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August 2004

I've just come back from the Oxford baroque week, possibly the only summer school with an emphasis on playing the repertoire. The first day is organised like one of my own TVEMF baroque days, but after that you have the use of Peter Collier's enormous library of music and the freedom to choose your own music and the people you play with and the option of inviting a tutor in to help for part of the session. It is a tremendously rewarding experience, sustained by the wonderful food produced by the Headington School cooks. I managed to get into Oxford a couple of times and picked up a lot of concert leaflets, so there are more concerts in the Oxford area in the listings than usual. I would appreciate being sent more information about concerts in Oxfordshire & Berkshire so that the list can always be more comprehensive.

I also went to the Beauchamp week where all the music was new to me (see David's comment below). Because it involves camping (optional) this course always seems more like a holiday with glorious music than a summer school.

There is a form in this mailing for the Rosenmüller Vespers workshop in Chesham in October. We shall be back at our usual venue, the Whitehill Centre, so book early as it will be necessary to restrict numbers to cope with the size of the room and to ensure a good balance. I have discovered an excellent new hall, also in Chesham, but unfortunately it is not available on Sundays. We hope to try it out soon.

Chris Thorn, who used to be Chairman and later Tamesis editor, is putting on a day of crumhorn playing at his house in High Wycombe on Sunday 19th September. Details are to be found in the section Opportunities to Make Music just before the listings.

Very many thanks to all of you who have produced contributions for this issue. It really makes the effort of producing Tamesis seem worthwhile to have such an excellent set of articles to put in. Let's hope more of you will be inspired to write something for next month.

Last year's accounts are included as a separate sheet. Don't throw them away as you may want to bring them to the AGM which will be at 5pm at the Whitehill Centre, Chesham (at the end of first day of the Thorby weekend).
Victoria Helby

Chairman's Chat
I expect a number of you have been to summer schools, so please think about writing a review when you read this. I went to the Beauchamp course where we revisited Giovanni Gabrieli and, though some new pieces surfaced, I had a certain déja vu sensation. The vocal works by Willaert and Andrea Gabrieli added variety and of course it was good to meet old friends again. The tutors, Alan Lumsden, Philip Thorby and Clifford Bartlett, were in good form and the food was delicious and over-plentiful as usual.

I am not much inclined to go to concerts, preferring to play or sing rather than listen but I was tempted by a couple of recent ones. The Renaissance Singers did their second tour of City churches, and having enjoyed the first I was happy to join them again. The format is that the choir performs some music in each of four churches in the City of London and there is a talk about the architecture and history of each church. This year the main musical fare was the John Taverner mass Gloria Tibia Trinitas from Benedictus of which the famous In Nomine theme derives. We heard a movement in each church together with two of the Tallis pieces from Archbishop Parker's psalter and what for me was rather too much plainsong. I know we ought to listen to chant as it is the basis of so much renaissance church music but it doesn't have the same intellectual interest of polyphony. To hear Dixit Dominus or Beatus Vir in plainsong when there are such wonderful polyphonic versions was a bit like looking at a black and white photocopy of a favourite painting. Perhaps others will disagree with this view? Anyway I did enjoy the event and could probably be induced to go to a third if there were one.

The other concert was one of the splendid series of "Music by Candlelight" given by Charivari Agréable in Oxford. The music was billed as "An intimate and evocative glimpse of Elizabethan and Jacobean musical life, to complement the atmospheric setting of Exeter College Chapel. Bells and knells, dumps and dances, extrovert masque tunes and haunting ballads". The composers were Allison, Byrd, Hume, & Johnson and it did not disappoint. I would also have gone to the concert featuring Jamie Savan on cornett but after 19 cancelled flights I finally got the balloon flight I had been given as a birthday present two years ago!

I'm sorry that the leaflet for David Allinson's workshop in the Dutch Church was a little vague - we will concentrate on music by Morales, mainly his six-part Missa Mille Regretz based on the well-known chanson by Josquin. There are still some places available, mainly for lower voices but don't delay
David Fletcher

Charpentier Messe à quatre chœurs:
a workshop for voices and instruments with Jeffrey Skidmore

Around thirty singers and twenty instrumentalists arrive at the Whitehill Centre in Chesham on Sunday 4 July to be introduced to this opulent work by Jeffrey Skidmore. His group Ex Cathedra has recently released a CD of the piece, which not surprisingly was on sale during the day. Jeffrey was able to bring a considerable understanding of the work - and an appreciation of issues of performance - as well as excellent Ex Cathedra scores.

The CD notes (yes, we bought one!) point to Marc-Antoine Charpentier's relative obscurity after his death in 1704, largely it appears because he was a relative outsider to the inner circles of French musical life centred around the court of Louis XIV. He had spent time in Rome during his twenties between 1665/6 and 1669, studied under Carissimi and made a copy of his Jephte. The suggestion is that the Italian polychoral tradition rubbed off on Charpentier, helping him to produce several works for two choirs as well as his mass for four choirs and a Salve Regina for three choirs, also on the CD!

Jeffrey's recording of the mass with Ex Cathedra intersperses the setting with two plainchant hymns, and we studied one of these, Ave maris stella, by way of stylistic introduction. The setting was by Guillaume Gabriel Nevers (c1632-1714) and Jeffrey began the task of replacing the singers' "standard Italianate" Latin with what he understands to be the pronunciation of the time.

From the beginning of the mass, it was clear that Charpentier revelled in the opportunities presented by four choirs. We were arranged as he had himself sketched out, with Choir 3 to Jeffrey's left, Choirs 1 and 2 in turn in the middle, and Choir 4 on the right. Indeed, Choirs 1 and 2 appeared to have more significant roles than the others, being the first choice for two choir sections or for sections requiring soloists. Charpentier however used the choirs in pairs, antiphonally or otherwise, or rolling in one after the other, or throwing musical ideas or single words like "pax" across the space at each other. There were powerful sections, others more sublime, and some fascinating false relations where sections of the forces were approaching cadences from different directions.

Jeffrey explained that each choir may have had its own continuo group. He was impressed by our thicket of three theorbos (Peter Cains, Michael Lowe and Daphne Briggs) while Michael Sharman coped manfully as the only keyboard player. As well as the plainsong hymns, the Ex Cathedra CD also has short improvised organ interludes between the mass movements, and Michael was probably very relieved that these were not on the agenda for our workshop.

We were asked to make the most of every syllable, and not to be afraid of stresses on the final syllables of words, which he illustrated with much amusing Gallic gesticulation comme ça. Dance rhythms pervade this music, he explained, with the first beat in the bar usually the strongest. These come together for example, in the word "con-fi-te-or". As we got into the mass we were introduced to more pronunciation issues: as well as importing the French "u" into words like "hominibus", we had to remember that "um" and "un" were to be nasalised and the "u" turned to an "o" that "mundi" became more like "mondi". Jeffrey also allowed us two kinds of ornament, both types of tremblement, the first decorating the descent to the third on a final note, and the second (identified by a "dot squiggle" in the scores) colouring a longer note in mid phrase. Given the four-way split of all of our forces, and the problems that this introduced for many participants looking at such a work for the first time, I think that Jeffrey judged the introduction of these sophistications very well.

As well as using the various choirs to great effect, Charpentier set two short sections for the same voice in all four choirs. The first of these was for the sopranos from the four choirs, posing as a choir of angels at the beginning of the Gloria after a very short but bouncy introduction from the continuo ("Great sound, pluckers! Let's do the first bar and a half again!"). In the Gloria too we came across white notation, and discussed matters such as inégal, where Jeffrey's approach was sure-footed and practical, depending on speed and time signature to assess the relative importance of the notes to be "swung".

Composers of the renaissance and baroque periods generally find some of their most glowing music for the Sanctus section, and Charpentier's Mass for four choirs is no exception. As with the rest of the mass, however, there was a terse use of material and very little lingering or wallowing. Very quickly we were through a short solo trio section for the Benedictus and on to the shortest, bounciest Agnus Dei that I have come across. Indeed it is so short that the Ex Cathedra CD plays it three times, a central vocal version framed by instrumental sections with free rein for improvisation. The opening bars could be sung with their own timing and stresses - doing this they are in three! - but Jeffrey wanted us to perform them as syncopations on the pervading pulse. The work ends with a strongly affirmative "Domine salvum".

We then looked briefly at some sections of the Credo as time allowed. There is a marvellous "Et ascendit" like a giant Gradus ad Parnassum, and then the second short section for four equal voices, this time a sonorous setting of "confiteor" for the four bass lines. This leads quickly to a brilliant ending, including a dramatic pause after "Et expecto" and a whirlwind rush to the amens at the end.

We were all grateful to Jeffrey for introducing us to this very fine work, and bringing his practical skills as small groups of players and singers had their Latin preconceptions turned upside down. Thanks also to Jill Caudle who organised the day and who had clearly given some thought to the make up of the four choirs and instrumentalists.
Geoff Huntingford

Saturday 10 July 2004
St Faith and St Laurence Church, Harborne, Birmingham
Dettingen Te Deum by George Frideric Handel
A workshop for singers and baroque orchestra [A = 415]

Tutor: Nicholas McGegan
I had a lovely day up in Birmingham with MEMF, a bit closer to my northern roots than Maidenhead. I went because I like the piece, loud, noisy and cheerful. Composed to celebrate `a perhaps slightly accidental victory in 1743 of the British and allies over the French and Bavarians, during the Austrian war of succession.`

I went because Nicholas McGegan.was the Tutor and he did not disappoint. Like all the good tutors he was able to draw the best from a mixed group of instrumentalists and singers without ever being unpleasant. He mostly did it by drawing pictures for us.

A few examples:
To persuade the orchestra to listen and to accompany a soloist, he described the process as `walking arm in arm with the singer, rather than dragging him along.`

In a long passage of `ha-ha-ha-ha-ha` etc for the singers, he suggested that thinking about being tickled by someone you like would do the trick!

He congratulated the sopranos - `Stellar sopranos - you've earned your wings! `

On being asked if a particular interpretation was appropriate, he simply said: `Handel dead! ` which we all enjoyed.

Orchestra and choir were separated during the morning so that we could both have the benefit of Nick's skills. While he was with the choir, Miranda Walton, a freelance violinist/
professional, led the orchestra through their paces She was excellent with the orchestra, helping us with the appropriate technique to produce a particular sound.

Congratulations MEMF on a good day.
Norma Herdson

I Fagiolini: 'The Full Monteverdi'
at St Dunstan's Church, Monks Risborough, 11 July 2004

Jackie and I could scarcely believe that I Fagiolini were to do a concert only a short saunter from our home, so we sought tickets as soon as the posters went up. That Monks Risborough figured at all in the group's European tour is presumably down to the fact that their director, Robert Hollingworth, is a local, as is (we were led to believe) Anna Crookes, one of their sopranos.

You may have heard the item on Radio 4's "Front Row" in which Robert Hollingworth talked about the concept of The Full Monteverdi. I only caught the last half or so, but I had some idea what to expect. It was no surprise to me to arrive at the church to find the eastern two-thirds of the nave cleared of pews and laid out with tables with red and white check tablecloths, cutlery and small pots of flowers. All the tables were taken when we arrived, either with people, or "bagged" by belongings or by prayer books or with bottles of water. What concert-goer brings water with them, or wastes time going back to the porch for a prayer book to bag a place? Gradually all the tables and most of the available pews filled up, glasses of wine and nibbles (included in the ticket price) were passed around, the expectation increased, and suddenly two soprano voices could be heard Ah dolente partita and we were away.

The concept was dreamt up by John La Bouchardiere, an opera director with experience from ENO, Opera North and Scottish Opera among many others. Monteverdi's Fourth Book of Madrigals ("the greatest book of music for vocal ensemble ever written" according to the programme notes) are performed by singers in a setting, in this case dining à deux with a partner at the same tables as many of the audience. As it is implausible for both partners to have exactly the same emotions at the same time, the idea could not be achieved by singers alone. Each of the six performers is therefore escorted by an actor/actress. The pairs of lovers lean across the table, they get to their feet, they embrace, or they storm out or sit sulkily when not required in the five part writing. Chatting to the performers afterwards, it was clear that each pair had worked out for themselves a certain amount of "business" though the general choreography was clearly worked out and kept up the strong visual interest at all times.

The ensemble was astonishing, with the singers spread round the church and out of eye contact with each other. Even so, the singers were glad to be in such a small setting: their concert the week before in Spain had been in a space twice the size. As well as the ensemble, the voices themselves were beautifully resonant and the acting excellent. There was a huge vocal and emotional range on display from the singers, ably supported by the actors who had no lines, only expression and movement.

This is the bare bones of an amazing hour in a familiar space made unfamiliar by tablecloths and by intense, nerve end music with dissonance and sonority. And amazing that it was happening in a little church just down the road.
Geoff Huntingford

Musical Chairs at the Foundling Museum
Handel as philanthropist

Some years ago I visited the Foundling Hospital Museum on the edge of what remains of Brunswick Square, and while it was interesting, it was also depressing, in that it was in a pretty shabby state, and the staff were talking about having to close the place and sell off the collections - at that stage it was only visitable by appointment and in groups, as they could not afford warding staff, and the entry fee for only one or two people did not add up to the staff time spent in taking them round. I was delighted to hear some time ago that benefactors had stepped in and rescued it, and I was lucky enough to be invited to the private view which preceded the official opening a couple of weeks ago.

What a transformation! The ground floor has been considerably re-modelled, and houses some very well-presented displays about the work of the Hospital, which was founded in the 18th century by Thomas Coram, a sea-captain, who was appalled by the homeless and starving children wandering the streets of London. He campaigned to set up what would I suppose now be called an orphanage (or has that term become politically incorrect?), and in 1739 a Royal Charter was granted for the setting up of what was to become the Foundling Hospital. In this he was ably assisted by the painter William Hogarth, who donated some of his own paintings to adorn the new building and persuaded contemporary artists to do likewise, thus creating Britain's first art gallery, to which the great and the good came flocking, and made donations towards the running of the institution.

Some of these paintings are on show on the ground floor and on the staircase, but the bulk of them are in the splendidly-restored rooms on the first floor, one of which has a magnificent moulded plaster ceiling, and carving and plasterwork on the walls which incorporates paintings by such artists as the young Gainsborough - the room, which was donated by its creator, was removed piece by piece when the original buildings were demolished and reassembled in its present position (as was the oak staircase). The main gallery (my thought was, what a wonderful room for a concert...) has some superb portraits, including one of Captain Coram himself.

One of the great and the good who came, and contributed largely, frequently, and generously, to the new foundation was Handel (a nearby street is named after him). He conducted an annual performance of Messiah in its chapel to raise funds, and took a great interest in the place for the rest of his life, presenting it with a manuscript of his blockbusting oratorio among other things. When the visitor has studied the work of the institution on the ground floor and the art on the first floor, he/she can climb to the second floor (there is also wheelchair access) where he/she will find a small but delightful Handel museum.

The institution inherited the Gerald Coke collection, which is an unparallelled accumulation of Handeliana, and this forms the basis - there is a pleasant and well-equipped reading room where serious researchers may consult items from the collection (by appointment), while the books from the collection are housed behind glass panels in a room between the reading room and the one in which other selected items from the collection are displayed. These include Handel's will, the Foundling Messiah (the MS aforementioned), various commemorative medals, a small collection of busts, and perhaps my favourite item, the receipt that Handel signed on one of the occasions when he took delivery of the monster kettledrums from the Tower Armoury which he borrowed for various oratorio performances, notably Saul.

There is also a special circular table, based on something that Gerald Coke had in his study, with concentric circles on its surface forming a sort of comparative chronology - the outer one bears the details of the events of Handel's life, the middle one has events happening in England during the same period, and the inner one displays events taking place elsewhere. The drawers in the table form little pull-out display cases -altogether a most ingenious device.

By this time the visitor may be feeling somewhat tired, and can collapse into one of the "musical chairs" - small winged armchairs with speakers in the wings. The sitter can select tracks from buttons on the arm, while programme notes for the music available (all by Handel, naturally) live in a slot beside it - another ingenious device, which may mean that you spend rather longer there than you originally intended.

While the Handel House in Brook Street is to be admired for having created something out of virtually nothing - there was no surviving furniture or anything like that, and suitable items had to be acquired or borrowed from elsewhere - this little museum has a wealth of material which complements it excellently and is well worth a visit - in fact for Handel fans it is a must-see.

I'm sure Handel would be pleased to know that the work of Captain Coram still lives on - although the Foundling Hospital itself moved out of London and was eventually closed down, the main buildings being demolished in the 1920s, the Coram Foundation, now called Coram Family, still looks after vulnerable children, and its treasures will once again be able to attract visitors who may be able to contribute something to its funds as well as to those of the museum itself, which now has to raise the money to buy the collections. And Coram's Fields, on the site of the old buildings and still flanked by the surrounding colonnade, is now a children's playground - which no adult may enter unless accompanied by a child.

The Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, entry is £5 (£3 concessions), and there are special rates for group visits.
Ruth Harris

Opportunities to make music
I've received a leaflet from Dorchester Abbey (at Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire) about this year's Music in the Abbey in September. There doesn't seem to be any early music this time - this year's featured composers are Beethoven and Pärt - but I thought you might like to know about two participatory events - Come and Sing (conducted by John Lubbock) on Saturday 18th September and a violin masterclass with Tasmin Little on Sunday 19th. Contact 020 88578579 for details.

Does anyone play crumhorns these days?
Many years ago I thought I had made it as an early musician when I added a (very inaccurate) crumhorn to my collection of recorders. The Early Music Shop used the familiar shape of the crumhorn as a sign, as did Tielman Susato in the sixteenth century. Some years ago I had a day of crumhorn playing at my house, and kept two sets going morning and afternoon. I wonder how many active crumhorn players we still have? I have been asked to organise some playing again, and hope to make things happen on Sunday, September 19 next, at my home in High Wycombe. If anyone wants to take part, please let me know what you will bring for how long. There will be two sessions, 10.30- 12.30, and 2.00 - 4.00. There will be a light lunch for those attending two sessions. This is an informal event, and there is no charge.
Chris Thorn, 135 Arnison Avenue, High Wycombe (near the Royal Grammar School) HP13 6BH (01494 523581) email christh@nildram.co.uk

Crumhorns, the basics
The crumhorn had a brief life, from about 1490 until 1560: Schein's 17th century pavane must have been an example of early music. It must have impressed as the only reed instrument able to play vocal parts at actual pitch, but music moved on and ranges became too great for it, so it faded away. It was played mostly in Italy, Germany and the Low Countries, by court musicians. The most usual combination was an alto in g, two tenors in c and a bass in f. The most effective music for them is not 4 part settings of dance tunes, but contrapuntal vocal music. Most crumhorns had a range of a ninth, although basses often had a lower extension key. The upper extension keys usually fitted to modern crumhorns are not authentic, nor particularly useful. A lot of early 16c music fits crumhorns, but often needs transposing.

Soprano required
Soprano required for SERENATA (an 8-voice, a capella choir involved in a wide range of musical periods and styles). Good sight reading and confidence required. Rehearsals in central Hertfordshire, normally Wednesdays. Contact David Robertson 01707 325735, davidg.robertson@ntlworld.com."

News of Members' Activities

TVEMF member Clare Norburn is one of the Artistic Directors of the Brighton Early Music Festival. She writes:
"Although only in our second full year, the festival is already the UK's second largest early music event after York. Ground-breaking programming has established the festival as one of the most forward-looking and exciting events on the classical music calendar. This is reflected in the BBC's decision to broadcast two 2004 concerts on Radio 3 during the festival.

The 2004 festival will include some of the leading names in the early music world in 17 concerts. Artists including I Fagiolini in their acclaimed Full Monteverdi programme, Red Priest, Emma Kirkby with Fretwork, Catherine Bott with David Owen Norris and the Tallis Scholars, in their first ever Brighton appearance, plus Musica Secreta, Mediva, the Sweelinck Ensemble, Fontanella, Phoenix Rising, Brighton Consort and Catherine King, Jacob Heringman and Richard Campbell. There is also a day of events featuring the Orlando Consort culminating in a medieval/jazz crossover event with jazz ensemble, the Perfect Houseplants and finishing with a late night jazz performance! Plus free talks and
workshops which lead to participation in festival concerts. You can see the full line up at www.bremf.org.uk

The festival runs from 30th September until 10th October 2004, with a pre-festival Workshop Weekend on 25th and 26th September. See www.bremf.org.uk or call 01273 833746 for a brochure."

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