Bookings are coming in well for Michael Procter’s Kilburn weekend, but we are still rather short of tenors. There are not many places left for Sunday lunch at Pizza Express so please book as soon as possible. You may be interested to know that Michael’s catalogue of his publications (Edition Michael Procter - sacred music of the Renaissance and some surprises) is now available online at www.michael-procter.com
Johanna Renouf is organising a day with Alison Crum called 'Introduction to the Viol and Viol Consort Playing' for people who have never played the viol before and also for people with enough experience to enable them to play easy consort music. This will be a small course and therefore rather more expensive than usual, and will be held at Alison’s house in Cricklewood. More details next month.
Sponsorship money is still trickling in for the Background Baroque Red Nose Day marathon. I’ll give you the final total next month. If you still haven’t sent yours in, please send me a cheque payable to Comic Relief at the address on the front cover. We did 27 sonatas – I’m sorry that makes the sum difficult! Thanks again to everyone who contributed. It’s still not too late if you didn’t get around to it at the time.
I very much enjoyed the Baroque Day on Saturday at Oxford organised by Peter Collier, the Director of the Oxford Baroque Chamber Music week. Apart from anything else, it was so nice to be at the receiving end of the organisation! I hope someone will review it next month. And thanks for all this month’s many and varied contributions.
Had the email enquiry from a nyckelharpa player arrived a couple of days earlier (on April 1st) I would have been inclined, in my ignorance, to treat it as a hoax. However it turns out that the nyckelharpa is a traditional Swedish instrument that has been played, in one form or another, for more than 600 years and is described by Michael Praetorius in his Syntagma Musicum. I learn there is even a nyckelharpa society, and from their web site at www.nyckelharpa.org/info/index.htm I discover that there are about 10,000 nyckelharpa players in Sweden today. I gather that it is a cousin of the hurdy gurdy, being violin-like with a slider for each note that gets pressed against the string, but the strings are played with a bow rather than a wheel. A feature of the instrument is that it has metal strings which are not played directly but vibrate in sympathy with the main strings. A downloaded sound clip shows the instrument to have a distinctive and rather poignant sound.I'm very pleased to announce that Jeremy West will direct TVEMF's first ever workshop for cornetts, sackbuts, curtals and recorders in June and Alison Crum will tutor one for viols in July (see front cover for details). Although these instruments must rank well below the nyckelharpa in popularity world-wide, TVEMF is not yet planning any events for the latter instrument as yet!
Whilst the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is one of the most expert in the art of relieving us of our money unnoticed, other Chancellors have been more obvious in their efforts. For example in 1662 the Hearth Tax was introduced at the rate of two shillings for every hearth in a house. With the help of a builder it could of course be avoided but the consequences for comfort were a sufficient disincentive. The Window Tax which replaced it in 1662 was imposed at the rate of 2s for houses of up to 9 windows, 4s for those of 10 to 20 and 8s for mansions with more than 20 windows. Blocked-up windows in houses of the period from then until 1851 are clear evidence of a reluctance to pay up.
Scholars have recently unearthed details of an earlier tax along similar lines, targeted at musicians. The tax was levied on musical instruments at a rate of 6d per hole or string. The rationale was that amateur musicians clearly had plenty of money if they could afford viols, whilst buskers and itinerant wind players needed to be discouraged. The consequences were predictable: many recorders were replaced by three-hole pipes, the theorbo suddenly became a luxury few could afford, whilst the fretted blasthorn, having both strings and holes, became extinct overnight. The recorder, which had originally been known as la flûte à neuf trous on account of having alternative holes for left- and right-handed players (one of which was blocked with wax), was hastily renamed flûte à bec lest it incur even more tax. There were court cases which established, amongst other things, that topologically the natural trumpet was equivalent to a doughnut, and therefore only had one hole. Fortunately the modern practice of having finger holes to aid in tuning had not then been introduced, so it became the most economical of instruments.
At a time when music-making was one of the cheapest amusements available, this badly conceived tax was exceptionally unpopular. It was repealed on the 1st of April 1603 after a series of Hole Tax riots caused massive disruption in London and other major cities.
D George Arrowsmith
I maintain it; the battle for early music has been won, although the ABRSM hasn’t yet got the news across to all the troops out in the sticks. The battle for authenticity was never winnable.
I’m still not really convinced John. There are not many early music programmes on Radio 3 these days, just occasional items in a mixed programme. Performances by period orchestras and smaller groups at the major concert halls are more often of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. You only have to look at the lists issued by St John’s Smith Square (one Haydn and Mozart concert in May) and the Wigmore Hall (one concert in June). At least Chapelle du Roi have got into the Royal Festival Hall foyer at lunchtime on 22nd May with Gesualdo and music from the Song of Solomon. That should give the lunchtime crowd a surprise.
Tenebrae factae sunt: Lamentations and responsaries – A workshop for singers directed by David Allinson
The Dutch Church at Austin Friars, London EC2, provided the setting for the latest TVEMF workshop, an exploration of music for Holy Week led by David Allinson on 15 March 2003.
The church itself is strikingly unusual, being a post-war replacement for the medieval church of the Friar Hermits of the Order of St Augustine of Hippo that was destroyed by bombing in 1940. The new church is a remarkably consistent design of its period, and is tucked away like so many City churches in a quiet backwater behind the main thoroughfares. The foundation stone was laid on 23 July 1950, almost 400 years to the day after King Edward VI confirmed permission for Dutch Protestant refugees to hold their own services in England and shortly before granting them the use of the nave and the two aisles of the former Austin Friars church.
The day was spent for the most part in the church’s Social Hall on the ground floor, with an excellent kitchen, good coffee and unexpected service from church members. We also made two forays upstairs into the church, singing variously on the altar steps and in the aisle. All three locations had good acoustics, and the church was pronounced an excellent venue on all counts, except perhaps for those who do not really go for 1950’s design!
We explored: sections of Victoria’s Lamentations for 4 and 6 voices, and his ‘Amicus meus’ and ‘Caligaverunt oculi mei’ for four voices; the beginning of the five-part Lamentations (‘Incipit…’) by Lassus, with the same composer’s ‘Tenebrae factae sunt’ and ‘O vos omnes’ for four voices; Palestrina’s four-part ‘Incipit’; and Gesualdo’s ‘Una hora non potuisti’ for five voices. David commented favourably on the warm rounded tone we produced, to which the unusually large number of men present doubtless helped to contribute. We were pretty competent with our notes, too, and did not have as much trouble with the Gesualdo as David expected (though I have known ‘worse’ Gesualdo). However, we did tend to wallow, maybe partly a consequence of our sightreading. This was a pity as it was quite clear that David knew the pieces extremely well, and had complete and consistent ideas for their realisation, but we made him work pretty hard.
The finest piece of the day for me was the 6 part Incipit by Victoria. David evidently has a special fondness for Victoria, and under his expert guidance this piece seemed to come off the page in a more potent way than the others, the most attractive polyphony combining with the greater sonority of six parts and some expressive word painting.
In addition there were David’s excellent vocal warm-up exercises, and his perceptive and helpful comments about vocal tone, sound production and other advice for performance from a singing perspective, delivered with tact and humour.
All those present surely had a useful and stimulating day, and our thanks go to David for his enthusiasm and humour, and to Johanna Renouf for the organisation, and particularly for locating such an excellent venue.
Cheshire comes to Cambridge
Having been approached by both EEMF and TVEMF and asked to write a report on the workshop at Newnham College on March 23rd, it seemed churlish to say no to one after saying yes to the other, but I am afraid that the same account will have to do for both. So those of us who are members of both fora will probably want to skip it the second time they come across it.
The workshop, entitled Byrd and his Chester contemporaries, was given by Roger Wilkes (returning to old haunts - he was a choral exhibitioner at Clare College), whom some of us had already encountered at the NWEMF summer school at Ambleside. He confessed to a certain diffidence in offering the work of a couple of minor composers from Chester at a venue in East Anglia, which has such a wealth of excellent music from the likes of Amner, Tye and Morley, not to mention Byrd himself, but by the end of the day had, I think, convinced us that Bateson and Pilkington were well worth revisiting.
Although we covered 8 pieces in the course of the day, this involved only 5 texts, as we looked at Byrd's and Pilkington's settings of Care for thy soul and Praise the Lord all ye heathen/gentiles, and Bateson's and Pilkington's settings of When Oriana walked to take the air. Comparing composers' different takes on the same texts is usually an interesting and useful exercise, and so it proved on this occasion. We started with Pilkington's Amyntas with his Phyllis fair, a lighthearted piece reminiscent of Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone, both in its Arcadian setting and its straightforward four-part diatonic music, and went on to the three Oriana pieces. Bateson's Hark, hear you not? is subtitled "Orianaes farewell", and the refrain of the Oriana madrigals ("Then sang the shepherds and nymphs of Diana, Long live fair Oriana" - referred to as "the Gloria" by a conductor with whom I performed the Triumphs many years ago) is amended to "In heaven lives Oriana", forming a posthumous tribute to Queen Elizabeth. The quatercentenary of her death fell on the day following the workshop, so it was most appropriate. With its use of the Lachrimae motif it conveys the regret of Oriana's subjects at her departure as well as their realisation that she is enjoying delightful music in heaven. The other Bateson piece, When Oriana walked, has the usual refrain, and was intended to be a contribution to the Triumphs, but did not reach Morley in time to be included, so Bateson published it himself, with a rather disgruntled-sounding note, "This song should have been printed in the set of Orianaes". Pilkington's setting of the same words, however, was not made till after the Queen's death, and so also has the amended refrain. Bateson's lively setting was preferred by a majority of us to start with, but more people came round to Pilkington's more homophonic setting after we had done some work on it.
I personally found the two settings, by Byrd and Pilkington, of Care for thy soul particularly rewarding. In Byrd's deceptively simple-looking setting, which started life as a consort song, the feeling is almost of "tune and accompaniment". The "First singing part" has a straightforward melody, very much following the word rhythms, while the other parts are more melismatic, their instrumental origins indicated by a melisma's often falling on an unimportant syllable, and by not sticking so closely to the word rhythms they often give a "three-against-two" effect to the whole. Pilkington's setting, of some 36 years later, is a more overtly emotional piece, opening with a sighing figure like the one in Weelkes' When David heard, and using chromaticism and false relations to keep the intensity at a high level - it is moving in a more flamboyant way than Byrd's serious, but plainer setting.
Musically we were somewhat hampered by the gratifyingly large turnout. These pieces were not written for choirs of 45 voices, and it seemed to be impossible to achieve the light and articulate quality that Roger was striving for (the one piece that did start off rather more briskly and lightly, Byrd's Praise the Lord, lost it fairly quickly), and it all tended to be a bit ponderous. Possibly taking the tempi up a notch might have helped, but increased speed also brings with it the risk of superficiality and the runaway train effect when the numbers are large. There had been talk of getting a viol consort to play with one-to-a-line voices to give an idea of how the music might have sounded in the domestic context for which at least some of it was probably composed, but this didn't materialise, and although we did have a few viols (and an assortment of wind instruments) on some of the lines, this doesn't give the same effect with a large group of voices; and I'm not sure that the wind instruments, which go so splendidly in large polychoral pieces, are really suited to this type of music - the composers often say that it is "apt for violls and voyces", or words to that effect, but do not mention any other instruments. But the standard of sightsinging was good enough to enable us to concentrate mostly on the music rather than just the notes, which is what one wants to be able to do at a workshop, and Roger proved a most genial guide to these Cheshire composers, whose music I suspect quite a few of us were meeting for the first time.
There were some bons mots along the way - I rather liked the suggestion that the basses should think of Hagrid dancing a pavane when trying to achieve simultaneous weight and articulateness. Roger had made his own editions of the Bateson and Pilkington pieces we worked on, and we were able to buy copies (also sets of parts) afterwards.
My acquaintance with Cambridge being of the slightest, I was rather expecting something called "The Old Labs" to be some kind of seedy, run-down shack, so was delighted to find that, on the contrary, this was a most civilized venue, with a bright, lofty room to sing in, set in the spacious grounds of Newnham College - one of the pleasantest places I have ever been to for a workshop - many thanks to the Professor of Mediaeval History, Rosamind McKitterick, for arranging for us to use it. It was a beautiful day, and we could all enjoy the sunshine and the daffodils during our coffee/tea breaks, which, owing to a slight misunderstanding about keys, took place outside, with the provender being passed out through a window (which worked perfectly well). After the morning session we had a short walk to another building for lunch, which was included in the price of the day, and was considerably more than just the bread and cheese advertised in the publicity - after which there was time to enjoy the outdoor scene for a bit longer before returning to the Old Labs for the afternoon session. Congratulations and thanks to Lorna Cox for arranging such an enjoyable day.
Roger is the choral tutor at the NWEMF summer school, and this year has taken over the organising of the whole thing, which has opportunities for viol players, wind players and lutenists as well as singers. I look forward to working with him again there at the end of July, and can recommend the week as an enjoyable experience - many people, some from abroad, return there year after year. If you are interested, you will need to get your skates on, as it fills up quickly.
Concerto Cristofori - "Italian Virtuosi" Purcell Room Fri 21.March
Recorder and viol devotees, lured my the magical names of Pamela Thorby and Susanna Pell, and hoping for incandescent displays of virtuosity, were only disappointed in that their luminaries were allotted so little time in the spotlight. The same could be said of Jacob Heringman's compelling intricacies on the lute. Centre stage was, however, beautifully occupied by Faye Newton's limpid soprano. Her diction was clear enough to understand the original Italian text, and the many virtuosi flourishes, runs and trills, such as in Luzzasco Luzzaschi's poignant O primavera were both flawless and wonderfully moving. By contrast, in the popular Ostinato vo' seguire Faye's lively soprano was combined with an exciting filigree of rapid recorder variations.
This varied feast of madrigals, dances, rustic items, and pieces in the new stile recitativo, with its emphasis on portraying strong emotions, gave a good idea of the melting pot of ideas and styles prevailing in 16th century Italy and Venice. The instruments came into their own in such pieces as the cheeky Chi bussa (Who's knocking?) where Jacob Heringman on lute and Sharona Joshua on harpsichord had a witty exchange of knocks and taps, contrasting more obviously virtuosic pieces such as the Divisions for viol on Ancor che col partire by Richardo Rogniono, played with great panache by Susanna Pell, and Pamela Thorby's powerful Divisions on Un gay bergier by Crequillon.
For those with perfect pitch the harpsichord (a copy of the Royal College of Music's Trasuntino harpsichord, commissioned by Sharona Joseph) afforded a rare opportunity to hear early music performed in such unexpected keys as E, A and B major. With such an unusually low pitch (a = 348) the other instruments also adopted unusual keys and tunings, which contributed overall to a pleasing sense of brilliance and mellowness. Sharona Joseph will be giving a solo recital of Renaissance music on this copy of the Trasuntino harpsichord on Sunday June 29, at 7pm at the Streatham Synagogue, 45 Leigham Court Rd, SW16.
The Feinstein Ensemble 16 March Purcell Room"The Three Faces of Bach" - The years at Cothen: Inspiration and Tragedy
One of a series of three, this concert focussed on the chamber music emanating from J S Bach's years at Cothen (1717-23), when he produced the glorious Brandenburg Concertos and the Orchestral Suites, but also suffered the unexpected loss of his wife. Wall to wall Bach not being everyone's cup of tea, the programme also included flute and recorder sonatas from Handel's opus 1 and concluded with the splendid recorder and violin Trio Sonata in G Minor by Telemann, with its lovely mixture of elegiac lyricism and the sparkling fast movements derived from wild gypsy music.
Martin Feinstein (flute/recorder) believes in building a warm, informal rapport with his audience, and this comfortable ambience was created from the first in the Handel Flute sonata in G (op 1 no 5) and sustained throughout, with a hospitable invitation to join the performers for tea and biscuits in the interval. Bach's Trio Sonata in G (BWV1038) for flute and violin successfully addressed the difficulty of balancing the quieter baroque flute with the violin, while still allowing both to shine. Adrian Butterfield (violin) achieved a light, dancing touch in Bach's Sonata in G for harpsichord and violin (BWV1019); although occasionally the lightness became too fragile for comfort. It was nice to hear Nicholas Parle (harpsichord) emerging from the shadows of the continuo team to give a dazzling harpsichord solo in the second Allegro; and one could have wished for a similar chance to hear more of Nicholas' wife, Asako Morikawa on viola da gamba, whose playing seemed overshadowed throughout, although this was a minor point in what was a rich and very enjoyable Sunday afternoon concert.
Towards the end of 2002 musicians began to be aware of a new threat to the public performance and enjoyment of music in England and Wales (Scotland has other rules!) The Government was trying to revise the Licensing laws relating to the sale of alcohol but, buried away in a Schedule on Page 108 of the Bill was the section relating to "The provision of regulated entertainment". Careful reading of this section and its supporting definitions revealed far-reaching implications for all musicians and particularly for amateur musical societies.
It appeared that the Government was intending that all public "performances" of music, in any place and at any time except for religious services, should be licensed and regulated. A licence would have to be obtained, even for impromptu "performances", for singing in pubs, for school and choir concerts, perhaps even for rehearsals, music lessons and dancing classes. Such a licence would be costly and the associated regulation might mean expensive and complicated inspection and monitoring of venues by fire and other authorities. This would impact heavily on churches and other small local venues where costs could well exceed any income derived from a concert. Failure to obtain a licence would result in fines of up to £20,000 and up to 6 months in jail. Examples of the effect of existing and planned regulations have been appearing in the newspapers, like the publican fined for allowing "Happy Birthday" to be sung in his pub, or the group prosecuted for "rhythmic tapping of feet" to music because this was evidence of "entertainment". What was to come could only be worse. Breaking into song in public could become a criminal offence!
Ominously, there were to be exemptions from regulation and licensing, for example, the "broadcasting" of recorded music, implying that the loud TV or sound system in a public place was permitted, but not the performance of live music. Representative groups seemed to wake up to the threat only after the Bill reached the House of Lords, then Societies, Unions and individuals raced into action. MPs were contacted, petitions drawn up and the fun began. An example of the public response is given by an on-line Internet petition which attracted many thousands of "signatures".
To: UK Government
We, the undersigned, are concerned that the Licensing Bill proposals to make the performance of live music licensable in pubs and clubs, in places where alcohol is served, in churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, in schools and colleges, in community centres and village and parish halls, and in private homes and gardens where private parties and weddings may be held will have an enormously detrimental effect on musicians and live music performances; fear that the raising of money for charities by musicians will be seriously compromised; consider it will seriously impinge on the folk community including folk music and traditional folk activities such as morris dancing, wassailing, etc; believe that the penalties for breaking the law of a six month jail sentence of a £20,000 fine are far too draconian; consider it grossly unfair and inconsistent that live music will not be licensable in Scotland but will be in England and Wales; regret that the Government has decided to replace the anomalous two in a bar rule with a none in a bar rule which will catch all live music performances; believe that the requirement for the provision of entertainment facilities to become licensable which will ensnare music shops, music and dance studios and teachers, represents a totally unacceptable regulatory intrusion into mainstream activities; and call on the Government to amend the relevant parts of bill in order to remove the iniquities faced by musicians and the music industry as a whole.
The reference to "raising money for charities" was important because the Bill states that such monies will be regarded as "profit" and therefore subject to both regulation and taxation.
The Musician’s Union has been very active in fighting these proposals and seem to have secured some concessions from the Government. It is disturbing to note that the Minister and other politicians are saying first, that the Bill does not actually say what it clearly does say and, second, that the responsibility lies with Civil Servants for faulty drafting - whatever happened to Ministerial responsibility?
Many musicians expressed their concern to Government through "Making Music", the National association to which many musical societies are affiliated. Individuals, too, have had an effect. One amateur musician received the following reply to her letter to Cheryl Gillan, MP, who turns out to be a member of the Parliament Choir.
"Thank you very much for your letter of 7 January about the Licensing Bill. You will see from the enclosed press release that I too was very concerned about the implications of this legislation for churches and other places of worship.
I am pleased to say that the Early Day Motion, which I signed, and other pressure put on the Minister by MPs and by many members of choral societies, etc., has persuaded the Minister to change his mind about this damaging proposal. Earlier this week, Dr Kim Howells MP announced that places of public worship across the country will not require a licence to put on entertainment performances of any kind.
In addition, the Government intends to exempt village and community halls from fees associated with the provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities under the licensing regime.
I agree with you absolutely about the place which music plays in local life and, it goes without saying, in charitable fundraising efforts. Locally, this daft idea would have had a devastating effect on the Amersham and Chesham Bois Choral Society, the M40 Orchestra, the Amersham Festival and the Misbourne Orchestra, to name but a few. Licensing would have affected everything from nursery school concerts to major international events like the Three Choirs Festival. One Bishop said in the House of Lords that it would cost the Church of England alone £2.6 million in just one year of operation.
At long last, the Government has seen sense, but let me assure you that I will keep a close eye on this when the Bill comes to the House of Commons from the House of Lords. Thank you so much for letting me know your concerns and for reinforcing the arguments which I have put on behalf of constituents to the Government.
Now, all this seems to be very positive, but we should be wary of any and all undertakings from Ministers and a Department who do not seem fully to understand either what the Bill actually says or what the substance of public concern is. MPs and Lords have pressed their case and tabled amendments. In reply some bizarre statements have been made in support of the Government’s position. Here is an example from the Musician’s Union:
LORDS BATTLE FOR LIVE MUSIC
Currently, 95% of 110,000 bars, pubs, restaurants and similar premises in England and Wales do not hold the public entertainment licence required to allow more than two musicians to work.
To-day, Tuesday 11 March, music-loving Peers will table a radical amendment to the Licensing Bill that could lead to a renaissance in live music in such venues.
Under the Government's new Licensing Bill, even providing a piano for public use would become a criminal offence unless first licensed by the local authority. A performance by one unamplified musician in a bar would similarly be illegal unless licensed. The Government says this is necessary for safety and noise reasons. The maximum penalty for unlicensed entertainment is a £20,000 fine and six months in prison. However, big screens and pub jukeboxes are exempt, no matter how powerfully amplified.
Last month the Lords won an exemption for unamplified background music. But Culture Minister Kim Howells has since opposed this on the grounds that it would allow 'six Japanese drummers' to perform in pubs.
Opposition Lords, led by Conservative Shadow Culture Minister Baroness Buscombe, will argue tomorrow for an exemption for small events that finish by 11.30pm. The limit on attendance will be no more than 250 people at any one time.
Musicians' Union General Secretary John F Smith said: 'This amendment is crucial for our 32,000 members. Except for performance in churches, the Bill would make it illegal to host any live music without a licence, regardless of the circumstances. This seems ridiculous when set against the exemption for big screen broadcast entertainment and jukeboxes. We believe that there is adequate legislation already for safety and noise. An exemption for small events that finish at a reasonable hour would not just protect members' jobs, it would create thousands of new work opportunities.'
Have you seen "six Japanese drummers" in any of your local pubs? An important point here is that the law is not determined by what a Minister says but by what is printed in the Act. Unless there are major revisions to the Bill it is possible that any of us could find ourselves falling foul of the legislation. Promises and reassurances are not enough, we need to see the words in print.
This point is made all the more important by the most recent developments. The Bill has reached its Committee stage and already the Government is reversing earlier concessions. For example, an exemption previously offered to schools has now been withdrawn.
Is there anything to worry about? Not if you believe what the Government say about the Bill:
"A balanced package of freedoms and safeguards – clamping down on the crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour perpetrated by a minority whilst giving the responsible majority more freedom and choice about how they spend their leisure time."
What do you enjoy in your leisure time? Crime, disorder, anti-social behaviour or making music?