Thames Valley Early Music Forum
I had hoped to have all our future events dates confirmed by now, but there are still one or two doubts. The date of David Allinson's September workshop has had to be changed, almost certainly to Saturday 17th, so that he can conduct the wedding music for a member of his choir. That's certainly a very good reason to change it, and we are just waiting for confirmation that the Dutch church can have us on the new date.
Alison Crum's day for voices and viols is also almost confirmed for Saturday 9th July, but just might get changed to the 10th. The day will be for a maximum ten singers and ten viol players who will need to be good sight-readers, and because of the low numbers will have to be a little more expensive than usual.
Jeffrey Skidmore's workshop on South American music has now been confirmed for Saturday 15th October. The music, by Padilla, Araujo, Capillas, Zipoli and Sumaya, is from Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina and will be sung in Nahuatl, Quechua, Chiquitana, Spanish and Latin! Instrumentalists will be welcome as well.
The form for Michael Procter's weekend at St Augustine's, Kilburn will be sent with next month's Tamesis, but meanwhile I have been asked to point out that the parts are SSATTB, so we shall need plenty of tenors. We have decided to hold the event in June this year so that the church will have had time to lose its winter chill. This is always a good event and a rare opportunity to perform the music, in this case Andrea Gabrieli's mass 'Quando lieta sperai', in a liturgical context.
I was interested to see that Andrew Parrott will be directing a non-residential course on Viadana's four-choir Vespers of 1612 in Oxford in September, experimenting with Viadana's own instructions for performing the music. I'm very tempted to go, because Andrew was one of the conductors who introduced me to early music when I was a student and sang in his choir in Merton College chapel, where the course will be held. I'm mentioning it now because I searched the Internet to see if I could find anything about Viadana's instructions and came up with a very interesting Web site:
http://www.bassus-generalis.org . Here you can find instructions on figured bass by Viadana, Agazzari, Muffat and several others, some translated into English.
Copy date for the next Tamesis is Monday 18th April. Back-numbers can be seen on http://www.tvemf.org/tamesis/index.htm
I was somewhat apprehensive as the Renaissance day approached, since the weather forecasts became steadily worse and I remembered when we had to abandon a Baroque Day because of snow. Fortunately things improved by the weekend and although we had a couple of cancellations because of illness we mustered nearly 40 people on the day. When you are organising such a complicated event it's hard to judge how well things are going, but it seemed to go pretty well. There was an unusual lack of alto voices which placed severe restrictions on my choices. I know there were one or two less than satisfactory groups, and that some people had a less varied day than they might have wished, so apologies for that. I tried to calculate the number of possible arrangements of 40 people in four sessions and came to the conclusion that it was well in excess of a googol (1 followed by a hundred zeros), so at least a few of those must have been worse than what I came up with! I lent out a grey-blue music stand, marked with a bit of brown wool, and it would be nice to get it back if someone took it in error.
We had some more feedback regarding the Peter Leech day, some good, some bad. One of the problems was the poor layout of the seating which became apparent only when the instrumentalists attempted to find seats. I think we really need more helpers for such occasions. Before the start I was trying to put up signs around the building, fill the urn with water for coffee, greet new members and answer queries, which left little time for thought. There was a very encouraging response to a letter that I sent to some regular attenders at our events, but more help would be appreciated, so if you feel you could help in any way then please let me know.
The Baroque Chamber Music Day on the 2nd of April is sure to be popular and is always well organised by Peter Collier, thanks to his experience in running the Oxford Baroque Week. Please give him all the help he requires with setting up and in serving tea and coffee.
A Racket in more ways than two
On February 26th last David Fletcher held the latest of his series of renaissance playing days at Burnham Grammar School. There had been some concern that these were not as successful as they used to be in terms of participation, particularly in view of our increasing membership. And David chose a brutal day punctuated with snow showers. Therefore you will not be surprised when I go on to say that this was numerically the most successful such day ever.
To tempt others to come to future events, I will just say what happened in the four sessions to which I was allotted. First a mixed wind event with cornet, alto curtal, two sackbuts and bass curtal, playing a variety of sixteenth century things. Then a crumhorn session, actually three crumhorns and a renaissance racket playing the bass. After lunch a mixed consort of flute, recorder, shawm and renaissance racket, which is really a well packed bassoon. To finish gently a consort of five recorders.
Other groups featured various combinations of viols and voices which I obviously cannot detail. David can now, I hope, plan other such days with renewed confidence.
You may have seen the listing of two forthcoming nyckelharpa concerts in the February edition of Tamesis. Johan Hedin is coming over from Sweden in May with organist Gunnar Idenstam to give two concerts in London, at St. Lawrence Jewry on 10 May and in the Swedish Church the following evening.
I have to declare an interest in this Swedish instrument as I love its haunting sound and have been playing it for several years. It is a bowed instrument and the strings are stopped by a system of keys similar to that found on the hurdy-gurdy. It has been in existence since mediaeval times and has been used in Sweden over the centuries, mainly in the playing of traditional music.
Johan Hedin is one of the very finest exponents of nyckelharpa playing today. He is constantly exploring new ways to present the nyckelharpa. In these concerts, as well as some of his own compositions, he will be playing Swedish traditional pieces written in the baroque era. I attended a workshop of his last year when he taught this repertoire and I was captivated by the way the traditional and the baroque styles blended together. In his own words:
'There is much in common between Swedish folk music and the baroque. Many of the Swedish polskas were written at the same time as the aristocratic music that we today call baroque and, who knows, perhaps Swedish players heard the German, French and Italian musicians who were active in Sweden at that time.'
The organ, on which Gunnar will also play some Bach, goes well with the nyckelharpa's rich and resonant sound which will be heard to best effect in the church settings of the concerts.
I can recommend these concerts to anyone who would like to experiment a little with their early music. I heard the nyckelharpa for the first time five years ago and was instantly smitten. I hope you are too!
Opportunities to make music
Chris Thorn writes:
Last September I hosted a day of crumhorn playing at my home and, meeting some of the participants again at Burnham recently, have decided it is time for another spasm. All players are welcome, and for non-players who have the necessary iron lungs there are instruments you may borrow. As before, there will be two sessions, 10.30- 12.30, and 2.00 - 4.00. There will be a light lunch for those attending both sessions. These are informal events, and there is no charge. Let me know if you want to come.
Chris Thorn, 135 Arnison Avenue, High Wycombe (near the Royal Grammar School) HP13 6BH, 01494 523581, email firstname.lastname@example.org. I believe the date Chris has in mind is Sunday 17th April (ed).
Kate Gordon has just told me that Julian Perkins now takes the Morley baroque chamber music class on Tuesday evenings in London SE1. They are looking for a viola player for the class. The main prerequisite is enthusiasm, motivation and willingness to tune to A=415. Entry to the class is by audition. They play a wide variety of baroque music. The contact number for the music dept is 020 7450 1838 email@example.com
News of members' activities
Several TVEMF members including our Chairman David are involved in a performance by the St. John's Canticus Choir of Bach's St. John Passion on Good Friday (25th March) at 7.30 in St. John's Church, Desborough Road, High Wycombe. Soloists include Geoff and Jackie Huntingford and Robin Whitehouse. Tickets are obtainable at the door, and for more information contact David (details on the front cover).
Member Dawn Johnston has written to tell me about Punchinello Productions latest production entitled 'Malade ou Imaginaire?' They are staging three performances of French Baroque music and drama, in which the gruesome and gory are explored. Alongside works by De Visee, Hotteterre and Couperin, Punchinello Productions bring Marais' "Le tableau de L'operation de la taille", which depicts the removal of a stone in the bladder. (possibly without anaesthetic!!) The hypochondriac in "Le Malade Imaginaire" (Moliere/Charpentier), scenes of which also will be presented by the ensemble in this production, only experiences such terrors in his imagination. The performers are Maria Sanger (recorders), Anna Doedens (baroque flute), Wiebke Thormahlen (baroque violin), Jenny Bullock (viola da gamba), Dawn Johnston (baroque guitar and theorbo) and David Rowan (actor).
The first performance will be on Saturday 16 April at 7.30pm at St Michael & All Angels, Priory Avenue, Bedford Park , London W4 1TX (Turnham Green underground station) Tickets £8 (£6 concessions) are obtainable at the door (tel. info 07879 474759). There are more performances on 7th May at St. Mary's Parish Church, Thame and on 14th May at St. Margaret's Church, Lee near Blackheath.