Tamesis Issue 191
If you’re coming to the Gabrieli day at Waltham Abbey, Madeline Seviour tells me that you can't leave the M25 westbound or join it eastbound at J25 (A10). Although those of you coming from the west might experience delays because of the contraflow (though we had no problems the other day), it will be more serious for those coming from the east, mainly EEMF members. If you don't leave at J26 you will have to go all the way to Potters Bar. I found up-to-date information on the BBC website Neil Edington has asked me to confirm that the weekend at St Augustine’s Kilburn with Michael Procter is in June, not July as stated on the form. I’m sure you all realised that as the correct date has been on the front cover of Tamesis for all of this year. He’s also put in a request for more tenors. If you need to get in touch with him please note that he has now completely retired so his only email address is neilregal11.fsnet.co.uk I spent half of last Saturday and all of Sunday at the EEMF Monteverdi Vespers weekend in Norwich. There were a number of TVEMF members there who made their mark with excellent vocal solos and I imagine the instrumentalists enjoyed themselves too, but for me it was a frustrating experience. I’ve sung the Vespers twice before with Philip Thorby so I know it quite well, though I had a different part this time, and I suppose it was my fault for not realising that the ripieno choir would have so little to do, as we were sent a list in advance. The idea of listening to others rehearsing their parts is a good one if there is to be discussion about style, ornaments and so on, but just listening to other people go through their parts is not my idea of a good way to spend a bank holiday. On the second day I took a novel and read a hundred and fifty pages (luckily I can listen and read at the same time) so you can get some idea of the amount of time we weren’t singing! However it was an excellently organised weekend, the catering was wonderful, and the final concert made it all worthwhile. I’ve sometimes wondered about going to one of these summer schools where there is a ripieno choir and a chorus of favoriti, but this experience makes me think it’s probably not for me. Have any of you done this? There are so many summer schools now, it would be good to hear more about what’s on offer. Many thanks to this month’s contributors. David and I are making a big effort to get this out in time for you to read about the roadworks next weekend and all the concerts and courses I’ve been asked to mention, so apologies in advance if this doesn’t arrive in time. I’m planning to continue to make the copy date the first Monday in the month, so please be sure to send me your stuff in good time, though I can’t absolutely guarantee to get Tamesis out during the first week. I’m looking forward to seeing lots of you at Waltham Abbey – I hear there are eighty bookings!
It seems a long time since the Oxford Baroque day but I can't let it pass without comment. Everyone who took part will have their own perspective on the day, but I had a very good time and met several excellent players who were not previously known to me. Peter Collier managed to do his usual good job of organising the event in spite of having undergone a recent cardiac bypass operation and having to cope with some last-minute absentees. By the time you read this the Gabrieli 33-part Magnificat in Waltham Abbey will probably have taken place - I gather there will be a good turnout, as usual for any event tutored by Philip Thorby. The question remains as to how we follow this, having already tackled the two 40-part motets.
The next TVEMF event is of course the annual liturgical mass in St Augustine's, Kilburn, with the inimitable and ever-popular Michael Procter. There is nothing quite like singing a mass in the context for which it was originally written, and the newly repaired church is an ideal venue. I'm guessing, but I imagine that tenors will be particularly welcome!
‘All aflame and full of ardour’
Pellegrina at St George’s German Lutheran Church on 23 March 2007 St George’s is a small galleried church near Aldgate, built in 1762/3 for expatriate German sugar-refiners and still with box pews throughout. Since 1999 it has been in the care of the Historic Chapels Trust, which has organised extensive and outstandingly successful restoration. TVEMF member Charles Thomson can provide full information about this exquisite building, which has excellent acoustics for chamber music.
Pellegrina has been captivating audiences since 2002 with inventive programmes of baroque music. This concert (taking its title from Bononcini’s cantata ‘Tutta fiamme e tutta ardore’) presented cantatas and arias on the theme of love – by Antonio Bononcini, Alessandro Scarlatti, Barbara Strozzi, Michel de Monteclair and Henry Purcell - interspersed with a nicely balanced concoction of instrumental pieces. Eleven composers contributed to the mix, from France, England and Italy, and from the familiar to the rare. Among the less-known instrumental gems were a sonata in C for two recorders by Robert Valentine (an Englishman who built a career in Rome just when the opposite route was fashionable – publishing as 'Roberto Valentini, Inglese') and a sonata in D minor for recorder and spinet by Neapolitan composer Francesco Martini.
Pellegrina consistently brings the highest level of technical and artistic accomplishment to its performances, giving every subtlety of the music the chance to work its magic. With this clever choice of repertoire and venue, the result was a delightful and memorable evening.
Pellegrina (www.pellegrina.co.uk) is: TVEMF member Alison Bowler (spinet), Kyoko Murai (soprano), Maria Sanger (recorder), and Amanda Seaborn (viola da gamba); guest for this concert was Peter Wells (recorder).
My Ladye Nevells Booke
Keyboard enthusiasts have probably caught up with the fact that the British Library was able to acquire, last year, the wonderful presentation manuscript My Ladye Nevells Booke, produced in 1591, which is an important source for English keyboard music of the period. It is the work of the copyist John Baldwin, and comprises 42 compositions by Byrd, which give a good idea of the various types of music he composed for this medium as well as indicating the high standard of contemporary playing. The book would have been used for domestic entertainment, and as well as being beautifully written, it is embellished with Elizabeth Nevell’s coat of arms, and is lavishly bound – also it is in amazingly good condition.
We are lucky that it has been acquired for the nation – it was on display before Christmas, but has had to give place for the moment to other items, as the space available for the display of music in the “Treasures” gallery is at a premium (other subject areas in the library also complain of insufficient space, music is no worse off than anything else). It is to go on tour, and there is a digitisation project afoot - for further information see the BL website where it will eventually be accessible.
One of the Saul Seminars (a series of talks illustrated by material from the Sound Archive, which was founded by Patrick Saul and now forms part of the British Library) was devoted to this manuscript. Christopher Hogwood gave a talk about it, illustrated by recordings of many different instruments. (For a detailed description of this seminar, see Richard Turbet’s article Byrd’s keyboard music recorded in the April issue of Early Music Review.) In the wake of this, the Friends of the British Library organised a recital at which Terence Charlston, well-known as a member of London Baroque as well as being a teacher and editor of international standing, would play some of the pieces from it. He prefaced each group of pieces with a short talk – in the course of which it emerged that he had received a considerable shock when he discovered that according to the (inaccurate) information on the BL website he was going to be playing all 42 pieces! As it was, we had a representative selection, covering the 4 main types of music appearing in the manuscript, viz. fantasias, pavans, galliards and variations on popular tunes, also the dedicatee’s own special piece, My Ladye Nevels Grownde (the fancy divisions in which made one realise that My Ladye Nevell must have been no slouch as a player) and a couple of extracts from the Battell, all played with great attention to the varying moods, from panache to introspective contemplation.
The spoken introductions (which I felt were pitched at just the right level, not dumbed down, but not blinding with science either - the event was for all comers, not just early music fans) not only described the pieces in some detail, but gave us information about, and contemporary opinions of, Byrd and Baldwin, about what constituted a fantasia, a pavan or a galliard, and a little about keyboard instruments of the time (the recital was played on a modern copy of a Flemish harpsichord of 1645, which had a good meaty sound to it, if not quite as chunky as some of the virginals we heard in Chris Hogwood’s talk), all presented in an informal and relaxed manner – one felt that he was enjoying the whole thing as much as we were.
I do not consider my knowledge of what constitutes an “authentic” performance of keyboard music of this particular period to be sufficiently advanced for me to venture an opinion on whether the performance filled the bill in this respect or not, but I certainly found it a most enjoyable and illuminating evening.
TMESIS (word of the day)
Thanks to Wayne Plummer for the following definition of tmesis which he was sent by wordoftheday @ yourdictionary.com. I’ve abbreviated it slightly.
Tmesis (noun) Pronunciation: [tê-'mee-sis] Definition: The insertion of words between the constituents of words, e.g. "abso-bloody-lutely" or "abso-bloomin'-lutely."
Usage: The traditional English linguistic term for it is "sandwich word," since a word is sandwiched in between two parts of another. This is stylistic conceit used for emphasis. "Fan-bloody-tastic" tells the listener that whatever you are referring to is even more fantastic than what you would ordinarily call "fantastic" (an overused hyperbole itself). The plural is, like all English words ending on -is, "tmeses."
Etymology: It comes via Latin from Greek tmesis "a cutting" from temnein "to cut." The Proto-Indo-European root, like many others, appeared as a triplet, *tom-/*tem-/*tm-, which also gave us "atom" (uncuttable), "anatomy" from Greek anatome "dissection," and "epitome" from the Greek word meaning "an abridgement." Of course, the adjective referring to barbers and hair-cutting, "tonsorial" and "tonsure," share the same origin.
David says that he and Chris Thorn were both aware of the word when Tamesis was first created. In fact his company had then (and still has) a program called TMESIS which processes streams of data and inserts things such as PCL printer commands in appropriate places.
Early Keyboard Weekend
for students and young professional musicians
The British Clavichord Society has funds available to help one or two students or young professional musicians to attend the Next Generation: Early Keyboard Weekend in Winchester on 25-27 May. We recommend this course: for more information about it, telephone +44 (0)1386 859648 or visit www.earlymusica.permutation.com. It's for young keyboard players; they need not necessarily have any experience of early instruments, though, of course, they would need to be interested in trying out relevant repertoire on the harpsichord, fortepiano and clavichord (more details on the earlymusica website).
Can you help us to find young player(s) who would like to apply to us for funding? The closing date for our sponsorship offer is at present 16 April, but we will consider late applications; and potential applicants are welcome to contact us to discuss the possibilities.
The details of how to apply for British Clavichord Society sponsorship are on or by contacting me non- electronically (see below). Please circulate our offer as widely as you can: many thanks in advance.
Judith Wardman (Secretary, British Clavichord Society) bcs @ nildram.co.uk