Tamesis Issue 193
Very many thanks to all our contributors this month. There’s only enough space to say that there won’t be a September issue, so please send me your autumn information in time for August. I hope you all have a lovely summer with plenty of music.
Michael Sharman has pointed out that in my last Chat I should have said that this was the first Whitsun VVR course held at Halsway Manor, as Hazel Fenton runs the autumn course there. He kindly gave a brief history of the courses which are long-standing and very successful - see the article in this issue. Bill Gregson and Ena Pick who started the VVR courses were friends of mine but sadly are both now dead. Bill was a great character whose enthusiasm sometimes outstripped his organisational skills. Even with her calm temperament Ena struggled to make a success of the venture but between them they managed it. As well as being the Chairman (I think) of the Oxford SRP, Bill was a competent bassoonist and towards the end of his life acquired the tenor shawm which once belonged to David Munrow. He bought this instrument from our former chairman, Chris Thorn, who also owned the bass shawm from the same source, and the two of them would sometimes join forces at my "Loud Wind in Wycombe" sessions to good effect.
I gather that the mass in St. Augustine's with Michael Procter went well, and though the forces were fewer than last year, the musical result was excellent. There is now a gap whilst many of us attend summer schools (don't forget the reviews) but I'm looking forward to the event in September when John Milsom, now back in this country after some years abroad, conducts music by Richafort. I only know a few pieces by this composer, all good, so this will be an opportunity to expand my knowledge
Letter to the editor
Dear Victoria, I was slightly (but not excessively) embarrassed to see my SEMF report for the interforum pow-wow printed in Tamesis. To put it into context, so that it does not appear that i was just having a whinge: shortly before the interforum meeting, I had an e-mail from the convenor saying that he had contacted Those Who Must Not Be Named in SEMF asking for a report, but had heard nothing. So i knocked off a report straight away, but was feeling a bit irritated about it.
What SEMF needs is more people who have enthusiasm for organizing, or even attending events (rather than just joining, as our finances are one of the few things that are OK). We do seem to have rather a lot of people who claim to be too busy to contribute anything except criticism for what we do organize. It is largely an attitude of mind. It took me only about 40 minutes to sit down and type up a report for the interforum meeting, and i can generally do a write-up of an event in well under an hour.
Incidentally, i agree that committee meetings should be unnecessary, but some committee members hardly ever turn up to our SEMF events and are difficult to make contact with, unfortunately.
Lobo/John the Baptist weekend 23/24 June 2007
Weekend for singers, directed by Michael Procter
As one of the 25 singers who took part in this weekend course, culminating in singing the Lobo mass liturgically at St Augustine's, Kilburn, I must say it was a most enjoyable and rewarding experience. The 'Missa Elisabeth and Zacchariae' is a parody mass on a motet by Guerrero, and we sang the motet during communion. Though the group was smaller than in previous years, (and therefore had problems with breaking even), it was well balanced and everyone said how much they had enjoyed themselves.
A few of the group had to leave immediately after the service, but most came back after Sunday lunch to sing through Palestrina's motet 'Fuit homo missus a Deo'. There was also a discussion about the format of the weekend, and whether a workshop would be preferable. The consensus was in favour of the weekend with the aim of singing a mass liturgically - it gave the proceedings a real focus. Thanks are due to Neil Edington for his organisation for TVEMF, to Michael Procter for his music direction and editorial work on the mass and motet, and to Penny Vinson for her assistance in liaising with the church.
TVEMF’s annual weekend at St Augustine’s, Kilburn, with Michael Procter took place on June 23rd/24th. This was a different date from previous similar weekends and for various reasons was rather under-subscribed compared with previously, with only 25 singers attending. Reasons for this drop in participants are not clear but possibly the Saturday could have clashed with other choir summer concerts (as in fact happened with my own but I was able to do both!!) or with school events (post-exams or pre-end of term). However, those of us who were there thoroughly enjoyed the smaller group which was well-balanced and achieved a very good standard.
The music was Duarte Lobo’s “Missa Elisabeth Zachariae” with the Guerrero motet of the same name, on which the parody mass was based, being sung during communion. June 24th being the Nativity of St John Baptist, all the music was chosen accordingly, including some very long hymns with extremely strange words! The service went well on the Sunday morning and after lunch we sang through the Credo from the mass and a beautiful Palestrina motet “Fuit homo missus a Deo”.
The downside of the smaller group was something of a shortfall in “takings”, which was of some concern to Neil, who was the organiser of the weekend. This particular weekend is always more expensive than other 2-day events but there was considerable support by those present for Michael to continue with the Kilburn weekend. He is going to consider dates for next year and also consider dates and locations for re-starting the Cambridge weekend. Two-day workshops have been very successful and popular in the past and perhaps more could be planned in the future.
Ut queant laxis - a diversion
Ut queant laxis, Resonare fibris, Mira gestorum, Famuli tuorum, Solve polluti, Labii reatum Sancte Johannes
This was one of our Sunday afternoon treats at Michael Procter’s weekend. I had not progressed quite far enough with my OU course “Continuing Classical Latin” to volunteer a translation on the spot, but I discovered in Donald Grout’s History of Western Music the following, which seemed to me pretty accurate :-
So that all your servants may freely sing forth the wonders of your deeds, remove all stain of guilt from their unclean l, O saint John. The one obvious departure from the text is “freely” for “laxis…fibris” which, as far as my various dictionaries tell me, means, if “fibris” relates to a body part, “with loose entrails”. I have come across one other version which reads “with loosened voices” - scarcely what Michael would want from us, I suspect.
E. Cobham Brewer, the original compiler of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and Brewer’s Readers’ Handbook, produced the following ingenious rendering (it fits where it touches, so to speak) which preserves the opening syllables:-
Uttered be thy wondrous story Reprehensive though I be Me make mindful of thy glory Famous son of Zacharee Solace to my spirit bring Labouring thy praise to sing
Ut queant laxis is the first verse of a hymn generally attributed to Paulo Diacono (aka Paul Warnefrido, ca 720-790), which runs to 13 verses. Other verses are sometimes sung; e.g., according to the Roman Breviary, Ut queant laxis is sung at Vespers, verse 5 (Antra deserti Teneris sub annis Civium turmas Fugiens, petisti Ne levi saltum Maculare vitam Famine posses) at Matins, and verse 9 (O nimis felix Meritique celsi Nesciens labem Nivei pudoris Prepotens martyr Heremique cultor Maxime vatum !) at Lauds.
Deacon Paul seems, from such works of his as survive, to have been acquainted with the works of Horace, since Ut queant laxis is in the Sapphic metre which Horace used extensively in his Odes, it being the next commonest after the Alcaic. The Sapphic metre (184.108.40.206, as the English Hymnal would designate it) is very rarely found in English verse, though Isaac Watts, the composer of, among others “When I survey the Wondrous Cross” and “O God, our help in ages past” wrote a poem in Sapphics on “The Day of Judgment”, the last verse of which is:-
”Oh may I sit here when he comes triumphant Dooming the nations, then ascend to glory While our hosannas all along the passage Shout the Redeemer”
which may help to explain why he hasn’t had many imitators.
Deacon Paul also turned his hand to secular matters; among his compositions is a short poem commemorating the death of a boy who was frozen in a glacier, a eulogy to one Peter of Pisa in which he compares him to Horace (as well as Homer and Virgil), and a laudatory poem of ca. 782 to “regem Karolum” who is, presumably, Charlemagne (742-814). Perhaps we should consider founding a Paulo Diacono Appreciation Society at whose meetings all 13 verses of Ut queant laxis are performed?
Baroque Orchestra Day at Bourne End
For those of us who know their musical history, there is the Ivy Benson Band, then the magnificent Spice Girls and now Tamesis has its very own Norma’s Band! Of course with a mixed gender base, the Thames Baroque Orchestra’s inaugural play day held at Bourne End was an outstanding success. Conducted by Michael Sanderson, we kicked off with Handel’s Water Music, quite appropriate I thought in view of the heavy rain and flooding we’ve had recently. Michael spoke of the importance of phrasing in this work, demonstrating many examples on his violin. The Vivaldi concerto for two violins, played by our own splendid principal violins, was a different kettle of fish. Here Michael went to the phrasing and the style of the work which is very different from the Handel. I quite like Vivaldi’s music – it is very atmospheric and has an astonishing range of moods, and with such simple notes too. The Rameau suite we played is the height of the French Baroque. It is of course very difficult music to play, but we coped well I thought, with loads of ornaments and inégale and goodness know what else. I just wish that we had had more time to spend on it. The Community Centre at Bourne End was very clean and has a nice bar stocking some fine real ales. There is also a Somerfields and a Co-op nearby where you can buy a sandwich. Hard working Caroline provided tea and coffee and biscuits all day. After such a lovely day we all had, I do hope Norma’s Band can organise many more playing days.
En route recently to the ENO, as it was a Wednesday I called in at the National Gallery to see what was happening on the early evening music front. To my delight I caught about 3/4 of a really exquisite concert, given by a group called "Tarquinia", consisting of young musicians either students or graduates of the Royal College of Music (the concert was one of a series on Wednesdays all by RCM members). The group consisted of 3 sopranos, all of whom had beautiful voices, no vibrato in evidence at all (Andrew Benson Wilson please note, if you read this!) and which blended extremely well in a series of solos, duets and trios, in the manner of Concert delle Donne of the Ferrara Court, accompanied by a talented young theorbo played. A baroque cello player was advertised, but her non-appearance was apologised for but not explained! They played/sang songs by Luzzaschi, Monteverdi, Barbara Strozzi, Francesca Caccini, Frescobaldi, Carissimi among others. The name Tarquinia derives from one of the period's most celebrated singers. After this glorious hour or so of delights, I proceeded to ENO to a total contrast - Britten's "Death in Venice"!!
Viols, Voices and Recorders
A brief history
The VVR course was started by Bill Gregson and Ena Pick at Magdalen College School, Oxford. After a few years it moved out to the Manor House in a small village called Charney Bassett. The Manor belongs to the Society of Friends. The course has been running for at least 20 years.
At a course called "Spiritual Music" run jointly by the Quakers & Bill, he met John Smith who managed a similar Quaker House at Dormansland, near Lingfield. John invited Bill to start another course there. This ran for a couple of years before Bill's death.
Hazel Fenton took over running this offshoot course but moved it to Halsway Manor. The courses at Charney Manor continued twice a year. Helen France teamed up with Hazel for Halsway. So you can see the courses are really blood brothers and the only differences are the personalities of the people organising them.
The format of the courses is extremely similar. After Bill's death the organisation at Charney was taken over by Felix Jaffé and Rosalie Cornwallis, and after several years by Richard & Tricia King
Broadside Ballads and popular street songs of 17th century England
a lecture recital at Benslow Music Trust
Lucie Skeaping (presenter of BBC 3's Early Music Show) and Robin Jeffrey (Musical Director for Shakespeare's Globe) are holding a lecture-recital on 17th century Broadside Ballads and songs at Benslow Music Trust in Hitchin on 11th September. Comical, sentimental, political or just plain lewd, these delightful songs were the pop music of their day, the music of the common man, whistled and hummed in all walks of life from courtier to ploughman. They were heard in the streets, taverns, theatres and countryside between the time of William Byrd and Henry Purcell. Distributed and sung up and down the land by an army of rough peddlers, they also acted like today’s tabloid newspapers or magazines, featuring everything from the Gunpowder Plot or the Fire of London to lively comic tales of country bumpkins, fashion and royal stories. All were set to some of the prettiest melodies England has every produced. Lucie and Robin will perform a variety of ballads, discuss their tunes, their meanings and instrumentation - and perhaps teach you a chorus or two! Through projected images you’ll also explore the way these ballads were printed and sold. The cost is £28, including lunch