Tamesis Issue 196
First the good news about the Christmas workshop – David Allinson has been persuaded that plastic recorders are acceptable. Low ones are likely to be the most useful. The bad news is that we have more than enough sopranos and a serious shortage of tenors, so no more sopranos can be accepted without a tenor attached! In fact more men in general would be welcome – don’t be afraid that you will have to wash up – Amersham Community Centre has an industrial sized dishwasher. There is also room for more sackbuts, curtals and up to two cornetti. Please make sure that you don’t book late (after 23rd) as David has to prepare all the scores and parts, and the workshop may fill up before then. There are a good number of volunteers for the exhibition, but if you’re there do call in at the stand to say hello and perhaps give them a short break. There are even more concerts and recitals this year, so it’s well worth spending a day in Greenwich even if you are not planning to buy anything. The TVEMF AGM will take place at Amersham after the Christmas workshop. You will all be pleased to learn that Catherine Lorigan has volunteered to stand as Treasurer, so that Hazel can step down at last. Many thanks for the many and varied contributions this month. Don’t forget that there will be no December issue, and the copy date for the January issue is Monday 7th January.
Minutes of the AGM held on 26th November 2006 in Chesham
1. There were no formal apologies for absence.
2. The minutes of the 2005 AGM were approved (proposed by Fiona Weir, seconded by Kathy Edmonds.
3. Chairman’s report (see below)
4. Treasurer’s report (see below). The accounts were accepted (proposed by Kathy Edmonds, seconded by Brian Baker). As Oliver St John would cease to be auditor when Hazel Fenton retires from being Treasurer, he was given a vote of thanks.
5. Election of Officers and Committee. There were no proposals for Chairman and Secretary, or volunteers to be Treasurer. Jackie Huntingford had resigned from the committee and Nicola Wilson-Smith was prepared to stand. She was proposed by Hazel Fenton, seconded by Jenny Robinson, and the committee were elected en bloc.
6. Any other business. The Chairman told the meeting that NEMA had suggested that forums might like to have some kind of associate membership of NEMA. NEMA publishes a year book and Early Music Performer. It was agreed in principle that if the majority of forums joined, then TVEMF would, provided that the cost was not more than £1 a head.
Events. Fiona Weir asked how long the Forum had been going. The reply was that it had started in 1988. Janet Williams asked for a medieval event. Jim Wills is looking into this. Tim Shelton suggested Cavalieri’s Rappresentazione di Anima e di Corpo. The Chairman said that it should be possible to hold more than one event a month. Fiona suggested that we should have an audience at the end of a two-day event. Monteverdi’s Vespers could be done in 2010. Brian O’Hagan asked how early music had to be to be early. The Chairman suggested pre-Bach in order to avoid overlapping with choral societies. Other suggestions for workshops were Schütz and Carissimi. The Secretary said that as well as relying on the conductor to provide the music, we might use public libraries. Jenny Gowing thanked the Committee for all they had done during the year. It had been a very good and interesting year.
Chairman's Report, November 2006
It's fair to say that we had a reasonably successful year and things went very much as in other years. The number of members is up to 383 and attendance at events apart from the Renaissance chamber music day has been good. The breakdown is: 168 recorders, 76 viols, 49 other strings, 50 keyboards and 263 singers.
We are blessed with an excellent committee and are particularly fortunate that our secretary, Victoria Helby, works so hard in compiling concerts and events lists, editing Tamesis and organising events. We still require to find a replacement for our admirable treasurer, Hazel Fenton, who has held the post since TVEMF started in 1988. I'm sure she would be willing to offer help and advice to anyone prepared to take up the job. It's not necessary to be on the committee to organise an event and I'm grateful to John Graham, Mary and Michael Reynor, and Judith Hughes for their efforts. We must also thank regulars Johanna Renouf, Neil Edington and Jeff Gill as well as Victoria of course. Our web site continues to be popular thanks to Linda Hill who performs the unobtrusive but vital task of keeping its concerts and events lists up to date.
Events in the last year:
Polychoral music for Christmas with Philip Thorby
Praetorius chorale settings with Peter Syrus
Music for the Annunciation with Andrew Carwood
Renaissance consort day with David Fletcher
Baroque chamber music day with Peter Collier
Ecce Beatam Lucem - 40-part motet by Striggio with Philip Thorby (jointly with EEMF)
A mass by Palestrina in a liturgical setting with Michael Procter
Libera Nos - music by John Sheppard with David Allinson
Various settings of Dixit Dominus for voices and instruments with Alan Lumsden
Baroque chamber music day with Victoria Helby
Note that the events reported run from AGM to AGM rather than the calendar year.
TREASURER’S REPORT 2005
(given at AGM 2006)
The Thames Valley Early Music forum has had another successful year in 2005. 11 events (Jan to Dec) 6 of which made a profit or broke even, while 5 incurred a small loss, totalling, over the year £146.64. Our large profit this year is due to our large membership, and selling advertising space in Tamesis, while keeping our overheads down to a minimum. However, 2 large bills, due to be paid in 2005, did not arrive till 2006, so the profit is not actually as large as it seems.
Our pricing policy aims to make the events self financing, so if rents and conductors fees increase, so does the cost of attending an event. But at present there is no need to increase the price of membership, which covers insurance, administration and the costs of printing.
The Exhibition at Greenwich is less clear cut. It costs us at least £100, depending on the generous donations from other forums and NEMA, but we do get new members every year, and the forum members who volunteer to man the stand get the perk of free entry to the exhibition. The committee take the view that on balance it is worth doing, as long as enough helpers can be found.
I have been treasurer of the Forum for 18 years, and I would like to retire. I had to learn the job from scratch, and have greatly enjoyed it, but feel it is time for someone else to have a go. If any one would like to share the job with me this year, and find out what is involved I am more than willing to help them. But next year I will definitely go! Please!
I thought the Baroque Day went very well and Victoria coped admirably with a late cancellation. I had four good sessions in one of which it was accidentally discovered that cornetts can (almost) lip down from a=440 to A=415!
The Early Music Exhibition is always full of interest but do let us know if you can man the stand even for a short time. It's a busy time of year for choirs and orchestras as you will see from our concerts list but do find time to come to some TVEMF events if you can. I'm eagerly awaiting Philip Thorby's Praetorius workshop on the 24th of November, and his talk "Creating the past - a discussion of research and intuition in early music performance" should be thought-provoking. I shall be cutting short a musical weekend to travel from Ipswich to Amersham on the 9th of December for our Christmas event with David Allinson so you can be sure I expect a real treat.
Playing day at Burnham
On a bright sunny autumn day, dedicated members of TVEMF descended on Burnham Grammar School for a day of Baroque chamber music organised by our Secretary Victoria Helby. After a cup of tea and a biscuit we were ready for the off!
In the group I was in we started with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 4, a formidable start! The top lines of this work include recorders and violins. I am always amazed by recorders – they really are virtuoso instruments capable of a range and facility that always astonishes me. Luckily in this group we had two excellent players on the recorders, two violins and one treble viol – all virtuosos themselves.
The second half of the morning, the next group I played in included oboes, recorders and strings. The first piece we played by Telemann is I think known as the *Seventh Brandenburg concerto. It has a very stately opening – it might have been written for a state occasion I guess. The second piece, also by Telemann, was his Water Music. The storm scene I liked very much, with lots of trembling semiquavers for all the players, comparable to any of Wagner’s storm scenes in his mighty operas I thought.
Lunch time, I popped down the shops and found a small Co-op where I bought a sandwich and a packet of crisps. At the end of this row of shops was a pub called the Red Squirrel. This was a brand new building and it was quite posh inside. They sold real ale and I bought a pint and sat outside in the warm sunshine, hoping that I might see a red squirrel.
In the afternoon our group had flute, oboe, strings and harpsichord. The first piece we played was by J C Bach, a charming quintet with basso continuo. This was beautifully played with lots of skill and enthusiasm. The last piece of the day was also by J C Bach, music that came after the baroque but quite ravishing though. In this piece I tried a little bit of vibrato on my viola, hoping the others wouldn’t notice, but surely they were all too polite!
Sadly all good things come to an end. This was an excellent, happy day being with friends and playing music! I would thank Vicky and David, our Chairman, for all their hard work in making these playing days work so well. See you next time!
The Seventh Brandenburg was Walter Bergmann’s name for Telemann’s Concerto for 2 recorders, 2 oboes and strings.
Palestrina in Bourne End
On a bright but cold Sunday 7th October, Alan Lumsden led a large group of us at the Wye Valley School in Bourne End in exploring the polychoral works of Palestrina and his contemporaries. In total there were about 50 of us, enough singers to make up three choirs, and a wide variety of instrumentalists (cornetts, recorders, viols, sackbuts, curtal and keyboard). We started off before lunch with two 3-choir pieces, “Super Flumina” by Marenzio and Felice Anerio’s “O Beatam Andream” (which had an extra 13th voice singing the same words but to a lengthening descant). After lunch, we worked through three pieces for 2 choirs: Palestrina’s “Hodie Christus natus est” and “Ave Regina Coelorum”, and “O Altitudo Divitiarum” by Giovanni Maria Nanino. Finally we gave a concert performance for the benefit of the families of the singers and instrumentalists, who wanted to find out what it was all about. Alan was well prepared, with the music ready for us in folders, which cut down the amount of time needed to distribute the music. His introductions to the pieces, and translations of the words, helped to set the scene and to convey the atmosphere of the music. He rightly emphasised the need to sing in phrases, ignoring the bar lines, and to bring out the consonants as a way of helping the singers to hit the notes. The pieces we worked through were varied: some were more challenging than others, but none less than extremely enjoyable. All the composers were from the same period and knew each other. Palestrina was the composer to the papal choir, the leading post in Rome at the time; Anerio took over from him in 1594 as papal composer; Nanino studied with Palestrina in the 1560s and was a member of the papal choir under Palestrina. Marenzio is mainly known for his vast output of madrigals, but he also composed for the church and spent time in Rome before joining the service of Cardinal Luigi d’Este: certainly, all the composers would have known Marenzio’s compositions. However, even though all the composers were from the same part of the world and broadly from the same period, the music never sounded “samey”. They all had the ability to highlight the words of the text, not only through alternating repetitions of key words and phrases, but also by varying the texture, from the introspective sound of small groups of two or three voices to the full-blooded sound of all the parts together. This was a most enjoyable day. The acoustic was good, not too dry; the facilities were all good (although the heating, as so often in a large hall, only made itself felt after lunch). Many thanks to Alan Lumsden for his invigorating conducting and to David and Vicky for organising the event, to the volunteers helping to ensure that everyone was looked after at the breaks, and not least, to Mary Reynor for the wonderful range of cakes.
Palestrina and his contemporaries. Workshop on 7/10/07. When asked to provide a review of this workshop, initially I declined mainly on the grounds that I had only attended half of it. Due to a combination of inattention to detail and perhaps incipient dementia, I had gone to the wrong Bourne End, and did not arrive at the correct one until 12.00pm. Thankfully, I had gone to the one in Herts., not the one in Beds., so my mistake was retrievable and I did not just give up on the whole thing, though somewhat tempted to do so. And glad I am that I persisted, though my somewhat fraught arrival meant I was in no condition to take any notes so this will be a rather vague review.
Alan Lumsden was his usual self - an enthusiastic, thorough and generally genial tutor, although he could be severe on poor counting and failure to watch the beat. All the varied pieces we tackled (by Anerio, Marenzio and Nanino, as well as by Palestrina) were very manageable in terms of notes and rhythms, which left time for more focus on balance between the choirs. Significantly, the piece which came off best in the final run through was that on which most time had been spent in the morning session - a ringing endorsement for the role of the tutor and for adequate rehearsal time. However, Alan himself applauded us for another piece in the run through, and the sing through, in rehearsal, of another piece drew spontaneous applause from the three spectators who had surprisingly chosen this event of the Woobum festival to attend in the afternoon. For me, the other plusses of this workshop were the excellent balance of the choirs, helped by strong tenor and bass sections, for once not overwhelmed in numbers by the ladies (to achieve which, David Fletcher, the organiser, must have put in a great deal of hard work), the superb cakes from Mary Reynor, and the very comfortable range of the pieces sung. I was singing Alto in choir 1, which generally lay very easily in my voice, a definite bonus when sight-reading the piece I had missed in the morning, in the final run through. Having arrived tired and tetchy, I left refreshed and happy. Can one ask for more? Thanks to all concerned.
Haydn's L'Infidelta Delusa at Hackney
Whilst in communicative mode, I must mention a delightful production of L’Infidelta Delusa by Haydn (Josef), performed by English touring Opera at Hackney Empire on 13th October. I like much of ETO's work, though I missed their Baroque Festival last year and their Cosi Fan Tutte was a bit lost in the large space of the Empire. Not so this opera, renamed Country Matters and performed excellently by all five singers who projected well, coped superbly with the often wide ranging and technically demanding music and most importantly were good actors too. The plot of this comic opera is a familiar potpourri of thwarted lovers, an ambitious father and clever deception. Think Molière and you will get the idea. The music is charming - not especially memorable but on occasions quite touching and often witty. Occasionally, the rearranging of the simple but clever set was a bit distracting and I had anxieties lest the singers would fall off the somewhat wobbly ladders on which they periodically perched.
The orchestra sounded a little thin in the overture, but not thereafter. There is, mercifully, comparatively little recitative, some spoken dialogue, but mostly the plot is carried forward in the arias and ensembles which are of high quality. This alone would remind me of Mozart but there are closer correspondences. The chief heroine of L’Infidelta Delusa is one Vespina who disguises herself as a lawyer. Sounds familiar? I do not know if Da Ponte drew any ideas from Haydn's librettist, Marco Coltellini, but I feel certain Mozart must have known this opera. Haydn gives Vespina music which requires her to sing very nasally, just as does Despina when both are disguised as lawyers.
There is a further fascinating correspondence. L’Infidelta Delusa was first produced at Esterhaza in 1773 for a visit by the Empress Maria Theresa and some other children. Mozart produced his comic opera Cost fan Tutte in 1789, it is said, following a suggestion or commission, from the Emperor Joseph 2nd. It is a great pity that Haydn's operas are not performed more so one can examine for oneself what influence, if any, he had on Mozart, though I gather from the programme notes that Haydn, as his responsibilities at Esterhaza increased, found less and less time to compose operas and the later ones, though technically more complex, lack the freshness and dramatic immediacy of L’Infidelta Delusa. It is indeed a perfect little piece - unashamedly comic, so lacking the darker undertones which Mozart was able to bring to his "comic" operas. Its cynicism about human behaviour is tempered by tenderness; because of this, it is joyous and optimistic and people are revealed as fallible but definitely not irredeemable or undeserving of the happy ending.
York Early Music Festival
Early Music Network International Young Artists’ Competition
In July I spent two very wet days in York, at the Early Music Festival, which every two years hosts the Early Music Network International Young Artists’ Competition. This year 7 groups competed for the main prize – a concert in next year’s York Early Music Festival, a recording for Coro, and a cash prize of £1000 – and for the audience prize, donated by the Friends of YEMF. Alongside this of course is the opportunity for all the groups to be heard by promoters and artists managers who attend – and the experience of preparing for and giving concerts.
Each group gives two mini-concerts over the 3 days of the competition – they all play a half-hour programme on the final day, a Saturday, which is eagerly attended by a capacity audience. This year the entertaining compere was Robert Hollingworth of I Fagiolini, who introduced the groups and asked them interesting questions (“if one of you comes from Australia, one from South Africa, and the others are spread between Portugal, Greece and Germany, how do you ever manage to rehearse?”).
The standard of performance was uniformly high, programming imaginative, presentation generally well thought-out and the winning ensemble by no means obvious. However, a group comprising singer, theorbo, gamba and harpsichord won both jury and audience prizes and I shall look forward to hearing Le Jardin Secret again.
Of the other entrants, I particularly enjoyed Renaicinq’s introduction to a totally new repertoire of Italian madrigals “danish’d” (composers from the court of King Christian IV) and the Saraband Consort’s arrangement of Bach’s “Wedge” Prelude and Fugue BWV548 for 2 violins, 2 violas, cello, bass, theorbo and harpsichord. Melopoetica’s dramatic style may not appeal to everyone’s taste, but I’m sure they have a future together. And well done to The Oboe Band and the recorders of Consortium5 for almost convincing me that an ensemble made up of a single wind instrument can provide enough variety for a whole concert. Lastly, Ensemble Amaranthos includes some excellent players – including violinist Sara Struntz, who the evening before the Finals day had apparently sight-read her way through the first half of a concert with Florilegium when their first violin was delayed in traffic and arrived after the concert started.
This was a great way to spend a couple of days – I recommend to all TVEMF members a little venture outside our usual territory in 2009!