I was on holiday last week so I’m afraid
that this edition is a little late. This means that one or two concerts
I was asked to advertise have already taken place. Apologies for
this. Do give me as much notice as possible if you want to be sure
that your event goes in. I’m afraid that it is not possible to put
individual items on the web site – David puts all the listings in
en bloc directly from the Tamesis listings.
As I want this Tamesis to arrive before the next one is due, I have
put in all the concerts and participatory events that I was sent
by post or email, but have not gone to enormous lengths to look
for others. I’m sorry to have to mention it yet again, but a lot
of time I could have spent doing this was actually used to extract
the details of concerts and events from really long press releases
and even concert posters in glorious technicolour. Please could
you make sure that if the publicist for your choir or group sends
me information they reduce it to something like the listings at
the back, or I shall be tempted to delete it if time is short (which
it usually is)! Of course there are some people who are brilliant
at sending me things that I can copy straight in, and many thanks
Many thanks also to John Catch who responded to my request for musical
quotes with a whole booklet he has published called "A Century of
Curious Quotations". You will find a few of them later in this issue
and I shall go on using it from time to time. Other contributions
are still welcome.
Details are not fixed yet, but I hope to run my annual baroque chamber
music day in November, probably on Saturday 15th, and
David Fletcher will be organising a renaissance playing day for
instrumentalists and one-to-a-part singers on Saturday 6th
September. These dates both have to be confirmed, but put them in
your diary now if you are interested.
In processing over 300 membership updates there are inevitably a few
errors. For example there is a danger that after typing all the details
of a new member I forget to mark them as having paid for the current
year. This happened recently in the case of Esha Neogy, an excellent
viol player from Hawaii who is in England for a year - sorry Esha,
you are in this month's list. Apologies to Elaine Mordaunt, who had
requested an upgrade in her viol-playing status from "beginner" to
"fair". Knowing Elaine's cello-playing ability as I do, I suspect
that an upgrade to "competent" will not be long delayed. Apologies
also to Peter Harris who had requested not to be included as an instrument
maker. Of course as many of you know, whilst not a professional maker
he has successfully made a number of instruments, including two improbably
large curtals. (My email address is also wrong – see next page.
As I write this the Jeremy West workshop is imminent and although
we have a reasonable number of applicants, a few more might be good.
I gather that the Viol workshop with Alison Crum is fully subscribed,
so if you are booked to come and cannot make it then please notify
Johanna Renouf as there may be someone who could take your place.
April in Andalucia: the Jimena singing weeks
There were also new friends to make: not least the two resident English
musicians, Monica and Peter Becko. Beforehand, they were helpful in
sorting out accommodation (and they have apartments which they let).
They met us at the airport and organised getting us back, they kept
open house for anyone wishing to practise on one of their several
pianos, they were instrumental in getting my wounded friend attended
to, and with their extraordinary energy, they also wined and dined
and entertained us following both the Saturday concerts in which
they had also taken part.
Not content with just one week studying
early music in Jimena de la Frontera, I splashed out on the two
weeks of Easter music courses that Andrew van der Beek had promised
for choral singers. Just as well I did; I would hate to have missed
Dr Edward Wickham directed the second week in substantial works
by Tallis, Josquin and Ockeghem, plus a local gem, so that week
was irresistible. In the first week Carlos Fernández Aransay
a name new to me, and one to remember introduced us to (mainly)
Hispanic four-part music focusing on Easter. The two concerts and
the twice-daily rehearsals took place in the rebuilt but deconsecrated
Church of the Misericordia, near the top of Jimena’s steep hill,
and as lunch and supper were near the bottom of the hill, the walkers
among us got fitter by the day.
With Carlos, we started in the early sixteenth century with Morales’
Missa pro Defunctis, interspersed with suitable motets: his
own Circumdederunt me and others by later composers,
including Cererols’ ¡Ay, que dolor!, Diogo Dias Melgás’ Salve
Regina, both seventeenth century, and Casals’ much more recent
O vos omnes all gorgeous, all rich and all typically
Spanish in their depth-plumbing melancholy. An excellent teacher,
notable for his patience and humour, Carlos also managed to get
us to change gear sufficiently to sing Pärt’s Solfeggio and
a couple of entertaining tangos to lighten the end of the Saturday
concert. And one of these, Piazzolla’s Otoño Porteño, seemed
to present the real challenge to those of us more accustomed to
early music but the sizeable audience rewarded us with generous
applause, though whether for a good performance or a brave attempt
I’m not quite sure.
The music in the second week, Holy Week, was a different kind of
challenge. We studied Josquin’s beautiful five-part Miserere,
Ockeghem’s Missa Cuiusvis Toni and Tallis’s second set of
Lamentations, plus the Mozarabic chant, more of which below.
Both the Miserere and the Mass were demanding, but the Lamentations
I found really difficult, although ultimately rewarding: the combination
of unfamiliar words and quite complex rhythms were not helped by
being handwritten, so for me this was pretty hard work. Which may
go to show why I have now learned to be a little less certain of
my sight-reading ability.
Edward is a scholarly musician of the first order, but he is also
a generous teacher (and they don’t always go together). As he explained,
Ockeghem’s very fine Mass could be performed in any one of the four
modes, with each mode sounding different, though the likely reasons
for this remarkable achievement remain controversial. We studied
the Phrygian mode edition by David Fallows and, for the performance,
Edward had chosen to precede and punctuate the Mass movements with
appropriate chants from the Mozarab source to great effect.
The Mozarabs Christians under Moorish rule in Spain
had been allowed by the invaders to continue to worship Christ;
and their chants predate the more familiar Gregorian. For me these
chants were the most poignant of the many musical treasures we encountered.
They were specially significant in relation to Jimena ‘of the Frontier’,
whose wild and rocky hilltop is full of the ruins of fortifications
testifying to its history of invasions over many centuries, including
the Moorish invasions.
Given this background, most of us followed the archaeologist Hamo
Sassoon on a brief tour of the Roman and later ruins, before climbing
through the hilltop wilderness to where he had discovered the rock-hewn
remains of a Mozarab church. It stood in a glade near the precipitous
summit, and there, surrounded by oak and olive trees. Edward led
us in the Mozarabic chant for that day: Maundy Thursday Jueves
Santo. That was a memorable moment.
And just a couple of hours later there was a dramatic accident,
when my friend fell from an unguarded roadside precipice and broke
her arm (now mending well, thank you); she was swiftly rescued by
several strong men and rushed to hospital to be x-rayed and have
the arm put into plaster. The incident led to a police presence
on the Saturday evening, both before and after the concert, presumably
to reassure performers and audience alike; and there were promises
of safety barriers to follow. Which suggests that Jimena could soon
be a little less hazardous.
Spain was undiscovered country for me, and Jimena and its Easter
weeks were a tremendous experience: apart from musical joys and
revelations, and unexpectedly good audiences, there were streets
full of flowers and amazing landscapes to explore and of course
new-found muscles and joints to put to the test on the unbelievably
Lovely people, lovely place, rare and wonderful music. What more could
Some thoughts on practising from
"A Century of Curious Quotations"
compiled by John Catch
"And although the gamba has the most natural technique
of all the stringed instruments, it is a stringed instrument none
the less and consequently only to be learned by attentive and devoted
practice...just thinking about it is useless without practice."
August Wenzinger "Gambenubung" 1935
"Practise three hours a day if you are any good, four if you are
a little stupid. If you need more than that – stop. You should try
Leopold Auer, quoted in "Szigeti on the Violin" 1969
"In all things worth while, a certain amount of drudgery is required.
Why should music be an exception to this rule?"
Alec Rowley "Do’s and Don’ts for Musicians"
"If you work as hard as I did, you will do as well as I have done."
J S Bach. attrib
and a quote of my own from "On Playing the Flute" by Quantz
1752 (Faber 1966 ed)
"How much time beginners need to practise each day cannot be
fixed exactly. Some grasp a matter more easily than others...Excessive
playing, especially when one has already reached a certain age,
weakens the body, blunts the senses, and destroys the desire and
appetite to perform a piece with true fervour."
He concludes that two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon
is about right.