Thames Valley Early Music Forum
This is a rather depressing Tamesis for me to produce because the main item is a very negative review of the Michael Procter weekend. I know that a lot of people enjoyed it and the writer obviously assumes that someone will have written a good review, but in fact that was the only one I received. I am told that the Margaret Westlake day was very good, but the only review I have received is David's in his Chairman's Chat. I hate to nag, but I must repeat that it is up to you to write things for Tamesis. No articles - no magazine.
On the subject of no magazine, we are sorry but David and I have looked at our diaries and decided that July is simply too busy for us to produce one. This means that there will be one in August instead. Copy date is the 12th of August. If you have any dates for the concerts and events list in July these can be added to the web site if you send them to Linda Hill. This only applies to July, and if you want them printed in the August issue you need to send them to me as well.
I hope you all have a good summer, enjoy your summer schools - and review them!
I'm hoping that you will get a proper review of the "Queen of Heaven" workshop but I just have time to jot down a few thoughts before we go to press. The day, admirably led by Margaret Westlake, was devoted to Marian motets by Victoria, Guererro and Trombetti. It attracted well over 50 participants, both vocal and instrumental, and appeared to be very successful. The Dutch church proved once again to be an excellent musical venue though perhaps we should have stuck to our normal plan and rehearsed downstairs where the accoustics are more favourable for speech, and moved into the splendid but very resonant church only for the run-through. It was good to see singers coping well with singing from a part rather than a score, and that we were not disconcerted by a beat of two semibreves to the bar. Things have moved a very long way during the 40 or so years in which I have been involved in early music, and there has been significant progress even in the time since TVEMF was formed in 1987. Many thanks to Jeff Gill for organising the event and for finding the venue in the first instance.
We look forward to music from a different period on Sunday 4th July when we shall study a mass by Charpentier directed by Jeffrey Skidmore. It is Jeffrey's first workshop for TVEMF but his events for MEMF and others have proved very popular so I'm looking forward to it very much.
New Chairman at MEMF
After sixteen years as Chairman of the Midlands Early Music Forum, Beresford King-Smith did not seek re-election at their recent AGM. The new Chairman is Jim Rowley whose address is 2 The Haybarn, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands B76 1DE, Tel: 0121 240 3664, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Beresford was enormously supportive to TVEMF in our early days and many of us have popped over the border to the excellent MEMF events which he has organised, so we are extremely to him for all his hard work and hope to see him at some of our future events.
Mass with Michael Procter in St Mary le Strand 8-9th May 2004
In spite of all the good things no doubt reported elsewhere in Tamesis, I found that the
event had one particular drawback, which was the venue, and one general drawback, the format.
First, the venue. The church, St Mary le Strand, is right in the middle of the Strand's roaring traffic noise. That is a real drawback. The traffic noise was so constant and so loud that many of the singers could not hear Michael Procter's words from the middle, much less hear the other singers on the other side of the wide-aisled church. To make the rehearsal of the work succeed, after a fashion, we had to find chairs, and set up closer to each other. Even then the noise of the stream of busses, motorcycles and vans, was ever-present during the Saturday rehearsals. I. for one, would rather have paid more for a hired hall than put up with the non-renaissance era traffic noise of St Mary-le-Grand. (I may be in a minority, though. A vote taken at the end of the weekend revealed only a few of us raising our hands to the question "how many would not come back to this church?" But note the way the question was put.)
The general drawback is the format of incorporating the mass and associated pieces being worked on by the singers during the weekend into a Sunday morning church service. While I appreciate the interest in putting sung mass music into its litrugical context, this format breaks up the whole weekend into these three segments: First, the Saturday, in which the increasingly distracted weekend leader is obliged to whip into shape selected bits of the mass and one or more of the associated pieces. Second, the whole of Sunday morning taken up with sitting through the whole service, and singing our bits, which are actually only just barely ready for public audition. During this particular service, incidentally, the Church officials would not let us sing our Sanctus part of the mass, nor the Agnus Dei, imposing instead forgettable pieces of plainsong and what seemed to me to be 19th-century arrangements. Third, a "rump" of a Sunday afternoon, in which the rest of the mass, or the other pieces to be worked on, are run through somewhat half-heartedly until the closing of the day at tea-time.
It seems to me that the principle of doing bits of a mass in the liturgical context ought to be shifted to an evensong on Sunday, when the group would be better prepared and we could perhaps "perform" more of the parts of the mass being worked on. While I recognize that the Sunday morning service was perhaps the price we had to pay for getting the venue at no or low cost, I think the result is unsatisfactory. Because of the format adopted for this weekend, we did not really get a chance to sing or study the whole of the mass we had come for.
Speaking as the person who usually organises the Michael Procter weekends, I was sorry to hear that Hugh did not enjoy this one. This is the established format for this particular weekend and it always proves popular. As we have well over 300 members it is lucky that not every event appeals to everyone! Don't forget that comments and suggestions for events are always welcome.
Price did not come into the issue - St Augustine's Kilburn was not available and we were looking for (and found) a warmer venue.
We are in fact planning to have a workshop leading to a vespers service. This is likely to be a one day event with a different conductor in a different church. At the moment I'm having trouble finding a day when the conductor and the church are available. Philip Thorby's Rosenmuller Vespers weekend for TVEMF in October will be non-liturgical, but if you enjoy working towards a service Michael Procter has just announced a residential weekend at Park Place in Hampshire where some of the music studied will be performed during the Sunday morning mass.
I showed Hugh's comments to a few people to get another viewpoint on what I had heard from other sources was a very good event. Johanna Renouf's first reaction was:
"It was an excellent event - practically all liked the venue, but two objected to the traffic noise - and it was a bit cramped."
Later when she had had more time to think about it she wrote the following:
Response to Hugh Rosenbaum's review of 8-9 May
Although I agree with much of what Hugh writes, he missed out entirely the enormous pleasure almost all of us experienced in singing wonderful music under Michael's excellent direction. I personally was not nearly as upset by the traffic noise - and was more bothered by the lack of space for singers as the church doesn't have a dedicated choir space, and it was hard to hear each other. Although I did regret not being able to sing more parts of the mass, I found the actual service worthwhile attending. It is a lovely church and the sermon was unusually interesting. Many of us were very pleased to be able to enjoy the Courtauld, John Soane's House, good local restaurants etc. during our lunch breaks.
What most concerns me is that we are 'wasting' a good deal of what Michael has to offer by singing liturgically. (An evensong probably would be better.) If we were able to find a venue that we could afford to use for two days I would prefer to work with Michael without the distractions of fitting in with a Mass. I always find his direction inspiring and wish we could have more time to work with him. Hugh assumed other reviews would give differing opinions - and it would indeed be good to have more reactions.
I asked Neil Edington, who organised the event for his comments, and this is an edited version of what he wrote.
As you know, the Kilburn tradition is 'to perform the liturgy', which is very much Michael's thing: and this does set it apart from just singing/reading the music. The advert was very clear on this, and the majority of the singers come because of this and Michael.
I like to hear the music sung in a liturgical text. Part of the difficulty is finding a minister/congregation that are sensitive to this, and marrying it with an appropriate location. St Mary le Strand was a new venture for TVEMF, but I have sung there with a chamber choir and LSE. I knew it had a good acoustic, was smaller, but warmer than St Augustines, and has a central location with local eating places, (and a loo that is almost a shrine!).
Initially I was somewhat disappointed that William (the rector) only wanted us to sing the Gloria and the Agnus Dei, with the double choir motet 'Caro Mea' as an introit. But in the end I thought that this was very appropriate and the church was well pleased with the rendering. Michael was, as ever, a master at getting the best out of his resources. The double choir motet was particularly lovely.
As it was a new venue we did have problems sorting out how to configure ourselves, both in rehearsal and on the Sunday. But I think that these wouldn't re-present themselves.
Sunday afternoon was freefall time for looking at the rest of the mass (it is unrealistic to expect any congregation to hear the whole mass sung); and comments relating to that lie with whether you perceive the world to be a glass half full; or a glass half empty.
News of Members' Activities
One Sunday afternoon in May I went to an afternoon concert at St Anne's church in Kew Green. The performers were Pellegrina which includes TVEMF member Alison Bowler playing the spinet plus Kyoko Murai (soprano), Maria Sanger (recorders) and Amanda Seaborn (viola da gamba). I was glad to see a few other TVEMF members there, but the rest of you missed a really delightful concert.
There will be another opportunity to hear them on Thursday 1st July when Pellegrina will be performing at Fenton House in Hampstead Grove, London NW3 and Alison will be playing one of the National Trust property's big harpsichords. Their programme, "London Revisited" will consist of cantatas, songs and instrumental works by Purcell, Handel, Pepusch, Finger, Croft and Paisible. The concert starts at 8pm and admission includes an opportunity to view the house, garden and historical collection of keyboard instruments. You can get tickets from the National Trust Box Office and details can be found in the Concerts List pages.