Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Many thanks this month to Jenny Gowing who has contributed two very interesting and thorough reviews of summer schools and a couple more Philip Thorbyisms. I noticed people writing these down at the Rosenmüller workshop so I hope this will result in at least one review next month. Don't forget that the copy date for the November issue will be the third Monday of the month and there will be no December issue. Back to normal after Christmas.
Several of us went to the Little Missenden Festival concert with Pavlo Beznoziuk, David Roblou and Paula Chateauneuf on the Saturday of the Rosenmüller weekend. It was a well planned and on the whole beautifully played concert of music by Biber and his predecessors including Walther and Piccinini, with a pleasantly informal atmosphere, but I was interested to find how critical I felt about some of the continuo playing after a day with Philip Thorby. For our workshop Philip insisted on organ continuo (plus harp and theorbo) while at the concert, although an organ was available and used for part of the programme, we had harpsichord and theorbo, a sometimes irritatingly jingly accompaniment to the violin. I was surprised how relatively high some of David's harpsichord continuo was and much preferred his organ playing which allowed the theorbo to come through. They could have benefited from some of Philip's quiet phrase endings too. We were very near the performers though in a church where it is difficult to choose the best place to sit, and the effect from further away may have been quite different.
Our next event is the Baroque chamber music day which I am organising on Sunday 7th November. I have already received about 30 bookings, including some new people, but there is plenty of room for more. Don't forget I would like your booking at the beginning of the week before because I am playing in a concert the day before. For the same reason I shall be doing all the organising a little earlier than usual, so please don't change your mind about coming at the last minute. I've had several requests for Brandenburg concertos, including an offer to play the solo harpsichord in number 5, so it would be good to have some more violins including an offer to play the solo violin part.
Hazel Fenton (details on the front cover) is again organising our stand at the Early Music Exhibition - or as it is now called the Greenwich International Festival of Early Music. I know she would be grateful for offers to man our stand for short (or longer) periods over the three days. If you haven't been before, I recommend allowing at least a whole day to look at everything if you want to go to the concerts as well.
Tim Venner points out an error in the September Tamesis. The footnote to the Chairman's Chat regarding "Missa Mille Regretz" should of course have referred to that well-known work "Missa Otis Regretz".
Judging by the comments I have heard, it's fair to say that this month's Rosenmüller Vespers was one of the best events we have run. Philip Thorby was in his usual sparkling form, alternating encouragement with a delicate line in insults. I was particularly amused when he said of the sopranos that they sang the words "inimicos tuos" as if an enemy was someone who had put milk in their Earl Grey! There were plenty of challenging moments for all those taking part and lots of excellent performances. The cornett parts were demanding, but fortunately Wayne Plummer and I shared the very high parts between us and managed to enjoy the experience. Two of the three pieces were in editions by Brian Clark so it was good to have him there as one of the two obbligato violinists, especially as it was the first time he had had a chance to perform the music.
Not content with running the Rosenmüller Vespers event, taking her Open University music technology exam, and editing Tamesis, our Secretary is running another of her very successful series of Baroque Chamber Music Days next month. Absolutely amazing! What would we do without her?
Very sadly I have to report that Alison Smith died recently - we offer our sincerest sympathy to her husband, Anthony. In this issue too you will find an obituary of my friend and fellow cornettist, Martin Kaye. These untimely deaths leave the world of early music much the poorer.
Martin Kaye 1946-2004
Martin Kaye, who died unexpectedly on the 13th of August, was for many years a member of TVEMF and one of the foremost amateur cornettists in the country. Indeed he was probably good enough to have been a professional player. His family emigrated to Canada in 1950 but he returned to England in the mid eighties where he soon became well known in the field of early music. He joined TVEMF soon after its inception and was a regular at my "Loud Wind in Wokingham" afternoons, where his presence raised the standard of playing significantly and increased the consumption of crumpets commensurately.
Martin was a leading member of Southwark Waits and I played alongside him at numerous musical events such as the Beauchamp summer school, where he was something of an inspiration to me and others. In particular his rigorous early morning practice sessions were an example to us all. He was a very amusing conversationalist with a quick wit and wide knowledge of many fields. It was a brave person who challenged him in debate, as he was very combative and would happily argue with great ingenuity for something he did not believe in, just for the fun of it. He put a huge amount of energy into his venture into politics as Liberal Democrat candidate for his local council in 2003, polling more votes than his party had any right to expect. Martin worked for RAE at Farnborough for many years where his maths degree and PhD in psychology were very relevant. In his spare time he was studying music with the Open University and enjoying writing pieces in a different style from those that he usually played. His untimely death has robbed us of a wonderful companion and fine musician - he will be greatly missed.
His sister Barbara has set up a web site at http://www.ltnx.net/~bjk/martin/ which is well worth visiting even if you didn't know Martin. It contains some of the music he wrote, some of his poems, including one about the fretted blasthorn, together with the letter in which it made its first appearance in the pages of Tamesis.
Chairman's Report, October 2004
As I look back over the year it seems to have been much the same as the previous years in terms of number of events and attendance. The one new thing to report is that, thanks to Linda Hill, we now have a much improved web site. Linda has managed to find some suitable pictures and the whole thing looks much more professional. There has been a lot of positive feedback about this and we are very grateful to Linda for all her design work and her ongoing efforts. These involve extracting and formatting the events and concerts lists from Tamesis and in due course putting much of the rest of the magazine in conveniently accessible form with the other back-numbers.
It's good to see the number of members up to 350 but in spite of my plea last year there have been no new offers of help in organising extra events. I suggested that we ought to take advantage of the numbers and perhaps reduce the crush a little by spreading attendance more thinly. Please give some thought to offering assistance - it's really not terribly hard and the committee will give plenty of help. It would be nice to venture again into the 17th or early 18th century as we did with our Bach family workshop. Perhaps we should attempt a semi-opera or oratorio - it's time to start thinking about next year.
Many thanks to the committee, which has been as hard-working as always, especially our secretary, Victoria Helby, who spends a vast amount of time in compiling concerts and events lists, editing Tamesis and organising events. I don't know what we should do without her, or indeed without our treasurer, Hazel Fenton, who performs her task quietly and extremely efficiently.
Events in the last year:
Spanish & Mexican music for voices & instruments with Philip Thorby
Baroque chamber music day with Victoria Helby
Gabrieli: Symphoniae Sacrae with Alan Lumsden
Polychoral music by the Bach family with Peter Leech
Madrigals with JanJoost van Elburg
Baroque chamber music day with Peter Collier
Mass in St Mary Le Strand with Michael Procter
Music for the Virgin Mary with Margaret Westlake
Charpentier mass for four choirs with Jeffrey Skidmore
Choral music from Rome with David Allinson
[Hazel Fenton pointed out a discrepancy between the eleven events she had figures for and the ten reported above. This is explained by the fact that the financial year runs from January to December but the year of the Chairman's report is from AGM to AGM. Whether this is desirable is a matter for discussion by the Committee.]
Beauchamp Early Music Course: Venetian Music from Willaert to the Gabrielis Directed by Philip Thorby and Alan Lumsden, 18-24 July 2004
I have to admit that the first mental 'thumbnail' the title of the course prompted was of a nervous choir, footing lost, awash among the vivats acclaiming the triumph of whichever VIP's life moment was being honoured - arrival, wedding, birth - and striving to sound like human cornetti.
Of course, as soon as the parts were distributed the splendour of Giovanni Gabrieli's sixteen part O quam gloriosa and Exaudi me crept over us dispelling such misconceptions. Philip Thorby and Alan Lumsden had yet again devised a programme that included more luscious music than we could have believed possible in a crowded six days, including Adriano Willaert's dialogues from Petrarch, de Rore's seven part motets and Andrea Gabrieli's lament on the death of Willaert, his master, founding father of the 'Venetian School'. His profound Inviolata was a fitting introduction to the subtleties and variety of both the liturgical and secular settings that followed. Philip stressed to us the polarities at work in the piece, 'tension and release', and the rhetorical development underlying the construction.
Cipriano de Rore's Descendi in hortum meum, surely one of the most exquisite treatments of the unfolding verses of the Song of Songs text, was followed by Andrea Gabrieli's twelve part Deus miseratur nostri with its drifting progressions. Among the rest Willaert' Praeter rerum seriem, a laudes, a pilgrim hymn with a pronounced skip rhythm, had a three part canon that stayed in one's head for days, as it must have been intended to do. "Music designed for people to sing, rather than in churches" as Philip said. Andrea Gabrieli's O Passi Sparsi, like most of this music, required the choir perfecting the use of esclamazione, and naturally of messa di voce, to realize the nuances of the scoring. Both Alan and Philip placed emphasis on more in-depth exposition of the subtler dynamics and inner structure of the music in their analytical and supportive teaching.
The course concert, given in St Mary de Crypt in Gloucester, presented the most successfully performed selection of these pieces, and the instrumentalists (on viol, violin, recorder, curtal, cornetto, sackbut and trombone, with keyboard and harp continuo) performed two splendid Giovanni Gabrieli pieces, one with Jennie Cassidy as soloist, the eleven part Surrexit Christus and the twelve part Sonata octavi toni. In the remaining time further treasures of the repertoire were introduced, and memorably, the outstanding deploration by Andrea Gabrieli on the death of Willaert. In the Classical tradition of "all Nature mourns..." Setting text by the poet Molina, Sassi, palae, sabbion works through a gentle catalogue of the natural history of the Venetian Lagoon, but unexpectedly also its marine inhabitants are addressed with prominence: L'Ostregha,'l cappa, e'l passerin polio, ... Scombri, chieppe, sardun... (the oyster, the cockle and the gentle flounder... mackerel, shad, anchovies...) provoking irrepressible mirth from the choir, but the poignant climax: "...come hither every one to lament the death of Adrian, for whom I mourn, who will no longer be able to set my verses to music with the sweetest song that shatters every reef...." and the setting of the final flat throwaway ending returning to the major cadence: "In the whole world, who will now be the one who can emulate him in harmony?" brought us some of Andrea Gabrieli's most beautiful creations.
The traditional very successful format at Beauchamp comprises separate instrumental and vocal part rehearsals followed by ensemble sessions conducted alternately by Philip Thorby or Alan Lumsden, with Clifford Bartlett or other continuo players always present; working through a repertoire of twenty or so pieces with a view to performing a small selection of them in a Thursday concert, a final day of pieces yet untried, and a last evening of requested favourites from past courses and the plums of the current one; many participants are familiar with some of the works; some of the singers double on instruments; impromptu instrumental playing sessions happen in the afternoons and late evenings. There are probably a handful of attenders whose memories stretch back to the course's early years, when Alan Lumsden's co-director was Michael Procter, but these days many are now annual regulars with their families or partners, and young musicians not long out of music colleges are an additional very welcome presence in the international gathering. Sadly, it seems the course is nearing its natural retirement, possibly its demise in its present venue, whose team so splendidly looked after us yet again with even more generous and tasty feasts - food, wine and cider, but next year's Beauchamp Early Music Week is announced! July 17-23 2005: Pretorius, Schein and Scheidt.
And for your 2004 collection of Thorbyisms:
"Second sopranos, do you have to treat your line like an old tea bag the first sopranos have finished with?"
"Firsts, not quite so much of the Miss Whiplash..."
Cambridge Early Music Summer Schools Week 3: Renaissance Early Music Week
Directed by Musica Antiqua, August 21-28 2004
This course, the third of the Cambridge weeks offered this year by CEMSS, has been fully covered in Early music today (October/November 04), by Jonathan Wikeley, a reviewer himself participating at the beginning and end of the course, but it makes a very worthwhile comparison with the annual course at Beauchamp. The Cambridge Renaissance Early Music Week offered a different daily format: while there were grand large scale three- and two-choir cori spezzati pieces, rehearsed with the trademark attack, energy and insight characteristic of the direction by Philip Thorby and members of Musica Antiqua, these were balanced by opportunities for small groups tutored in rotation by Alison Crum, Roy Marks and Jacob Heringman to explore and develop pieces in broken consorts, working on some of the many settings of the popular melody Suzanne ung jour - by de Rore, Pevernage and Claude Lejeune - that sprung up after Lassus' primary version, on Lassus' Villanelles, and on his secular Chansons and Lieder. All participants were involved in both large-scale and smaller works during the four daily sessions.
The course had opened with a public concert of ravishing English lute music by Dowland's less famous contemporaries from the exceptional lutenist Jacob Heringman, also a tutor on the course with Alison Crum and Roy Marks. Three days later the standard of excellence was held high again by Madame d'Amours, Music for the Six Wives of Henry VIII,* a concert by Musica Antiqua of London with Jacob Heringman and the fresh-as-the-morning-dew voice of Jennie Cassidy, and the riveting sounds from Ian Harrison on mute cornett and bagpipes. The afternoon before the concert Philip Thorby had given a talk to the summer school on the background to the works, over-turning with subtlety and compassion many widely held false assumptions on the lives of the figures concerned.
While all this musical excitement fired the week, stimulating the students' groups playing their different settings sur Suzanne ung jour to each other, sparking off impromptu playing and vocal sessions, and experimentation with different combinations of instruments and voices, the large scale works and the passionate serenity of the Andrea Gabrieli Magnificat Primi toni as well as the seductive beauty both of Lassus' more languorous pieces and those of his more ribald mood were being shaped into some presentable form supported with constant hard work from the tutors. The instrumentalists, many of whom doubled as singers, and included the tutors, played lute, cornett, sackbut, crumhorn, viol, recorder, curtal, chittarone and harp. Singing with lutes was a popular and novel experience for some, and an oversubscribed evening "try a viol" session had to be repeated for enthusiasts. The public concert as usual loomed at the week's end but for most was a thrilling experience not only of playing with professionals, but of extending their own reach well beyond their expected norm.
Selwyn College provided a tranquil and comfortable respite from the world. We were happily well fed and looked after, provided with a bar in the evenings, and ample tea, coffee and biscuits between sessions, afternoons off for extempore music, practise, or walking into Cambridge or along the backs, and Selene Mills seamlessly organised the whole thing with her usual endearing charm and efficiency and the help of two selfless course members. The high number of younger and international participants made for a lively and stimulating course. Quite hard work? Yes, but so rewarding. Do you want to play or sing with others and not be restricted by pre-formed groups? Do you want to explore repertoire with others in broken consorts? Do you want to discover beautiful music you have not known before? Then perhaps this is a course you would really enjoy.
(2005 dates: 31 July-7 august)
*There is a further opportunity to hear this beautiful concert at the Early Music Festival Exhibition on Friday November 12 at 7.45 pm in the Chapel of the Royal Naval College Greenwich (and there is a CD, Madame d'Amours, Musica Antiqua of London).
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Does anyone know where or when the current popular put-down "...not singing from quite the same hymn sheet..." first appeared?
Opportunities to make music
Singers wanted! The City of Oxford Choir, conducted by Peter Leech who ran a workshop for TVEMF, is looking to recruit new singers, especially Altos, Tenors and Basses. Their Spring concert celebrates the 500th anniversary of Tallis. Please contact the choir secretary Kate Lack on 01865 511326 to come to a rehearsal and audition on the first day of the Spring term, Monday 10 January, 7.30pm at Magdalen College School, Oxford. www.oxfordchoir.org
London Motet and Madrigal Club, 2004-05
LMMC is meeting at 6.30 pm on Saturdays, once a month, at the Methodist International Centre, Euston Street, (except for the December meeting which is at St Michael, Cornhill) from now until July 2005. New members and visitors are welcome. The annual subscription is £27 and the charge per meeting for visitors is £4 (except for the first visit, which is free).
For further information please e-mail Sidney Ross on firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at 1 Palmerston House, 66A St Paul Street, London N1 7EE.
Meeting dates for 2004-5 are 16th Oct, 13th Nov, 11th Dec, 22nd Jan, 19th Feb, 12th Mar, 23rd Apr, 21st May, 18th Jun, 23rd Jul.
News of Members' Activities
Several members of TVEMF including Michael Strange, Irene Butcher, Andrew Welsh, Paul Crosby, Alex Webb and Daphne Briggs, are taking part in another concert by period instrument orchestra Belsize Baroque, founded in 2002, again directed by Peter Holman and with soprano Claire Tomlin. Sunday 21 November 6pm at St James West Hampstead