Tamesis Issue 210
There are two forms with this issue. The date of the workshop by Will Carslake, 10th May, was only announced last month but I hope plenty of you have it in your diaries. It is to be on Brumel’s Earthquake Mass at a new venue for us, the drama studio at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. The town has a good train service from London and coach services from London, Oxford and a number of other places, but the school is at the top of the hill in the Amersham direction, so if you’re arriving by public transport a bus up the hill is recommended. The second form is for Peter Syrus’s workshop on Festa at Ickenham in June. The recorder workshop with Philip Thorby in October has now been confirmed, and I will be sorting out the details of that and the Christmas 2010 workshop when I see him in Lincoln in May at Kathleen and Peter Berg’s Senfl weekend.
Nobody has reviewed the Baroque Chamber Music Playing Day which took place last month in Oxford, but as usual it was a triumph of organisation by Peter Collier. I believe there were over sixty people playing Peter’s music in various combinations. It was great to see so many TVEMF members there as well as regulars from the summer school.
Please note that as the first Monday in the month is a bank holiday in May, the copy date will be brought forward to the preceding Monday, 27th April.
I gather that the Baroque day on the 28th of March was its usual success but unfortunately I was unable to attend as I have damaged my left thumb so that playing the recorder is not currently possible. There is a good chance that I shall regain enough function eventually but until then I am limited to singing and playing the cornett where precise thumb control is not required. Indeed I discover that for pieces of a high enough tessitura the thumb hole can remain covered throughout, but this is not an entirely satisfactory option as it exchanges comfort of fingering for total exhaustion after a couple of such pieces.
One of the benefits of the Forum is that one hears of other events in which members are participating or which they organise. There is a review of one such workshop elsewhere in the magazine, and on the 29th of March I was asked to sing in a performance of parts 2 and 3 of The Messiah in Waltham St Lawrence which was also very enjoyable.
In High Wycombe on the 10th of May we are once more tackling that extraordinary masterpiece the 12-part "earthquake" mass by Brumel. I remember studying this work at a Beauchamp Summer School years ago and being very taken with it and Alan Lumsden led a successful workshop for TVEMF the same year. This is the first event in which Will Carslake has directed us but he comes highly recommended so I am really looking forward to it.
Kate Kuhn 1954-2009
Kate was a member of TVEMF for the first ten or so years of its existence and was a keen recorder player and competent pianist. When she gave up playing she sold of most of her extensive collection of music for charity and quite a few of us still enjoy using it. As well as being a GP Kate did bereavement counselling, started a drop-in centre in Wycombe and travelled extensively. Her fitness gained by walking, rowing and long-distance swimming meant that she manage to survive her cancer longer than expected but she eventually succumbed on the 23rd of March. There is a gathering of her friends on the 9th of May in the church hall of Our Lady of Grace Church, 29 Squirrel Lane, Booker, High Wycombe, HP12 4RY from about 3pm. There will be some photos on view, refreshments, conversation and perhaps some music. Let me know if you would like to come.
Thanks for the renaissance day
This is belated thanks for another excellent day of varied music making at the Renaissance Day on 1st March. You are welcome to use it in Tamesis if you have the space.
My voice was my instrument and I sang the bottom line of everything that came along during the four sessions of the day. We made judicious decisions when music was either clearly too difficult or not quickly rewarding; but with such a wealth of material available there were enough spontaneous smiles of pleasure, concerted cries of "This is wonderful" and "We must have more of this" to make it a successful day.
At the first session I discovered the mellow combination of sackbuts and voices and met Audrey, whose feelings for her sackbut rivalled those for her grandchildren. We were to meet again in the final session in thrilling music by John East. As he increased the tension with rising sequential phrases, Audrey and I found ourselves moving in parallel thirds for bar after bar. I sat closer to savour the moment. Our eyes met. We knew why we were there. I later reflected on what a positive experience the day had been. 32 people doing what they love to do and with the skills to do it well. If only this could be a model for society in general how much happier we all would be. We must indeed have more of this.
Thames Baroque Orchestra Workshop at Bourne End
Although not a TVEMF event, this one-day workshop for the Thames Baroque Orchestra was organised by one of our stalwarts, Norma Herdson, and there were a fair few TVEMF members there.
The day was very well organised, with staged start times for different groups of participants throughout the morning – and different fees charged to reflect the overall time spent by each group participating in the workshop. Good quality scores and parts had been hired from various music libraries.
I get the impression that singers were a fairly unusual addition to the Baroque Orchestra’s usual playing day format – it turned out that getting the right balance (i.e. finding enough tenors and basses) wasn’t achieved until just before the event – the last-minute advert in Tamesis apparently helped here. (Another explanation for the problem with choral balance might have been because tenors and basses are just that much more attentive to their mothers? …I must admit that when I signed up early for the event I hadn’t actually realised it was going to take place on Mothering Sunday). Michael Sanderson was an ideal choice for musical director for this workshop with his extensive performance experience of both singing and playing baroque violin. He was kindly encouraging and knowledgeable and managed, I feel, to get the most from the assembled forces.
The whole orchestra sounded great and I was especially impressed by the oboists; it was a lovely backdrop for the choir’s vocal efforts. We worked on all of the choruses and selected arias – the Galatea ones being shared out between sopranos who had expressed eagerness to have a go.
A week before the event I was told that I was still the only tenor signed up, so I thought I’d better prepare one of Acis’s arias; I volunteered to have a shot at “Love sounds th’alarm”. The start of this number is instrumental with the violins and oboes playing very fanfare-like motifs. Michael told the violin section that they had to consider themselves more “trumpets” than “violins”. Having once been a trumpet player myself, I couldn’t resist cheekily remarking that this was “quite a promotion” for them; this caused a certain degree of uproar with hilarity from some quarters and distinctly indignant looks from others… perhaps I am unlikely to be invited back? Luckily, by the day of the event, a really good tenor from our TVEMF number had also signed up and did one of the Damon arias and some of the other Acis numbers, so we had much more of the whole story line filled in. One certain* TVEMF chairman filled in the famous Polyphemus aria “O ruddier than the cherry” with our illustrious secretary accompanying on the sopranino recorder… very enjoyable!
In order to make amends somewhat to my mum for my being out on a music course on Mothering Sunday, and having checked it was OK with Michael, who was totally amenable, I invited her to come along to Bourne End for the play-though at 4pm; my wife and daughters came along too. Michael was most hospitable and gave a nice informative introduction to the music for them. They seemed to enjoy the music on offer, which included a piece by Biber the orchestra had been working on earlier in the morning, and I have caught them at various time since humming some of the tunes from the day which must be a good sign!
In summary, I thought this a really good varied day where quite a few people were tempted outside their “comfort zones” with great results.
*Note from David: I think this should read 'uncertain chairman'.
This play, written by TVEMF member Helen Dymond, was performed on the 5th of April at the Grosvenor Chapel as part of the Handel Festival. It is based on a number of known facts about Handel such as his love of food, shortage of money and his relationship with his servant Peter le Blond and librettist Charles Jennens. Helen’s imagined conversation between Handel and Jennens amusingly portrayed the tension between the practical musician with an eye on his paying audience and the aristocratic, rather high-minded librettist. She managed to work in known facts such as the premier of The Messiah in Dublin and the statue of Handel in the Vauxhall gardens which, perhaps surprisingly, features the score of Alexander’s Feast. There were a number of musical interludes, played and sung beautifully by an ensemble led by Lawrence Cummings, and the actors were excellent. Indeed the audience insisted on their return after they had left the stage and seemed rather reluctant to take another bow. Helen herself declined to acknowledge the lengthy applause but must be very pleased with the way the performance went.
News of Members’ Activities
Background Baroque, consisting of TVEMF members Victoria Helby, Hazel Fenton, Norma Herdson and Barbara Moir, managed to play nineteen trio sonatas in just under two hours at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead on Red Nose Day in aid of Comic Relief. If only we had managed twenty it would have made the subsequent calculations so much easier, but we hadn’t got anything short enough for the couple of minutes we had left over at the end. We played one sonata each by Boismortier, Corbet, Falconiero, Keller, Rossi and Valentine, two by Handel, Purcell and Williams, three by Naudot and four by Telemann. We would like to thank everyone who sponsored us, Norden Farm for the use of their café bar for the performance, and the people who came to listen, one from quite a long way away. There were also some candidates waiting for their Associated Board exams – I wonder what they thought! We’ve collected almost all the money now and the grand total is going to be well over £1600, but it isn’t too late if you would like to sponsor us after the event. You can do it on line at or send a cheque (made out to Red Nose Day 2009) to me (Victoria) if you prefer to use the post. Don’t worry if you’ve lost the form, but I’ll need your full address if you want to gift aid your donation.