Tamesis Issue 216 November 2009

Editorial

If you receive Tamesis in time, I would be grateful if people who have booked for the baroque day could confirm their booking by email (with ‘Baroque Day confirmation’ in the subject line) if they haven’t already been in touch with me. Two bookings for the renaissance recorder day got lost in the post, but surprise arrivals on Sunday will be harder to fit in. Nearer the time, if the postal problems haven’t been settled, please do the same for the Christmas event (‘Skidmore confirmation’) but please wait at least until after the baroque day on 8th November. Do post your booking form anyway, as I don’t want to have to collect money on the day. There are already a lot of bookings for the Christmas event, but more would be welcome, particularly men singers, sackbuts, curtals and continuo. Thanks for all the offers of lifts. I’ll put people in touch with each other nearer the date. You’ll see from the front cover that I’ve already booked the venue for Christmas 2011. There is a form for David’s renaissance playing day in February with this issue, and also one for the John Milsom workshop in Oxford in January. Diana Porteus has asked me to say that we shall need a good balance of SATB for that so early booking will be a huge help. Bookings at the last minute will make it hard to get an acceptable balance of voices and the next Tamesis mailing will be so close to the workshop that it may be too late for an update on any remaining places. John will also need to know numbers well in advance so that he can prepare the music. The venue in Headington is easily accessible by car and coach. Please note that the baroque playing day in April has had to be brought forward by one day to the Saturday because the school now hosts a church on Sundays. I went to a most enjoyable medieval workshop in Cambridge last Sunday, organised by EEMF and directed by Jon Banks. Unfortunately it clashed with the TVEMF Alistair Dixon day, but even so at least half the people there were TVEMF members. When I asked about a year ago if people would be interested in a medieval workshop only one person replied so nothing happened, but perhaps we should think again. The Greenwich Early Music Festival and Exhibition takes place from 13th to 15th November and as you know TVEMF is hosting a stand with NEMA. It will be in an excellent position in the Painted Hall and will be a good place to meet your friends. PLEASE VOLUNTEER TO HELP ON THE STAND, even if only for half an hour, just talking to people about the forums and handing out leaflets. While you are there you are welcome to have a few second-hand instruments or pieces of music to sell, though you must bear in mind that that isn’t the primary purpose of the stand and we can’t be responsible for them. Offers of help please to me secretary*tvemf.org as soon as possible, giving a choice of available times.

Victoria Helby



Chairman’s Chat

Responding do my comment last month that Philip Thorby could run a successful workshop on the subject of "Three Blind Mice", Miriam Prescott wrote "Have you encountered Missa L'ami Baudichon, by Josquin? It has a cantus firmus that is, essentially, Three Blind Mice. Alas, even the wisdom, wit and charm of Philip Thorby might fail to keep the altos amused: they have to sing the cantus firmus throughout the entire mass." The other piece that I know of that uses the theme, inadvertently I assume, is Rachmaninov's third piano concerto where it is given a contemplative treatment which brings a smile to my lips.

I'm grateful to Wayne Plummer who has set up a Facebook group for the Thames Valley Early Music Forum. It is open to all and has a number of pictures, a video and other items including some discussion threads. Please do visit it and feel free to add your own material. There is a link from the TVEMF web site home page.

I felt sorry for Alistair Dixon at Saturday's workshop as he was clearly not very well. He struggled through it and finished a bit early but I felt we could have done with some more detailed works on the pieces. This is a view that is echoed by others who were there and I think there is a general issue of how thoroughly we study a piece - see our Facebook group or write to Tamesis if you have a view on this.

Subscriptions will be due on the 1st of January. For some years we have been wondering if our members should be encouraged to switch to using standing orders and now that we have a regular bank account at Lloyds there is no reason why not. In this issue you will find a form which you can send to your bank, or if you have Internet banking you can set up a standing order online. You can of course still pay by cheque if you prefer, and you will also find a form showing what information we currently hold about you, so let me know if it needs to be updated.

The Baroque Day will probably be over (or perhaps in progress) by the time you read this and I look forward it and to the Christmas event with Jeffrey Skidmore, which is sure to be great fun.

David Fletcher



Minutes of the 2008 AGM held on December 7th 2008

1. Apologies for absence These were received from Barbara Moir, Anne Scruby, Neil Edington, Mary Kenchington, Pat Field, Geoff and Jackie Huntingford.

2. Approval of the Minutes of the last meeting Nicola Wilson-Smith asked for her apologies for the 2007 AGM to be added to the minutes, which were then approved (proposed Penny Vinson, seconded Nick Po llock).

3. Chairman's Report Once again, thanks to some joint events, we managed to put on 13 workshops in the year, even if it was partly due to a few shared workshops. The number of members is up to 386, much the same as in the last few years. The breakdown is: 160 recorders, 76 viols, 4 theorbos, 66 other strings, over 50 keyboards, 12 cornetts, 16 sackbuts and over 260 singers. There was some double-counting of singers last year because of people claiming two voices such as alto and tenor but none, as far as I know, offering both at once. There is a trend towards people taking up instruments relatively late in life and for instance we now have 3 beginners on the lute. I notice that people are acquiring sets of Renaissance viols as well as baroque ones, though whether this trend will survive the credit crunch is unclear.

Events in the last 12 months:

Renaissance consort day with David Fletcher
Baroque strings day with Peter Holman
Eton Choir Book at Eton College with Peter Syrus
Shakespeare's Songs with Gerald Place and Dorothy Linell
Baroque chamber music day with Peter Collier (jointly with Oxford Baroque week)
The music of Josquin and Mouton with David Allinson
Large-scale Schütz and Praetorius with Philip Thorby (jointly with EEMF)
A mass in a liturgical setting with Michael Procter
Loud wind with Tim Bailey (jointly with SWEMF)
Baroque music & dance with Julian Perkins & Philippa Waite
The music of Willaert with John Milsom
Venetian Vespers with Jeffrey Skidmore
Baroque chamber music day with Victoria Helby
A German Christmas with Philip Thorby

Now it's time to thank those who contributed to a successful year. Our secretary, Victoria Helby, does a huge amount of work in editing Tamesis and compiling concerts and events lists. On top of that she organises the Baroque Day and the Christmas event, so her stress level must be at its peak about now. She deserves thanks from us all - the Forum wouldn't be nearly as good without her.

Hazel Fenton was Treasurer from 1988 to 2007 and did a wonderful job but fortunately Jim Wills has taken over and done equally well. I gather he is prepared to continue for two more years but will then step down. We also need to find at least one new committee members as Hazel is leaving it but has volunteered to be our auditor. We do most of our business by email and members can do as much as they feel able to do. I'd like to thank Jill Caudle, Neil Edington, Hazel Fenton, Nicola Wilson-Smith and Sarah Young for their input. Of course non-committee members organise events - in particular I'm grateful to Jeff Gill, Simon Hill, John Graham, Mary and Michael Reynor as well as committee members Jill, Neil and Victoria.

Our web site is a useful source of information and much appreciated, we owe a vote of thanks to Linda Hill who designed it and has until recently performs the onerous task of keeping it up to date. I have developed a program to extract the concerts and events list from Tamesis, and you can see the results on the web site now. Please let me know of any problems.

David Fletcher

4. Secretary’s Report The Secretary (Victoria Helby) reported that once again there had been no committee meetings. Members of the committee communicated by email, and people should not be afraid that being on the committee needed to be a big job. She mentioned that she was also events co-ordinator.

5. Treasurer’s Report for 2007 The Treasurer reported that the Forum had broadly achieved the aim of balancing subscriptions, overheads, Tamesis and administration. Events also balanced. In 2007 we had only paid one invoice for printing, whereas sometimes there had been two. The Chairman said that printing costs had gone up but were still competitive. Acceptance of the accounts was proposed by Nick Pollock, seconded by Pat Fryd.

6. Election of Officers and Committee The Chairman (David Fletcher) and Secretary (Victoria Helby) and the remaining members of the committee were re-elected. David Fletcher proposed Hazel Fenton, who had resigned from the committee, as Auditor, seconded by Victoria Helby. Kate Gordon was elected to the committee (proposed by Bill Tuck, seconded by Nicola Wilson-Smith).

7. Any other business There was discussion about the possibility of emailing Tamesis and the problems that this could present if the newsletter and its contents, including people’s personal contact information, could easily be obtained by outsiders.

There was discussion about subscriptions and the possibility of standing orders, Gift Aid and paying for several years at a time. (Standing orders are now possible.)

There was a query about the high cost of the Exhibition. (This turned out to be due to misreading of the accounts.)

Nicola Wilson-Smith asked if the subscription should be raised because of higher postage costs. David Fletcher said that it was not necessary, and Hazel Fenton pointed out that as a charity TVEMF was not meant to make a profit. The Secretary suggested that people who really could not afford them should ask privately for a reduction in the cost of workshops or subscriptions.

A vote of thanks was offered to the chair and the whole committee.



Once more in Ealing…

Four-square and uncompromising, St Andrew’s United Reformed Church stands out as a focal point among the Victorian villas of the respectable city gentlemen of that time, exemplified by Jerome K. Jerome’s comic creation, Uncle Podger, who caught the 9.13 from Ealing Common to Moorgate Street, two hundred and fifty days a year. Uncle Podger, who made his first appearance in 1889, when Three Men in a Boat was published (though his daily routine was not revealed until Three Men on the Bummel appeared in 1900), probably would not have worshipped at St Andrew’s, since it was built during the ministry of the Reverend Joseph Brown Logie, M.A., which extended over the period 1908-37. Inside, the church is well-appointed and spacious, and provided a most acceptable venue for Alistair Dixon’s second TVEMF workshop of 2009, the first having taken place at the Quaker Meeting House only a short distance away. A large and enthusiastic group gathered together on 31st October to perform music for All Saints. Although the text of Gaudeamus Omnes makes its intended use for All Saints perfectly clear, the programme reflected the fact that relatively little music of the period was composed for use on that occasion. By way of illustration, the index to the sixteen Chester Books of Motets, which contain in total 166 compositions, lists only Justorum Animae (Byrd, Lassus), Audivi (Taverner) and O Quam Gloriosum (Vaet) as being for use on All Saints. We began with the relatively undemanding Tu es Petrus (SATB), by Jacobus Clemens non Papa. Prolific though Clemens was (according to the New Grove he composed fifteen masses, two Magnificat cycles and about 233 motets) little of his sacred music appears to have found its way into the current Early Music repertoire. Of his secular music, the same source tells us that love-songs and drinking-songs occupy an important place in his output. Perhaps in these times of almost unrelieved gloom we should devote a little more attention to him. Byrd’s Gaudeamus Omnes (SSATB) came next. This magnificent work was one of the pieces mentioned in the advance leaflet and was particularly demanding for the tenors, being liberally sprinkled with As and including the occasional B flat. We attempted only the first part, which was a pity, since as we finished half an hour earlier than usual, time could perhaps have been found for the verse and the Gloria. Palestrina did, as one sees from Alec Harman’s collection, compose at least one motet (Salvator Mundi) for All Saints, but Alistair’s choice of Palestrina was the dramatic Elegerunt Apostoli, an offertory motet In festo Sancti Stephani protomatyris; Stephen’s martyrdom is dated to ca AD 35. During the morning session there was the usual debate about ficta without which no early music workshop appears to be complete, and one wonders whether Alistair’s references to “diabolic intervals” referred exclusively to the anathematised conjunction of F and B natural or, additionally, to some of the less than harmonious sounds that we occasionally produced. This may have been due to difficulty in the parts hearing each other in the pre-lunch session because we were too dispersed, since in the afternoon, when we moved closer together, the improvement was apparent. The afternoon session began with a matins respond, Tallis’ Audivi vocem (SATB with two plainchant sections), thought by Alistair to be one of his earlier works. The New Grove tells us that Taverner set Audivi and also the other ceremonial matins respond, Hodie nobis caelorum Rex and that these were later set by both Sheppard and Tallis, but as most of Taverner’s choral work is thought to have been composed in the period 1520-30 when - again according to New Grove - “English church music still showed little inclination to depart from its well-established mediaeval practices” (which are quite discernible in the Taverner Audivi) it is entirely possible that Tallis was still quite young when he composed Audivi vocem . We then moved on to Victoria’s Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater (SATB x 2) which is apparently assigned to that part of the year between the Vespers of the first Sunday in Advent and Compline on the 2nd of February. John IV of Portugal (whom members will no doubt recall as the composer of the well-known Crux Fidelis) was an admirer of Victoria’s music, of which he observed that it leant towards the joyful rather than the sad, and certainly that is true of Alma Redemptoris Mater, on which Victoria also based a parody mass. The verses are commonly attributed to one Hermann Contractus (“Hermann the Cripple”), who died in 1054, and it was obviously a popular text, since the “litel clergeon” (schoolboy or choirboy) of the Prioress’ Tale was so enraptured by it that he resolved to learn it off by heart; and when he had done so, “he song it well and boldely Fro word to word acordynge to the note” - a standard which we made a fair attempt to reach. The last item was Byrd’s O Quam Gloriosum (SSATB), which provided a rousing finale before tea, but again, it would have been more satisfactory had we performed the second part. Having been stayed with tea and comforted with cake, we returned for a final sing through, in which we revisited Audivi vocem, Tu es Petrus, Elegerunt Apostoli and Alma Redemptoris Mater. It is your reviewer’s perception (though some may think otherwise) that that was our best singing of the day, and Alistair seemed to be well satisfied with our concluding efforts. As always, we are greatly indebted to him for a varied and interesting programme. We are also very grateful to the minister, the Reverend Dr Tony Haws, for allowing us (as is apparently unusual) to use the church itself, rather than the hall, for the workshop, and it is certainly a venue to which, judging from members’ comments, we would be very happy to return in due course. Warmest thanks are also due to Michael Reynor for organising the event, and Mary Reynor and Jenny Robinson for providing yet another selection of admirable cakes.

Sidney Ross