Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 175
There are a lot of contributions this month (many thanks) and more advertisements than usual, so only a short editorial this time.
We have decided to postpone the idea of having a medieval day on 22nd October because, by an extraordinary coincidence, a medieval workshop is being held in Cirencester on the same day. A new date for the medieval day will be found next year.
It looks as if there won’t be a TVEMF stand at the Greenwich Early Music Exhibition this year. Nobody volunteered to do any organisation except me! I think this is a great pity, and if you agree I’d like to hear from you. Officially it’s too late to book a stand now, but in practice this may not be so. I am quite happy to take charge of the last day (Sunday) and bring our stuff home in the car, though I’d like to think that other people would help to man the stand on the day. We would need two other people, one each for Friday and Saturday, to be in charge on those days. That really just means organising the volunteers and making sure there is always someone there. Someone would also need to set up the stand either on Thursday or possibly early on Friday. This involves taking the leaflets and putting up the photographs etc. If you would like to help please get in touch, preferably by email (address on the front cover). Greenwich is in our area, so it doesn’t seem right that we shouldn’t be represented there.
This was the second year that I went to the "last" Beauchamp House Summer School but it now seems likely that the property will be sold as a school and that the course will take place as usual next year. This year we reprised the music of Praetorius and his German contemporaries, exploiting the wonderful mix of instruments and voices that Beauchamp attracts. The customary shortage of tenors proved to be no problem, as various people who would not consider themselves primarily as singers nevertheless produced some very fine singing. As we have come to expect, the enthusiasm of Alan Lumsden, Philip Thorby and Clifford Bartlett made the music of come alive. On the 22nd of October we were planning to have a workshop for medieval music but it seems that SWEMF had the same idea, so we are postponing our event until next year. Anyone who is interested in going to the SWEMF event and would like to share a car should contact me and I'll try to arrange something. Our next event, with David Allinson on the 17th September, is fully booked in spite of several competing attractions on the same day - a testament to David's great popularity.
Letter to editor
I read that in a certain eastern county they are doing a playing day of late 16c motets for recorders and other wind and strings, but no crumhorns or shawms! Presumably cornetts, trombones and curtals are welcome. I accept that windcaps are unsuitable for this music, although if they get 30 cornamuses it will be thoroughly deserved, but shawms (pifferi) would have been a regular feature in the cathedrals of Spain and Italy, and I reckon my bombard (alto shawm in g) will blend in with anyone, but they will never know.
I am reminded of cards which appeared in landladies' windows in the fifties: we racial minorities need the protection of the law now afforded to others. I once took my shawm to a SEMF subtil music day (I also have a subtil trombone): bully for Tim Samuelson and ya boo shucks to Ms L------.
Ena Pick, who died recently after a long illness, was a TVEMF member in its early days and known to some of you through her activities such as the courses she organised with the late Bill Gregson for voices, viols and recorders. I first met Ena at the West Dean course for musical instrument making, which she attended for many years. She made a variety of things such as a rauschpfiefe, a rackett, a xylophone and percussion instruments, some of which were used by pupils at the school where she taught. A little after our meeting in the mid 1980s, Ena joined the newly formed South Hill Park Early Music Group where she played crumhorn and recorder with great enthusiasm and musicality.
Ena helped to form the Wessex branch of the Society of Recorder Players and was its Secretary for many years. She also sang with the Basingstoke Choral Society and after retiring to Winchester was Chairman of the Winchester Festival Chorus. For a while she was a member of the Wokingham recorder group and was the easiest of people with whom to make music - you gave her a part and she played it well, with no fuss, on whatever instrument it required.
Theo Wyatt used to run self-catering courses at Benslow over Easter week - Ena and her husband Ron would arrive with vast supplies of food which were prepared by the participants under Ron's supervision and cooked by him whilst we played. Sadly, Theo no longer runs courses and Ena is no longer here - we shall miss her calm good humour, and offer our sincerest sympathy to her family and especially to Ron with whom she spent so many happy years.
Long-standing members will also remember the excellent meal which Ena and Ron produced for a TVEMF banquet in Amersham, probably about ten years ago. Ed.
NORVIS (Northumberland Recorder and Viol Summer School), at the University College of St. Hild and St. Bede in Durham, held its 35th annual session this summer. Its long life, mainly under the direction of Layton and Christine Ring, has allowed it to evolve a very attractive pattern. It continues to be an excellent course, chiefly for the variety of its programme, the excellence and enthusiasm of its tutors and also for the tutor to student ratio. This year there were 84 students and 14 tutors. As a result the classes on technique, which form the first period of the day, are small and valuable. There is time for individual problems to be sorted out. The technique classes cover not only recorders and viols at various levels, but also harpsichord, baroque strings, lute, and solo singing. The second morning session, after coffee, is devoted to consort playing, including trio sonatas and a renaissance group. This is also supervised by tutors who rotate between the different groups during the week and offer different views of the music. Meals, coffee and tea are taken in the college canteen, which is of a good standard, offering salads as well as hot dishes at lunch time, and vegetarian options at the main meals. The early afternoon is free, except for those who wish to take part in the baroque orchestra or choir which both rehearse at this time. The city of Durham is 15 to 20 minutes walk away along the banks of the river Wear, so many combine a visit to the famous cathedral or castle with shopping for those items they have forgotten to pack! After tea comes one of the main attractions of the course, the "Choice of Delights". Numerous activities are on offer including beginner classes on instruments which one has not tried before, madrigals, lute song, court dancing, renaissance band (instruments provided), playing divisions, playing from facsimile or figured bass, and this year, producing CDs, jazz recorder and juggling! These delights vary year by year as tutors are persuaded to reveal their hidden talents! One afternoon in midweek is completely free and one has the opportunity to visit the many attractions of the region which include several museums in Durham, and the Bowes, Beamish Open Air and Thomas Bewick museums outside the city, the Roman Wall, Weardale and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and Baltic Arts centre, to name but a few! After dinner there is always something organised. This year the tutors' concert was divided into two halves, one half being followed by a session of rounds and catches and the other by Renaissance Dance. This was a good move because concerts tend to go on too long and the pews in the chapel are uncomfortable. It also involved the students actively in part of the evening. The students’ concert was similarly divided. In previous years the tutors have given lectures at this time. On one evening a ceilidh is offered, accompanied by a local band and preceded by a talk on the Northumbrian pipes or the accordion by an expert performing entirely from memory, who also directs the ceilidh. This is very popular. The final evening features the orchestra and choir performing what they have been studying. This includes a combined work, often a Bach cantata. It is followed by a lengthy session in the bar with more relaxed and modern music, mainly by tutors. The final attraction of the course is the people. Students get on very well together and the tutors are popular. About three quarters of the course come back year after year. They include several from other countries, mainly European and this year two from Israel, and four from TVEMF.
Making medieval music
“That plainchant is all the same” someone said to me last year. He was not a medieval enthusiast, and (dare I say it) I do have some idea why he might have thought that way. However, it took me some time to realise that plainchant was not the last word on medieval music, and that there was a livelier and, in some respects, a more accessible medieval repertoire out there to be discovered.
Someone who is making that lively medieval repertoire even more accessible to us is Chris Elmes, of the group Gaita, who have sometimes worked in conjunction with the well- established group Misericordia.
Chris published a short miscellany of medieval music some time ago. He then added a ‘performer’s edition’ of the Martin Codax Cantigas, and the Llibre Vermell. He has now performed an even greater service by making available the music (and words to the first verse/chorus) of the first 100 of the Cantigas de Santa Maria. He’s working on the rest! This book is an absolute boon for someone like me, because I simply haven’t enough knowledge and experience of reading from the original medieval notation. Chris provides a very approachable transcription, but also gives the outline of the original notation, so that the more experienced medievalist can have fun working out his or her own interpretation!
The more I explore this fascinating collection of music the more I am drawn in by the variety, ranging from simple and vigorous round-dance style pieces, to languid gems of devotional meditation.
Apart from singing these pieces, however, they really do lend themselves to instrumental performance on a remarkably wide range of medieval instruments, however appalled a number of scholars would be at the thought of more than one or two instruments playing this repertoire at any one time! There is plenty of scope, too, for experimentation and improvisation, not least given the different possibilities for rhythmic interpretation, and so on.
I can’t recommend this spiral-bound collection highly enough (and, no – I don’t get a cut!). If you want to investigate, have a look at Chris’ website: www.btinternet.com/~gaita, or contact him by e-mail to c_elmeshotmail.com.
News and workshops by the Renaissance Singers
First, we have an announcement to make! After ten years Edward Wickham has relinquished the directorship to pursue his career and JanJoost van Elburg takes over the choir from this September.
The first event in the season is the Friends' Evening at 7.00pm on September 14th at the Dutch Church, 7 Austin Friars, in the City of London. This is an opportunity to wish Edward farewell and to welcome JanJoost. There will be a workshop session for those who wish to take part in a preview of the season's forthcoming music, and of course there will be the traditional buffet with wine. Most importantly, we will be launching the Singers' new CD Tudor Portraits which we recorded in January. We welcome everybody to this event - Friends and others alike. If you would like to come you should book now by either calling 020 7486 6342, or Emailing tickets @ renaissancesingers.com or visiting the website at http://www.renaissancesingers.com/bookings_concerts/index.htm
During the course of the year we will continue with our series of Monday evening workshops in London which are open to all singers who enjoy singing this repertoire. Workshops take place at St Pancras Church Hall, Lancing Street (off Eversholt St., near Euston Station) and last from 7.00pm to 9.15 pm. The dates are 14 November, 13 February and 15 May. Details in the Events listings.
Details of concerts will be found in the Concerts listings. The season culminates in our third City Churches tour on Saturday 15th July. This extremely popular event will take us to four different churches during the course of the afternoon where we will hear about the architecture from Anthony Bucknall and the Renaissance Singers will perform music suitable for the occasion.