (Dent, 1954) and Leeman Perkins, Music in the Age of the Renaissance
(Norton, 1999), these writers do not place him in the front rank-for instance, his first
two appearances in Reese are under the headings “Carpentras and some lesser
figures” and “Corteccia and some lesser madrigalists”. However, it appears that his
compositions were of sufficient interest to be drawn on by Palestrina and by Arcadelt,
and the Te Deum setting which has been found in more sources of the period than any
other is attributed to him (and also to Josquin and Mouton). Indeed, it appears that
he enjoyed a high reputation among his contemporaries, being described in 1567 by
Bartoli as one of the successors of Josquin “who taught the world how music should
be written”. Kirsch, in the New Grove, describes his compositional style as having “a
relatively simple technical structure, a straightforward, strongly expressive melody
which tends towards declamation, an expressive harmonic sense and an overall formal
design which is always clear”. These characteristics were all apparent in the five-part
(SATBarB) setting and it is unsurprising that at the end of the day it topped the poll
for the participants’ favourite piece.
Finally we moved on to more familiar ground with the five-part (SATTB) setting by
Victoria. Here, John drew our attention to a musical jest perpetrated by the
composer. Both the Festa and the de Silva settings are based entirely on the Alma
redemptoris mater chant and the setting of the words sumens illud Ave mirrors that
section of the chant. In the Victoria, however, a setting from Ave maris stella (where
the second verse opens with the line sumens illud Ave) is introduced, this being
indicated by the insertion of the relevant section of both chants at the start of the
corresponding text. After the florid, decorative five bars of sumens illud Ave based on
Ave maris stella, the setting returns quietly and almost apologetically to peccatorum
miserere as if, so John put it, Victoria was asking pardon for having strayed.
Having done some detailed work on all three pieces and absorbed a variety of
fascinating insights, we broke for tea (refreshed once again by Mary Reynor’s
exceedingly good cakes, beside which Mr Kipling’s productions pale into insignificance)
and sang through all three pieces. John was generous in his praise for our efforts and
we, I am sure, felt privileged to act once again as a medium for his exploration into
some previously uncharted territory. Warmest thanks are due not only to him but to
Diana Porteous and Nicola Wilson-Smith for their contributions towards another
successful day in Headington.
Dufay Missa Ave Regina Caelorum
It seems safe to say that virtually all attending Eamonn Dougan’s Dufay workshop on
21 April at St Andrew’s in Ealing came away satisfied by the experience. On the
programme were Dufay’s late (probably 1472) Missa Ave Regina Caelorum (or
‘Celorum’, in the sometimes eccentric-looking original spelling used in the John Milne
edition), and the motet of c.1464-5 upon which the mass is based, setting the
antiphon of the same name, but with the addition of the personal pleas ‘Miserere tui
labentis Dufay’ and ‘Miserere supplicanti Dufay...sitque in conspectu tuo mors ejus
speciosa’. (As Eamonn pointed out, Dufay asked in his will that this motet be sung at
his deathbed, but there is, sadly, no evidence that this was actually done.)
Both motet and mass are in four parts, but originally, of course, the voices would not
have been divided into our modern SATB. Michael Procter, co-editor of the
Beauchamp Press, publishers of the edition we were using, points out that this is one
of the few pieces of the period that ‘works’ with a mixed choir, and in fact the soprano
line was relatively low as was the alto (really a tenor part, in treble clef an octave
down), with tenor line high – not a serious problem since three of the nine tenors
Eamonn’s approach - musical rather than musicological - was that of the singer-
musician he is, and he led us through a long sequence of exercises in which, among
other things such as brain-twisting finger exercises, we tried, in search of blend, to
produce different vowel sounds while maintaining the same amount of space within
the mouth as the vowel changed - raised upper palate and active tongue being vital
for this - and producing consonants without distorting the vowels. He also had us sing
- or rather try to sing - through the fricative ‘V’, a difficult enterprise whose purpose
I’ve forgotten but almost certainly failed to achieve. A couple of his phrases come to
mind: ‘Basses, imagine that someone is behind you with a feather duster to shape
your entry’, and ‘Keep the breath buoyant!’
With all that preparation, our voices were pretty much in shape when we came to
actually singing the mass. There are rhythmic complexities, and we were encouraged
to escape the ‘tyranny of the bar line’ and use our heads to shape the phrasing,
always an enjoyable challenge. (It would be nice if more modern editions of music of
this period were to place bar lines between staves rather than on them!) Where triple
rhythms appeared, sometimes at the same time as duple ones in other parts, Eamonn
managed, I know not how, to keep us together.
It wasn’t until after lunch that we got to the motet, having sung much but not all of
the mass in the morning. Here we came upon Dufay’s pleas for mercy, which add
emotional depth to what is already a moving prayer to Mary mother of Jesus, beloved
by all Christendom in those days.
Since time was limited, we didn’t worry about ficta but followed what was in the text;
similarly, there was no fiddling with underlay. We sang Italian Latin, which also saved
time - I noted that in my part, which I had sung under Michael Procter in Westphalia
some years ago, I had pencilled in umlauts over u’s and deleted final s’s: it was
helpful this time not to have to be too nice about authenticity!
Attendance had been limited to fifty singers, so some sopranos and even basses had
to be on the waiting list and consequently missed out. Over thirty singers had ordered
copies of the music in advance and some had heard a YouTube version, a sign that
there was a good level of preparation. In the event, a good balance was achieved
and, gratifyingly, Eamonn expressed satisfaction with our efforts, and noted our
success in remaining on pitch. Hugh Rosenbaum (the day’s organiser) noted that one
really good piano moment came in the motet, after ‘miserere supplicanti Dufay’.
Mention MUST be made of Mary Reynor’s wonderful cakes in the afternoon tea break:
always a most welcome feature at these workshops! My only complaint is that I was
tempted to eat more than one, which wasn’t very beneficial to vocal production...
One TVEMF day really isn’t enough, for music of this stature and complexity - and yet,
one singer, when applying, had expressed anxiety that there wouldn’t be enough
music to fill a whole day! As it was, we had to omit much of the mass, which means
that there will have to be another Dufay day some time. As one singer said, ‘Let’s do
A workshop for singers directed by Eamonn Dougan
Thanks very much to Hugh for an immaculately organised day, and to everyone who
helped, particularly Rowena, Nicola and David F.
Silence is Golden - a study of the use of the rest in early music
1st April 2012
This event was sparsely attended, mainly because of difficulties in locating the
monastery and in reaching it by public transport. Indeed one participant only made it
to the afternoon session after being rescued from the marsh at lunchtime. Our tutor
was very knowledgeable and spoke at length, but fortunately his discourse was
enlivened by occasional flashes of silence. There were the usual tuning problems with
the strings, and the shawm players seemed to find the state of their reeds endlessly
fascinating but the event did finally get under way with an impressively silent opening
bar. I thought the standard of performance was remarkable, though one or two
players did go over the top when it came to divisions, causing them to lose their place
and finish behind everyone else. Some singers seemed unable to add their
accustomed vibrato, but a good blend was achieved as a result. The inordinate
number of broken strings and damaged reeds proved less of a problem than it would
have been at other events.
I am grateful to Antony Dalton for pointing out that one of the pieces studied, Marche
Funèbre Composée pour les Funérailles d'un Grand Homme Sourd, is uploaded on
YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCOMrTyorkc (though he complains about
the intonation) but unfortunately the participants did not have this link soon enough
for practice purposes. Finally, I feel that the application form should have encouraged
the attendance of players who could keep time but were not very proficient on their
A review was to have been written by Anne Scruby but unfortunately she lost her
voice and was unable to attend. By the way, Anne, blank cheques are very
acceptable as payment for events, but you do have to sign them.
For those who missed the original form for this event, it is still available at
The First Queen Elizabeth and England's Golden Age
It's not easy to get to Challock by public transport so I missed the calificarium (warm-
up) with David's multilingual exercise: unus, duo, unus - unus, duo, tres, duo, unus -
unus, duo, tres (aut hoquetus aut percussio manuum), tres, duo, unus... (Lingua
latina est, jacobe, sed non ita ut nos eam cognoscimus). After the Romish Latin
claptrap (or hand-clap) we sang Byrd's O Lord Make Thy Servant Elizabeth, adapted
from Psalm 21. As a listener I found the five-part texture in English more difficult than
a larger work with (predictable) Latin text.
David marvelled at our concentration as he rehearsed separate parts. The Thames
Valley tradition is to talk quietly through empty bars and SEMF members are by and
large muggles who can't use computers, but Bristol University choir tweet, text and
constantly update their Facebook status during rehearsals.
The idea of synaesthesia is familiar from Skrjabjn. But is it real? Indeed, are feelings
real? - I "taste" sweet sherry when I listen to Kiri te Kanawa, but do other people
have the same experience? With Erich Kunz I taste honey, but with Leo Brouwer and
Kazimierz Serocki it's sweet and sour Chinese - are such perceptions consistent across
the board? (While on the theme of Gesamtkunstwerk... I fit the peg in my ear when I
tune my cello - it gives me Good Vibrations and no side-tone.) For David, a key
signature of four flats makes the piece "feel like velvet" - think of the biblical Jacob's
misuse of velvet - or was it suede - ("for my brother Esau is an hairy man but I am a
smooth man") and aim for Anglican suavity in performance. The crunchy false-
relations towards the end are "the vinegar on the chips" - the only culinary metaphor
The next piece, Tallis' Candidi Facta Sunt is in Latin. (Provided there was no element
of Mariolatry, the use of Latin was permitted in various centres.) In the original
alternatim sequence, the soloist sang the chant and the choir the responses.
Dunstable was the first to "push up" the chant, then in Tallis' Dum Transisset
Sabbatum, the chant moves like an exoskeleton to different voices and a more
interesting type of polyphony emerges.
The Tallis-Byrd Cantiones of 1755 are a thank-you to Elizabeth for the grant of a
Patent to print music (23 pieces from each composer, one for each year of her reign).
Their master-apprentice friendship led to Byrd quoting Tallis e.g. in the Sanctus of the
Mass for 4 Voices and in other places. The business venture was not successful, as the
following from Tallis' autobiography Mille Regretz reveals:
A choral day in Challock with David Allinson, 19th Feb 2012
Tom (in doleful dumpes): Monopolie? I should have stucke to Trivyall Pursuite!
When one participant asked of those square phrase marks "what are the brackets
for?", David replied "I asked them in the shop but they weren't sure." Doubtless
Baden-Powell explains the Use of Ligatures in his Scouting for Boys.
Now two performance tips: In sight-singing, think about the harmonic movement -
does it lead to a plagal cadence for example. (Personally I always ask "What would
André Rieu do in these circumstances?") Also, it's not a luxury to know the meaning of
The three-word title of Tallis's Honor, Virtus et Potestas suggests its use for Trinity
Sunday. The overall structure is broadly canonic. The glorious music matched the
sunny weather and inspired some piscine imagery - sopranos smoothly rippling at the
surface, minnows flashing in the shallows - it would have taken Izaak Walton and
several members of the Bernouli dynasty to capture the swishing interplay of the
various layers of polyphony. Is it too facile to suggest that the top three voices
represent the Trinity? For David, the tenors are like the stem of a stout Forsythia, the
other voice being adornments. For the final sing-through we were spatially relocated.
With the tenors centre-stage (centre of the universe) while the basses
metamorphosed into flying buttresses.
This Sweet and Merry Month of May needs little comment. Try singing bars 29ff
wordlessly as a bucolic landler. More agrarian metaphors - "these lines wiggle like
worms on the page". Bar 24 has 6 beats, though this is not indicated in the time
signature - one feels the music through the feet rather than by counting, and I found
myself humming Harvest Home even this early in spring. The lightweight character in
this piece is more Nursey in Blackadder than Elizabeth as a second Helen of Troy,
though Elizabeth was not one to reject flattery by all accounts.
Byrd's Dileges Dominum is a canon for eight voices. The title is two-pronged. Canon
(strict rule) can also be God's law. Only 4 voices are given in the printed version,
voices 5-8 being filled out by the reader. This is considerably easier than Flemish
killer-sudoku puzzle-canons, but the text is printed in retrograde as overlay.
("Backwards ran sentences till reeled the mind" - Tudor Times.) We experimented in
performance by having Choir I sing mf with Choir II mp, and also by singing in an
outward-facing circle formation, demonstrating our absolute trust in the conductor:
semper fi strictum cum tactu. Note when singing an edition in C, make the B's as
bright as possible - think André Rieu squeezing a leading-note in the Café Sperl.
Another tip - given a series of long notes try singing first while reduplicating the vowel
within each syllable (echoes of hoquetus!) then the second time don't reduplicate but
sing the vowels smoothly - bizarre but it works.
It was great fun to Sing Joyfully (Psalm 81). "Sound the trumpet in the new moon"
could be (maybe is?) a West-Gallery tune. A final performance tip: a stop-consonant
is literally unsingable, so instead of trum-pet try trum'et, with a kartvelian exolallic.
With only one food-related metaphor (one and a half if you count the vanilla pod
flavouring of "splendorem in candidi"), no cream was poured, no honey drizzled, no
sugar sprinkled, no chocolate added, showing that musical metaphors - which
certainly enhance my understanding - can be expressed through alternative
Wm: I thought you said the Queene had given us a licence to printe money.
Tom: I said To printe musick, Byrd-brayne.
Wm: How do we make £1 million then in (earlye) musicke publishing?
Tom (lachrimose): Start with £2 million!
Editor’s note. For those who haven’t seen him, David has been on a very successful
diet. He probably doesn’t like to mention food these days!
Melancholia in Music by Michael Procter
Michael Procter is, of course, a familiar figure to members in his roles as editor and
musical director, but his long-standing interest in the life and works of Sherlock
Homes may be less widely known. However, it will come as no surprise to those
aware of that interest to learn that he has applied his varied talents in exploring the
tantalising references in “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” to the
monograph on which Holmes was engaged when he was commissioned to investigate
the mysterious disappearance of some of the most vital documents comprised in those
plans. Of this monograph on the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus, to which he returned at
the successful conclusion of his investigation, Watson recorded that it “was said by
experts to be the last word on the subject”.
In the usual musicological tradition, Michael begins his work with a brisk and barbed
exposure of the errors into which both Watson and his own precursors in the field of
Holmesian musicology have fallen. He points to the confusion engendered by “strange
and fanciful” definitions of the term motet and expresses the view that, strictly
speaking, the term should be confined to the Propers in psalm + antiphon form which
are sung at points in the service at which movement takes place. He observes that
the monograph could never have encompassed the hundreds of polyphonic motets
attributed to Lassus and announces his discovery that it is in fact dedicated to a
specific set of posthumous motets which were first published as numbers 404-416 in
the Magnum Opus Musicum of 1604 (MOM), ten years after Lassus’ death.
The second section of Michael’s book briefly describes the origins of the Bayerische
Staatsbibliothek, his examination of the six volumes of MOM, his discovery of a small
number of sheets of paper inside one of the volumes which had caused it to fall open
at just the point where he wished to examine it, and the process by which he
concluded that those faded pencil jottings in some form of shorthand represented at
least an early draft of the missing monograph. The section ends with an intriguing
speculation that the monograph may have been composed in the aftermath of his
successful escape from the clutches of Moriarty when they dramatically met at the
Reichenbach Falls, but your reviewer is inclined to think it unfounded. When Holmes
returned to London and revealed to Watson, in the narrative entitled The Empty
House, how he had spent the intervening time, he mentioned his sojourn in Tibet, his
adventures as the Norwegian, Sigerson, his visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum and his
researches into the coal-tar derivatives at the laboratory in Montpelier. Would not the
remarkable discovery in Munich have been mentioned, had it taken place during that
We then come to the core of the book, which is the reconstruction of the lost
monograph, with Michael’s annotations. It is difficult to decide, after studying this
section, who is the most polymathic; Michael, Holmes or Lassus himself. Holmes pays
generous tribute to the quality and variety of Lassus’ achievements, while Michael
displays his intimate knowledge of the Holmesian Canon as well as his profound
musical scholarship. In his analysis of the thirteen motets which make up the cycle,
Holmes pays particular attention to the fitting of the music to the text, a factor which
Michael, in his role as musical director, regularly emphasises. But as well as the
musical analysis (which also includes comment on modal organisation and harmonic
structure), Holmes relates the texts which Lassus selected for the cycle to features of
his family relationships and personal disposition. It is this that forms the connection
with the two essays by Michael which follow.
“Great men”, Holmes begins, “are always of a nature originally melancholy”.
Michael’s first annotation to the monograph corrects Holmes’ misattribution of this
aphorism to Aristotle. In the first essay he demonstrates, both from the Canon and
secondary sources, Holmes’ own susceptibility to bouts of black depression. In the
second, he expands on the reference in the New Grove (1980) to Lassus’ suffering, in
his later years, from “hypochondria melancholica, for which he sought the help of a
physician”, and presents the facts underlying that statement, which refers to an
episode which occurred in 1590-91. Holmes, as Michael points out, would have had
access only to the inaccurate versions of those facts which became current during the
mid-19 century and which completely ignored the many works which Lassus was still
to compose. Of one of these, the Lagrime di San Pietro, Holmes, in a judgement
frequently adopted by later commentators, said that it would surely become known as
one of the greatest artistic creations of its time.
In summary, this long-lost monograph, with its scholarly annotations and
accompanying essays, will be a welcome addition to the libraries of musical scholars
and Sherlockians alike. It is at present obtainable from the author direct as a
printable PDF (€3.00) and as a booklet (€8.50 plus postage), and from www.lulu.com,
and will shortly be available from Amazon and other outlets.
Opportunities to Make Music
There is still room for singers on the Lacock course in Venice with Eamonn Dougan
which runs from 8th to 14th October this year. The web site www.lacock.org hasn’t
been updated with the list of music to be studied but from what Eamonn was saying
at his recent TVEMF workshop I believe it will be an interesting mixture of early music
with a little bit of more modern music for contrast. His workshop in Monteconero last
year felt as if it was doing wonders for my voice and was really enjoyable, so I can
thoroughly recommend it.
News from Morley College. William Summers, who teaches recorder there, is
intending to set up classes for crumhorn players. If anyone is interested they should
contact William by e-mail williamsummersuwclub.net or by telephone (mobile 07949
The Morley College summer school includes what they call an Advanced Recorder
Consort (approx. grades 5/6) to be held from Monday 16 July to Thursday 19 July in
the evenings from 6.30 to 9.30 pm. For further information see the college's website
www.morleycollege.ac.uk or phone 020 7450 1889.
I recently went to an excellent SEMF workshop in Eastbourne on the Florentine
Intermedii, directed by Philip Thorby. They have another attractive offering on
Saturday 23rd June at Clapham and Patching Village Hall, in the countryside just
north of Worthing, on the A280. The Golden Age of Polish Music is for voices and
instruments and is directed by Graham O’Reilly. Mikolaj Zielenski, Bartolomiej and
Pekiel Stanislaw Szarzynski are not the most familiar names but Pat Stewart says the
music is quite wonderful – think Gabrieli with a touch of Monteverdi! Applications are
welcome from singers, and from instrumentalists, particularly strings (violin & viol
families) cornetts, sackbuts and curtals, plus continuo (ideally keyboard & theorbo).
Flutes, recorders etc are also welcome.
Mike Parker writes on the TVEMF Facebook page that the flautist with The League of
Harmony is taking a bit of a sabbatical. He and cellist Rosemary Edwards will
continue to play and are currently looking for a violinist who wouldn't mind rehearsing
near Croydon. He has a c. 1730, wedged fingerboard, and a 1790s transitional, so
instruments are available if needed. Their aim: late 18th C chamber music - trio for
now, up to 4tet when flautist comes back.
Pipe Organ. Compass: F - a2, with no bottom F# or G#. At A=415. 8', 4'
and 2' stops. Designed to stand on a table. A stand is available. Located in Bristol.
£800 or nearest offer, buyer to arrange collection.
Photos and more information: www.griffel.myzen.co.uk
Tel. 0117 942 9502 or email david.griffelgmail.com
There is no space this month for the Regular Events Guide which is unchanged from
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.
Please call Katharine May (GRSM Hons, ARCM) on 01628 783272 or email
To book tickets please call the booking line on 020 7399 1953.
May events appeared in the March Tamesis.
Thursday 7 June, 6.30-7.30pm. French Music for the Harpsichord. Nathaniel Mander.
Tuesday 12 June, 6.30-7.30pm. British Harpsichord Society Recital: Cosimo Prontera
Keyboard composers from the Neapolitan Royal Chapel, including Giovanni Salvatore, Gaetano
Greco, Bernardo Storace, Alessandro & Domenico Scarlatti, Leonardo Leo, Niccolò Piccinni.
Thursday 14 June, 6.30-7.30pm. English Recorder Music Through the Ages
Greensleeves, Handel, the neo-Baroque sonata by Herbert Murrill, the Gordon Jacob Variations
etc. James Risdon (recorder) and Trevor Hughes (harpsichord).
Thursday 21 June, 6.30-7.30pm. Brazilian Music. Ricardo Barros (harpsichord).
Sunday 24 June. Walking Tour: Handel’s Theatres, 11am-12.30pm (Martin Wyatt)
Concert: Acis and Galatea, 3-4pm. Bridget Cunningham (harpsichord) and Handel House
Thursday 28 June, 6.30-7.30pm. ‘Play from the Soul’ – Heeding the Composer’s Advice. The
quotation is from CPE Bach’s Essay on the True Art of Performing on Keyboard Instruments
(1752). This programme will focus on Bach’s works, his contemporary Jacques Duphly and
Handel. Preethi de Silva (harpsichord).