David has written elsewhere about the Greenwich Exhibition. I enjoyed
it so much I may have to go for three days next year instead of
just two! Just suggest a better hotel than the Ibis please.
Our next event is the West Gallery Day in Chesham in a new and
spacious venue, the Baptist Church (complete with West Gallery).
You may be interested to know that there is a concert by the Chiltern
Baroque Orchestra in St Mary's Church in Chesham on the evening
of the same day. It should be well worth staying for. The orchestra
is made up on professional musicians who live in the Chesham area,
led by Peter Hanson who recently gave a wonderfully sensitive performance
of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with our local Misbourne Orchestra
(which I play in) using original fingerings. That's a whole new
aspect of authentic performance which I hadn't met before. The December
4th programme consists of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos numbers 4
and 5, a Bach cantata "Ich habe genug" BWV 82 and Corelli's
Christmas concerto. The orchestra's concerts usually sell out so
phone Perfect Pitch music shop on 01494 774826. If you prefer to
risk it and wait until the day, the shop is virtually next door
to the Baptist Church.
I see from my diary that Peter Holman mentioned clarinets as a
possible instrument for the workshop. David didn't know about this
when he wrote the form. Peter also asked for baroque bows for the
strings, but as this wasn't mentioned on the form either don't worry
if you haven't got one.
Many thanks to Sidney Ross for providing our annual Christmas competition
this year. You will find it on page 6.
Some TVEMF workshops stay in the memory for non-musical
reasons, and for me the recent Baroque Day will be remembered mainly
because I had to climb the gate and rouse the caretaker to let us
in. I still have memories of the famous time, at a changeover between
caretakers, when we had to pass harpsichords through windows. Fortunately
on this occasion we still managed to start on time and thanks to
Victoria's intensive efforts the rest of the day went very smoothly.
We were able to make good use of the new rooms which occupy the
location of the old swimming pool (so don't bring your swimming
costume in future). I did leave with some good musical memories
such as those of the session with voices with continuo and obbligato
recorder accompaniment - not a repertoire I often take part in.
The Early Music Exhibition is a very special event in that it combines
an amazing display of instruments of all kinds with a series of
concerts showing them off. For the last few years it has been at
the former Royal Naval College at Greenwich, now home to Trinity
College of Music. It was a real privilege to sit at the Forum stand
in the Painted Hall, with its trompe l'oeil columns and stunning
ceiling, created by Sir James Thornhill over a period of nineteen
years, and lovely to meet so many members and friends. I gather
we signed up nine new members for TVEMF and a few for NEMA and the
other Forums. Many thanks to all who helped man the stand, and especially
to Hazel Fenton who organised our part in the Exhibition so successfully.
There is still time to sign up for the TVEMF Christmas event, West
Gallery music with Peter Holman, but no more cellos or bass viols
please. Peter's last event for us was both entertaining and informative,
so I look forward to seeing many of you in Chesham on the 4th of December.
Crumhorn playing day
On the 19th of September Chris Thorn ran another
of his occasional series of Crumhorn Days (one per decade). I wasn't
sure about playing all day, not on grounds of stamina or aesthetics
but merely that I like to play tennis if weather permits. I arrived
about 12.45pm to the strains of the well-known La Spagna attributed
to Josquin. It is a tribute to the musicianship and stamina of those
present that even after a couple of hours' playing the tuning was
excellent. After a light lunch kindly provided by Chris's wife,
Janet, we played six-part crumhorn music until we ran out of suitable
pieces. Very enjoyable - thank you Chris and Janet. Maybe the frequency
of these events could be increased a little?
Sidney Ross has devised the following musical quiz for our
Christmas competition this year. As usual the prize is a one year
subscription to the Forum. Please send your entries to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by post to my address on the cover by Saturday 8th January. Victoria
There are 25 cryptic clues. Each answer from 2 onwards begins
with the last letter of the previous answer. There is also a connection
between the answers to clues 1 and 25. Each answer has a musical
1.Great German, little Welshman (4)
2.Carries a revolver without hesitation (5)
3.But he doesn't come round to repair your set ! (8)
4.Condition for unsuccessful butterfly hunt (5)
5.Composer of great stature, apparently (6)
6.Proverbially wise pianist (7)
7.Not a single chorister originally sang for him (5)
8.Reaction to the Threepenny Opera ? (7)
9.Innkeeper of note (8)
10.Hires pig, being wholly disorganised (8)
11.Venerated in Huntingdon and Cornwall (4)
12. Composer and decorator (7)
13.Farmland set aside for Tower guardians (11)
14.Harmonious gang ? (5)
15. Electrical direction to performers (1,1)
16.Two-thirds of him was absolutely heavenly (9)
17.Distance between members of 14 (8)
18.Unchanging composer ?(8)
19.Tragic heroine gets into scary situation...(5)
20....but does she help another one ?(4)
21.Colourless, approaching Ulster... (8)
22....with which he has no connexion (7)
23.Mode that is Wildly uninteresting (6)
24.See his new publication (7)
25.1 is frequently on the programme, so we hear (9)
Rosenmüller Vespers weekend with Philip Thorby
Brief references to this very enjoyable weekend were made
in the last Tamesis, and I was one of those who Victoria had mentioned
as noting down Thorbyisms. This highlighted a dilemma I was already
facing in reviewing the event, and Jenny Gowing has helped me to
find a way through. The problem is that Philip is brilliant at issuing
witticisms which encapsulate common musical situations perfectly,
so that they are both funny and transferable to other instances
of the same problem. This means that any review of a 'Philip day'
naturally includes a number of these or it mis-reports the event.
However, to concentrate on them solely is to miss the point of his
excellent scholarship, practically applied for our benefit. He is
so natural and passionate in bringing across the historical and
musical context, and encouraging us, no, almost bullying us, into
getting it right, for the music's sake. And with the wonderful music
he chooses it would be a crime not to try wholeheartedly.
So how has Jenny solved the problem? By giving us a superbly informative
and entertaining account of the Beauchamp course and reporting the
sayings separately at the end. I shall included Thorbyisms in the
main text where relevant to a particular passage or point, and keep
the general ones until the end.
Sixty musicians, then, gathered at the now familiar Whitehill Centre,
Chesham, on a beautiful autumn morning with the prospect of a whole
weekend of Johann Rosenmüller (c1620 - 1684). Over the course
of the weekend we worked on four pieces - the two-choir Dixit Dominus,
the 5-voice Magnificat, and the simpler and elegant pieces Laetatus
sum and Laudate Pueri.
We began by setting up for the Dixit Dominus a 19 for which we
were placed in two choirs. The singers of choir one were accompanied
by a string band of violins and viols, while choir two were underpinned
by brass. This should have been cornetts and sackbuts, but for the
latter we had substituted cellos. This choir was thus at one point
referred to by Philip as 'wind plus blown cellos', evoking for me
thoughts of poor Martin Kaye and that immortal phrase 'fretted blasthorn'.
(If the original article still exists and hasn't been reprinted
recently, could we please do this for the benefit of more recent
members?)** In terms of layout, Philip set up the instrument choirs
opposite rather than adjacent to their respective vocal choirs,
as recommended, we were told, by Schütz.
For most, if not all, of the weekend the instrumental parts also
had words, and from the start we were all encouraged to attempt
to following the phrasing and to communicate the mood suggested
by these and by the various musical figures aimed at enhancing and
complementing them. Some of you may know about the recent publication
of Judy Tarling's book on rhetoric in music (Weapons of Rhetoric),
and I confess that I already had it in mind that weekend. Geoff
and I had been eagerly awaiting its publication following a talk
by Judy during the Cambridge Baroque week last year, and I was planning
to hear her again at the Viola da Gamba Society meeting in November.
I make no apology for remarking on the many resonances between Philip's
tuition and Judy's ideas, particularly as she once told me that
she felt Philip was the most natural exponents of rhetoric in music
that she had ever met. If you are unfamiliar with the notions above,
for now I will just suggest the idea of music as a vehicle for conveying
emotions and that in interpreting it we must always aim to define
these and express them to the audience to the best of our ability.
Despite his cajoling, Philip has a realistic sense of the limitations
of amateurs, but cares greatly that we make the effort.
So in this opening piece, one obvious example of communicating
mood was the wonderfully lively and tricky section 'inimicos tuos'.
It wasn't difficult to make this exciting, as we were pretty frantic
in counting it all out and getting the notes and syllables in. Philip
said it would be great when the castanets came in, and they certainly
wouldn't have felt out of place. It was particularly awkward as
the two choirs were cutting across each other's phrases and interrupting
each other. However, we were told to listen to the structure of
the entire passage and 'feel' where we should come in, rather than
trying to work out what was actually much more difficult on paper.
In fact, he gave us no choice while practising it, by saying only
roughly rather than exactly where one choir was starting and we
had to guess where we should come in. By the time we had tried it
a few times, we had some idea of how it should sound and it was
much easier to do it by listening than by counting.
He told us to use our musicianship to hear our place, just as the
audience does, and that would also give us a better sense of taking
part with them. We all know his passion for ignoring barlines, to
the point of conducting in three sometimes instead of four, and
he pointed out that if it feels in 3 that's what the audience will
hear: they don't know it's in four. We were not to go into 'count
mode' as soon as we stopped having a 'noise to make'. We could count
the first time, but should work out what to listen for, and as the
music becomes more familiar, try to count further and further back
in the brain, and only use that for checking. This reminded me of
my oboe-playing days when I used to play classical symphonies, most
of which were already familiar to me. You might have 92 bars rest
in a Beethoven scherzo but at one-in-a-bar they went by quickly,
and you would mark flutes at 37, horns at 45 etc and listen for
the imitation to know how your part fitted in. The other resonance
for me comes when I sing from facsimile, in a strange clef, with
the text in clumps rather than under the notes, and no barlines.
With so few reference points, instinct kicks in and you listen far
harder than you sing, but amazingly it slowly gets easier and feels
so much more rewarding, because you really are taking part in a
team effort. You've all been forced to get your head out of the
copy because it was merely a guide. We forget that modern editions
are only a guide too. Sometimes there's so much technical detail
on the page that we are restrained by it, but we have too few ways
of notating emotion.
The typical mix for the weekend was being told what was wanted
and how to achieve it, while all the time being shown why it would
help to convey the required moods and contrasts of mood. We had
the 'frisky violins' of choir one against the 'dozey brass' of choir
two as we contrasted the lively feel of music that jumps around
with the smoother effect of next door notes (one of Judy's examples).
In one calmer moment we were encouraged to use 'susurrating sybillants'
on the word sede and not glottles or hard attacks, as the music
'swooned in ecstasy'. The Tecum principium section was quiet and
smooth - more 'gladly my cross I'd bear' and less 'come to the cookhouse
door'. We were asked to bathe in the word semper - two bars of asses'
milk, and asked whether we could do 'fervent translucence'. The
in medio inimicorum section was to be sinister,
as we were in the midst of our enemies. I thought it was the altos
(not the sopranos) who thought their enemies were those putting
milk in their Earl Grey, and the sopranos were the ones coming in
with a trayful of side dishes of diphthongs! Either way we obviously
weren't sinister enough.
Several other examples from Judy's second talk appeared during
this weekend. One is the overall structure of a speech or in our
case piece of music - introduction of your subject, usually a calm
unornamented statement, moving through various emotions and often
embellishments, but finally settling and bringing things to a close.
In two of the pieces this weekend, the phrase sicut erat in principio
(as it was in the beginning) included a reference to the opening
musical phrase, a very satisfying way of pulling everything together.
I've since realised that the 'Sicut erat' of Bach's Magnificat does
exactly the same thing, and for me that moment is always magical.
Another idea is the use of repetition to build tension, not just
exact repetitions, but also extending the repeated phrase and emphasising
the new word or syllable. For example, the phrase, 'Sicut erat,
sicut erat in principium' is very effective if sung as 'Sicut erat,
sicut erat in principium', with the second sicut phrase pushing
strongly forward to the ci of principium.
One 3-time section had a wandering bass with a very weak 2nd beat,
which was typical of the time. However, on this occasion there were
a few strong second beats sprinkled about, and the basses were encouraged
to emphasis them to give an unsettling effect, which would have
seemed ever stronger in a time when the second beat wasn't even
conducted. More discussion of performing practice ensued when one
player asked why Philip had chosen to have no string bass continuo.
We had quite a few cellos available, but had only harp and theorbo
on continuo. He explained that this would have been typical of music
written around this time (1670). You would have two violins, two
violas, curtal and brass, with sustaining basses used as the bottom
of the ritornello group, but not with the continuo. Only harmony
instruments would be used for continuo.
In the Magnificat the historical context was set again, and comparisons
made to the Biber Requiem. The lower strings spent part of their
time doubling the voice parts, and there would be a solo violin
which never doubles a voice part, but you could fit words to everything
it plays. You feel the instrument playing the words at you. Thus
the instruments were again encouraged to hear the words of their
part, even if there weren't actually any there. Again, the contrasting
emotions of the various sections and phrases were highlighted for
us, such as the confusion of battle during the very military-sounding
Fecit section, the Quia respexit humilitatem, 'a nice Uriah Heep
moment', and 'after the Pavarotti tendency, it all goes a bit Julie
For Day Two we assembled in the upstairs room to avoid being the
subject of target practice for the regular archery group. The space
was only 3 feet narrower, but somehow it was much more of a squeeze,
and not just psychologically. I think this was because we lost our
circulation space out front, forcing people to climb over each other
or over Philip to get to their places.
We began with the 18 part, double-choir Laetatus sum ('I was glad').
We were obviously taking some time to wind ourselves up on a Sunday
morning, as Philip tried hard to instil in us that this was Glad!
Joyful! and then said 'Hmmm, I was glad - until I came here'. We
were told off for making the 'Lae' too short and strong, resulting
in the comment 'Ah! First rule of Early Music. The upbeat is short,
however horrible'. The opening phrase of the piece was an even better
example of the use of repetition to build tension, especially as
it often starts with a short phrase and ends with a really extended
one. Apparently, in speech, as here in music, it's more effective
if, rather than starting really quiet, the first, short phrase is
quite strong, before dipping down and starting to climb. We had
all of this in the following: Laetatus (strong), laetatus sum (quieter),
Laetatus sum in his (cresc), Laetatus sum in his que dicta mihi
(climax on mi).
There were some lovely quiet sections both in this piece and the
Laudate Pueri, which we also sang on Sunday. The beautiful Rogave
section, scored for bass voice (Jim Wills), two violins and continuo
earned the title of 'the one musical moment of the weekend', so
well done all of you. This, the wonderfully simple Esurientes and
other such moments caused Philip to remark that Rosenmüller
had very few peers at that moment in writing such introspective
gentle passages. It was unusual and bold to write quiet passages
of such length and no-one else achieved such stillness and transparency
I knew what was coming in the 6/4 Dispersit section when Philip
mentioned the 'Bernstein codex'. I heard him use this phrase on
a facsimile course after a quite erudite explanation of the technicalities
of perfect and imperfect time, where the term codex does come up
in its proper context. However, the Bernstein one is his own concoction,
but perfect for teaching hemiolas. To remember how to do 1 2 3,
1 2 3, 1 2, 1 2, 1 2 there is nothing better than thinking of 'I
like to be in A-me-ri-ca'.
We must have struggled a considerable amount throughout the weekend,
as witnessed by some of the Thorbyisms gathered below, but we thoroughly
enjoyed ourselves. We sang and played our best and learnt to aim
for, and at least part of the time achieved, the expression of the
emotions stored up in the words and the music. Thanks to Victoria
for her organisation and hard work, and to all the others who helped
out on both days.
And the rest of the Thorbyisms:
However much the singers slow down, they can always look behind
them and there's a continuo chord coming.
(To a violin, to play more smoothly). If you can demean yourself,
be a little more like a viol.
Principio. Isn't it nice to have a word where all syllables are
You seem a bit annoyed with Gloria, whoever she is.
The holy spirit clog-dances his way through that bar. He's not as
corporeal as you give him credit for.
The long-drawn-out agony that is bar 547.
The natural sign before the E raises the note by a very specific
amount. Not just a little bit higher.
(Requiem eternam) Basses, make every semibreve egg-shaped, not brick-shaped.
Some of you flirted with the C sharp. Make a conscious decision
to do it.
Strike while the iron's luke-warm.
We'll hold that chord until the sops have caught up.
All human life is here
and yours too.
It's 4 in a bar and I'm going to beat 4 in a bar. Make the most
The Fretted Blasthorn Revisited (from Tamesis, April 1996)
The puzzling lack of any iconographic evidence for the existence
of the fretted blasthorn has stimulated much debate but a recent
discovery in the library of the University of Bratislava has provided
an insight into the true nature of the instrument. It clearly derives
in part from the tromba marina, a stringed instrument with a strident
sound produced by a bridge which balances on one foot (1) whilst
the other rattles against the body of the instrument. Its other
ancestor is obviously some kind of trumpet or horn which provides
the unique possibility for a single player to perform brass and
string music simultaneously.
Henricus Glareanus, a Swiss monk, devoted much time to the study
of the tromba marina. In his treatise the "Dodecachordon"
of 1547 he makes the interesting observation that the instrument
produces a more nearly agreeable tone at a distance than it does
close at hand (2). The fretted blasthorn, or tromba supermarina,
as it is sometimes called, rarely deserves such a charitable assessment,
owing to the difficulty of tuning the natural harmonics of the horn
or "tromba" to the strings. It was in an effort to overcome
this problem that the frets were added, resulting in the instrument
that is depicted in the recently discovered drawing. The frets of
course enhance the attack of the bowed notes to more nearly match
the aggressive sound of the tromba but do nothing for the basic
tuning. There had been wild speculation as to the range of the fretted
blasthorn, but modern calculations have resulted in an estimate
of a little over two miles in still air. Still air is unfortunately
a necessity, since any change in temperature affects the strings
and the tromba in opposite directions, thus exacerbating the tuning
difficulties. All things considered, it seems unlikely that the
instrument will enjoy a modern revival unless the Building Regulations
are made significantly more demanding in respect of sound-proofing.
D Arrowsmith 1/4/96
1) Poor linguistic ability on the part of one enthusiast resulted
in a fruitless search for competent one-legged string players in
the misguided quest for authenticity.
2) See David Munrow "Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance"
OUP 1976 ISBN 0 19 321321 4
Opportunities to make music
Singers of London, a well-established chamber choir which rehearses
on Mondays at St Olave's Church near Tower Hill, is seeking new
recruits - altos and tenors in particular but basses and sopranos
are also welcome. This small, experienced choir is used to working
to a high standard and promotes three concerts a year, mostly in
London, but often an 'out of town' concert in summer. London venues
have included Southwark Cathedral and St Pancras Church. Singers
of London concerts have regularly featured Renaissance and Baroque
repertoire. Our newly-appointed conductor is Tom Seligman and our
next concert, which will take place at St Paul's, Knightsbridge
on 27.11.04, will include the Victoria Mass and Motet 'O quam gloriosum'.
If you are interested in joining us, or would like more information,
Fiona Weir on 020 7272 8599 or email email@example.com
Tom Seligman on 07812 06375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Christmas music at Christmas...!
Not such a revolutionary idea - or is it? When is your Christmas
Michael Procter makes a plea for better concert planning - and offers
his own solution.
Do you sing Easter music in Lent? Of course not. Everyone knows
that 'Eastertide' begins on Easter Day, and the period before Easter,
Lent, is a time for penitence, for the Bach Passions, for Lamentations
and Tenebrae Responsories.
Quite right. But what about Advent and Christmas? Advent is exactly
the same sort of time of preparation for Christmas as Lent is for
Easter. Indeed, the mediaeval church called Advent 'St. Martin's
Lent'. Christmas, a well-defined season, begins with Midnight Mass
on Christmas Eve and lasts until January 1st, i.e. the Octave day.
And that is the Christmas season. It neither starts in September,
when the shops put up their Christmas trees, nor in Advent. But
church musicians and others have for years put on their 'Christmas'
concerts during Advent, which seems to me regrettable for two reasons:
1. because it contributes to the watering-down of Christmas itself,
2. because it conflicts with any idea of observing Advent.
There is plenty of fine music for Advent. Programmes can be built
around such themes as
- Veni Redemptor gentium (Come thou Redeemer of the earth);
- Rorate coeli;
- The Great 'O' Antiphons etc.
I know it is too late to change the way Society misuses the Festival
of Christmas, but we can help to keep the idea of Advent alive by
our programming. And the bravest of us could insist on having our
Christmas Carol service in Christmas time! The Church previously
had a Feast on each day of the Christmas Octave - St Stephen on
Dec. 26, St John Evangelist on Dec. 27, Holy Innocents (the English
Childermas) on Dec. 28, Thomas à Becket on Dec. 29, the Holy
Family on Dec. 30 and St. Silvester on Dec. 31. January 1 was the
Feast of the Circumcision, now replaced by Mary Mother of God. Most
of these celebrations have fallen into oblivion because church musicians
are always exhausted by the time they reach Boxing Day - pity the
poor choirmaster at a church of St Stephen!
My own 'Modest Solution' has been to keep strictly to Advent repertoire
for concerts in that season, and to put all my Christmas music into
the Octave of Christmas. For four years now I have directed a festive
course at Mont Ste Odile, an ex-monastery and 'pilgrim hotel' south
of Strasbourg in Alsace. We gather on December 28 - most people
have had enough both of family and of television by then - and spent
the first day and a half rehearsing, and on three days, Dec. 30/31
and Jan. 1st, we provide music for the Mass, always packed by pilgrims
and visitors. We concentrate on renaissance music (and I see no
sign of running out of repertoire in my lifetime!), but with carol
arrangements and what passes nowadays for liturgical music. On New
Year's Eve there is a great feast (Alsatian cuisine!) and our own
party, with champagne at Midnight- And we leave after breakfast
on January 2nd. In the first year we had eleven tenors - let me
say that again - e l e v e n tenors! - and lots of instrumentalists,
and enjoyed some polychoral music. Sometimes we have an organist,
last year two splendid violinists...
More information in the leaflet enclosed or on the web at www.Michael-Procter.com