Tamesis Issue 186
The trouble with leaving out an edition of Tamesis is that the next one seems to take twice as long to produce. I’m sorry this one is rather late, with the effect that you’ve only got a short time to send me your forms for the Baroque Chamber Music Day on 5th November and our Christmas event with Philip Thorby on 26th November. I know a lot of you already have the dates in your diaries, and have been wondering whether you’ve lost the forms.
I hope to see lots of you at the baroque day. If you haven’t been before and wonder whether it is for you, please read the rather long form carefully and if you have any questions I’ll be very pleased to hear from you. Our Christmas event is always good fun, with a bring-and-share lunch as well as the music. This year Philip Thorby will be directing excerpts from the Florentine Intermedi which, though not Christmassy, will give everyone plenty to do. More details are on the booking form.
Also in November is the Greenwich Early Music Festival and Exhibition in the Old Royal Naval College. If you haven’t been before, let me tell you that it is a fantastic event, with lots of concerts going on, instruments to try out and music to buy. If only I wasn’t playing in a concert on the Saturday I would go and spend the whole weekend there. The list of Greenwich concerts appeared in the August Tamesis, and I’ve added the most important ones to the Concerts List this month. I shall be taking all the leaflets and display material with me on the Friday, and NEMA will be sharing the stand and helping to look after it, but obviously TVEMF volunteers are needed as well. This might include someone willing to take left-over leaflets home on the Sunday if I don’t manage to get there then. If you can make a definite time commitment (even if only half an hour) please contact our co-ordinator Kevin Brown kevinbrownf2s.com. Otherwise please drop in for a chat when you are passing the stand and perhaps give someone a short break if they look as if they need one.
I hope you like the new font. I’m sorry the listings are rather small this month because of the amount of information to go in. For printing purposes everything has to fit into multiples of four pages. Please note that there will be no December Tamesis because the copy date would be very near Christmas, so make sure that any concerts or events in December and January that you want me to mention arrive in time for the November copy d ate. The next Tamesis after that will appear in mid-January.
There has been an unusually large gap in the TVEMF events schedule but the autumn season started well with Alan Lumsden's Dixit Dominus workshop on October the 9th. I think it's the fourth occasion when I have been involved with the Rigatti, the most complex of the three versions that we tackled. It looks simple on the page but is very effective and was featured at a late night Prom this year. We tackled the work under Robert Hollingworth at the NEMA day last year but, lacking any violins, Wayne Plummer and I were asked if we fancied playing the parts on cornetts. After studying the score we elected merely to play in the fanfare-like section at the start and leave the rest to recorders. This prudent decision was a dictated both by considerations of stamina and also because repeated high As on the cornett do not give the same effect as on the violin!
On a recent visit to an open day at St Mary's Church, Reigate, I was allowed into the library, founded in 1701. This contains about 2000 volumes, mainly of an ecclesiastical nature though including some natural history. One substantial volume, which must have contained several hundred pages, caught my eye because it was simply entitled "The 110th Psalm". It wasn't until I got home that I realised that this is Dixit Dominus, so I missed an opportunity to learn perhaps rather more than I wanted to know about this text!
November has several events - the Baroque Day, Exhibition and the Philip Thorby workshop, so I look forward to seeing many of you before very long.
Masaomi Yanagisawa and Catherine Westover
I had an email from Masaomi in August telling me that he and Catherine were moving to Normandy. They are supervising the conversion of an old barn and hope to host music playing there in the future. A few weeks later he wrote:
I am writing this e-mail in a room with a door and stone walls with bare ground. I could manage to cover a large window with plastic bag. Computer is on a temporary desk I made and connected to telephone line hanging from an exposed beam. This week we have a telephone line and access to the internet. We are enjoying this new life.
I hope the weather keeps warm and fine for them, at least until their barn is weather- tight. We’ll miss them both, particularly at the baroque days.
Dixit Dominus Workshop
Magdalen College School 7th October 2006
This workshop for singers and instrumentalists on various settings of Psalm 110, Dixit Dominus, given by Alan Lumsden was well attended and a definite success. We studied three settings. The largest by far was the one by Rigatti, for two choirs, soloists and instruments. We worked hard on this all morning; it presented a number of challenges, such as frequent changes of speed and rhythm, and there was one particularly vexing section of syncopation where we all seemed to get on better if we didn’t watch the beat! Alan was very patient while we grappled with the music. In the afternoon we tackled a setting in German by Schütz, and a setting by Romero for 16 voices, before returning to the Rigatti for some more work on the later sections. The day concluded with performances of the Rigatti and the Schütz. No matter what happened in the Rigatti we carried on – hence Alan’s grin grew broader and broader as we approached the end. I finished the day much better informed on both the text of the psalm and on the life and times of the composers, thanks to Alan’s careful preparation for the day. Many thanks to Alan and to all those involved in the organisation of the day.
Merton College Chapel 7th October 2006
The concert given by Stile Antico on 7th October in Merton Chapel, Oxford, was a great success. The choir was new to me, and I was very pleased to see that all of its members are young; there is hope yet for the future of choral singing with such talented musicians as these. The concert consisted of Monteverdi’s Missa in Illo Tempore, described as Monteverdi’s homage to the prima prattica, interspersed with shorter works by his immediate predecessors, Palestrina and Andrea Gabrieli, and some plainchant. The prima prattica was the old way of composing, with lots of polyphony, whereas Monteverdi was starting to experiment with homophony. The concert started in dramatic fashion, with plainchant coming from somewhere behind us and no singers in sight. That first immaculate item over, the choir took their places and proceeded to delight the audience with their precise, beautifully controlled, yet ardent singing. Stile Antico conveyed all the emotion in the words and music very successfully. I was particularly affected by the feeling of deep sorrow in Palestrina’s Super Flumina Babylonis. This choir will go a long way!
Antwerp - Sailing Ships and Early Music
I was planning a short trip to catch the final stage of the Tall Ships Festival 2006 in Antwerp during August; I knew the city had much to offer in terms of art, architecture and Belgian beers, and I was hoping to find some signs of an Early Music tradition in the land of the great Flemish composers. With the help of a TVEMF member based in Amsterdam, I learnt the correct words, but "oude muziek" and "Antwerpen" did not come up with anything very useful on Google.
However, once I arrived, I knew my luck was in because the listings magazine featured 'Festival Laus Polyphoniae' - an Early Music event which takes place over nine days towards the end of August each year. My friendly B&B host showed me the main venues on the map, and this gave me a good excuse to explore parts of the city which I might not have seen. At the admin centre, a converted church set in tranquil grounds, I picked up a booklet with full details of workshops, lectures, concerts and other performances.
Early Music from the New World was the theme of the festival, and the first concert was by an Argentinian group: Ensemble Elyma (conductor, 7 soloist singers and 10 instruments) performing works by Padilla (in both Latin and Spanish) from Puebla in Mexico. It lasted for about two hours without a break, but I was totally engaged; I have rarely enjoyed instrumental accompaniment as much, and some of the rhythms were compulsive - perhaps Padilla was drawing on native Mexican influences as well as his own Spanish roots. The large audience in the old Jesuit Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk was very appreciative, and I had the impression that most were locals rather than tourists like myself.
The following morning was Sunday, and I guessed that the free concert in the same church at 11.30 would be part of a liturgy. By the time I arrived, the only seats left were on the large balcony areas upstairs, but the acoustics were good. I would have preferred a small choir, instead of five soloists, singing these works by Victoria, Palestrina, Guerrero and Hidalgo, and the organ accompaniment at one point seemed unnecessary. However, we had a fair ration of music, a relatively short sermon, and I felt quite generous when the inevitable collection came round.
On Tuesday morning at breakfast, I discovered that one of the small groups (four students from Germany) was staying at the same B&B. It seemed that there was an emphasis on young performers, with public 'coaching sessions' leading up to final presentations later in the week. Unfortunately, their session coincided with the Parade of Sail, where most of the ships would be making their farewells to Antwerp as they sailed down the Schelde towards the North Sea, and home in almost twenty different countries. If the weather had been foul, as on Monday, I might have favoured the music indoors, but the skies were blue and I got some good pictures.
If anyone is tempted to try Laus Polyphoniae 2007, I would be happy to assist with more specific information; alternatively, anyone who knows Genoa (Early Music connections, or otherwise) may be able to help me with plans for Tall Ships 2007 in late July!
News of Members’ Activities
Member Andrew Kay writes: Saffron & Sapphire: two concerts and a CD of Sephardic Music My wife Karen and I have been working on a project to record and play Sephardic Songs. These are traditional songs stretching back through Jewish oral tradition, via Southern Europe, to 15th Century Spain. The texts tell stories of great piquancy and vigour: Tales of wayward daughters locked in tall towers; Love lost, found, denied and borrowed; Lullabies with a bite and babies secretly swapped.
The melodies often use scales with intervals of minor thirds, which give them an exotic feel, quite unlike the hymns and anthems David mentioned in the August issue! We have provided our own arrangements, using viola da gamba, baroque flute, recorder, harmonium and dumbek to accompany the singer/storyteller.
The concerts are 14th October in Burford and 29th October in the Holywell, and we hope then to launch the CD, if it has come back from replication. Our programme is called "Saffron and Sapphire", and you can find out more (including audio clips) on our website, www.wildruby.co.uk.
TVEMF member and one of our favourite workshop directors, David Allinson, has just become the Musical Director of Hampstead Chamber Choir. Their first concert features the first-ever concert performance of Robert Pearsall's Requiem for choir and brass ensemble, which was published for the first time last year. Pearsall is well- known to choral singers as the composer of Lay a garland and other luscious partsongs in an 'antico' style. He believed that the Requiem was his finest work. Details: www.hampsteadchamberchoir.org. Like most groups, Hampstead Chamber Choir is looking for tenors and basses, so if you're interested, email membership @ hampsteadchamberchoir.org.
David has also taken over the Latin Schola at The Church of Our Lady & The English Martyrs (OLEM), Hills Road, Cambridge. Details: www.olem.freeuk.com. This rotating ensemble of twelve singers performs plainchant and polyphony (mainly Renaissance repertoire) at the weekly Latin Mass on Sunday evenings at 6.15pm. All are welcome at these services.
David has a new web site www.musicianet.co.uk/allinson where you can find out about his courses and see a lot of pictures of him.