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June 2003

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 to them.

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.
Victoria Helby

Chairman's Chat
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. Ed)

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.

David Fletcher

April in Andalucia: the Jimena singing weeks
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 either.

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 steep slopes.

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.

Lovely people, lovely place, rare and wonderful music. What more could one ask?
Joan Roskelly

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 another profession."
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.

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