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
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).
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
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
Charpentier Messe à quatre churs:
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Chris Thorn, 135 Arnison Avenue, High Wycombe (near the Royal
Grammar School) HP13 6BH (01494 523581) email email@example.com
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 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, firstname.lastname@example.org."
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."