Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 235
Happy new year everyone! The committee has been busy and there are three TVEMF booking forms in this newsletter as well as a number of new dates for your diaries. I’m using this editorial to include a number of brief items, so please read it carefully to see what might affect you. Have you paid your subscription yet? If not, you won’t get your March Tamesis or be on the new membership list. Please consider paying by Standing Order, which will save you remembering in future years and help to reduce the work load on the two Davids - chairman and treasurer. Have you any suggestions for new venues, new tutors or topics for workshops? Might you be willing to organise an event? If so, the committee will be able to provide lots of help and guidance. At the moment we are having trouble finding a venue not too far from London for Donald Greig’s workshop on medieval vocal music in May, which we expect to be a fairly small course. Any ideas? David Fletcher’s form for his renaissance music workshop on 2nd February didn’t mention medieval music, but I had great fun last time in a session with harps, psaltery and medieval recorders. If you’re interested in the idea for this time and have some sort of appropriate instrument please let David know, even if you’ve already sent him your booking form. I’ve found a useful web site about singing courses - British Choirs on the Net http://www.choirs.org.uk/singing%20courses.htm When Kathy Edmonds got back her recorders which were collected for her at the Greenwich Exhibition she was surprised to find a black folding umbrella in the bag with them. Is it yours? Many thanks to all our contributors this month, particularly to the event reviewers. There are three reviews of the Jeremy Jackman day! And thanks to everyone who helped at the Christmas event.
2013 started well for me - I spent much of New Year's Day playing music for two cornetts, sackbut and curtal, then there was a group of cornetts and sackbuts on the 3rd, and the TVEMF "Byrd Without Barlines" on the 6th. I was a bit apprehensive about the latter event as the plan was to start with a barred version of Ave Verum Corpus and move to unbarred later. I thought that many of us could probably sing the piece with only cursory glances at the music so this wouldn't be very challenging. However it's no bad thing to start with something easy so as to gain confidence - a point that anyone organising a musical gathering should bear in mind. We were certainly challenged later on, but acquitted ourselves pretty well in what was a very enjoyable day. The other good news was that the event was over-subscribed when I had been afraid people would be scared off by the idea of barless music.
I see that as a consequence of copying material from an original form dating back more than twenty years, the form for my Renaissance event somehow kept the title "Renaissance Chamber Music Playing Day". The word "playing" should be deleted, as singers are more than welcome. They will be expected to hold a part by themselves but perfection is not expected on the first run through. As Jeremy Jackson put it be "strong and wrong" rather than timid, especially if you find yourself with a cornett and sackbut accompaniment. Several of my "Desert island" recordings feature this combination, notably the Chamber Vespers, where Jamie Savan's cornett matches his wife Faye Newton's beautiful soprano voice so well. Do sign up (especially tenors!) and enjoy some great music in interesting combinations. I was very sad to hear of the death of Jack Scullard who has just died at the age of 91 after a brief illness. Jack was the most versatile brass player I ever encountered, playing cornett, trumpet, French horn and various sizes of trombone and sackbut, as well as viols. He was a valued member of TVEMF in the early days as he could play pretty much any part on some instrument or other. I recall on one course elsewhere he had been put down to play his horn in an orchestral piece by, I think, Telemann but hadn't brought it with him. Undaunted, Jack put his trumpet mouthpiece in his sackbut and played notes which any horn player would have been proud of. A lovely unassuming man - he will be much missed.
TVEMF play month count
I know that Hugh Rosenbaum has now had a number of reports of your musical activities last November but I haven’t had his report yet so presumably he would like some more lists to make it more interesting. Please send yours to Hugh either by email to hugh4blueyonder.co.uk or post them to 127 Fortis Green Road, London N10 3LX. It should only take you about five minutes, provided that you haven’t thrown away last year’s diary. I was amazed to see how much I’d done in November!
Desert Island Discs
There was a good response to Kate Gordon’s suggestion that we pick our own choice of eight records, and there’s no reason the idea can’t carry on into future issues of Tamesis. Some of you sent your lists complete with explanatory notes, and some just sent a list. Some people stuck to early music and some didn’t, but there is surprisingly little duplication apart from the Monteverdi Vespers which Kate also chose. Her list was in the November Tamesis. Let’s start with Madeline Seviour who actually worked on the programme during her early career at the BBC. She writes: I’m sure everyone found this as difficult as I did – my first “short” list contained almost 20 items! I have restricted my choice to early, i.e. baroque and earlier, music – otherwise the list would have been twice as long. In the spirit of D.I.D. I have chosen items with a personal significance, not necessarily the pieces I regard as the greatest music ever written. When D.I.D. began in 1942 the discs were 78 rpm so castaways got only about 5 minutes per record. Working as production secretary on the programme in the late 1960s I remember the fun we had trying to locate some of the more obscure requests. On one occasion it was a recording from the 1890s of Brahms playing one of his Hungarian dances, which he introduced himself with the words “Ich bin Brahms, Johannes Brahms, Doktor Brahms”. The castaway had been a piano student of Brahms.
Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet – “Extra Time” Handel – Acis and Galatea Corelli – Concerto Grosso Op.6 No.2 Telemann – Water Music Byrd – Pavan and Galliard ‘Sir William Petre’ Purcell – King Arthur Bach – Magnificat Byrd – Fantasia à 6 No.2
Here are my 8 discs, listed chronologically rather than in preference (they are incomparable). 1. Monteverdi Vespers 2. Purcell Dido and Aeneas 3. Handel Dixit Dominus 4. J.S. Bach St Matthew Passion 5. Haydn Symphony nr 49 in f minor (la passione) 6. Mozart Requiem 7. Beethoven Eroica Symphony 8. Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony Mostly pretty mainstream, although a wider timespan than Kate Gordon's list. But nothing 20th century or pre-1600, I am afraid, although there are lots that I would miss!
1. Intermezzo from The Jewels of the Madonna by Wolf Ferrari 2. Overture to The Mastersingers by Wagner 3. Introduction and Allegro for strings by Elgar 4. Slow movement from The Trout Quintet by Schubert 5. Love duet from The Coronation of Poppaea by Monteverdi 6. Slow movement from the concerto for two violins by Bach 7. Semper Dowland Semper dolens for viols and lute by John Dowland 8. Fantasy no.7 for five viols by Jenkins
Here is mine in no particular order of preference or chronology - just as they came to me! Finzi - Dies Natalis (sung by Wilfred Brown) Josquin - Ave Maria Virgo serena James Macmillan - Miserere Cornysh - Woefully arrayed (Stile Antico disc) Taverner - Dum transisset Sabbatum Striggio 40 part mass - I Fagiolini disc Dowland - In darkness let me dwell (sung by Iestyn Davies) Victoria - Mass: Laetatus sum
Desert Island discs are a bit problematical as one is so spoilt for choice, but all seven of my vocal choices are works that I've sung. However, and not in any particular order:- Josquin-Ave Maria Monteverdi 1610 Vespers Victoria-Mass and motet, Vidi speciosam or Trahe me post te I think I would want to include one madrigalist and the complete works of Wilbye would be my choice Purcell, Come ye sons of art The Bach B minor Telemann - a representative selection of concertos involving wind instruments Dufay, motet and mass, Se la face ay pale
Many of these I lined up years ago for my island retreat – sensitive, thought provoking, enlivening, rousing and fun. Rhapsody in Blue - George Gershwin Love the abandonment of playing it. St Matthew Passion - JS Bach My mother used to sing in this every Easter, but I have never had a chance to play or sing in it myself. German Requiem - Brahms Beautiful moments where everything hangs on one note. Dixit Dominus – Handel A great Handel romp but with lovely sensitive sections. Facade – Walton Would need some rubbish like this if I’m alone for a long time – something to argue with. Some ragtime pieces - Scott Joplin Great pieces for making you get up and do something. Cantus Arcticus – Rautvaara A wonderful depiction of wide open frozen wastes. Makes you look out into the distance. Kamui-Chikap Symphony (Symphony No 1) – Takashi Yoshimatsu The long first movement (Ground) sounds like all the double basses are snoring, but they gradually wake up.
The noticeable lack of much early music is because I would rather be a participant, and the pieces are usually rather short.
An impossible thing to do, to list the top 8 records, but here are some favourites from my collection in no particular order: Stabat Mater - The Cantors (aka Cantores Chamber Choir) with David Allinson Senfl Missa Paschalis etc. - Choir of Sidney Sussex College and the Quintessential cornett & sackbut ensemble under David Skinner Tallis Spem in Alium etc.(complete works of Thomas Tallis) - Chapelle du Roi under Alistair Dixon Rosenmüller Vespers - Cantus Cõln and Concerto Palatino under Konrad Junghänel The Art of the Netherlands - The Early Music Consort of London under David Munrow Chamber Vespers - The Gonzaga Band with Faye Newton soprano and Jamie Savan cornett Byrd Four and Five Part Masses - Choir of St John's College Cambridge under George Guest Venetian Music for Double Choir - Currende & Concerto Palatino under Erik van Nevel It's gratifying to see that two TVEMF members are directing choirs in the above list. It's interesting to note that all the above are primarily or entirely vocal, though in some cases with significant instrumental contributions. Had I made the list forty years ago it would have been almost all instrumental.
Mine aren’t in any particular order either, but I’ve tried to give myself a bit of variety and I’ve had to leave out a lot of favourites. Monteverdi Vespers Mozart Clarinet Concerto The Naked Recorder - Nikolaj Ronimus This is a really interestingly played selection in spite of the title. Una Follia di Napoli Concerti & Sinfonie per Flauto anno 1725 - Maurice Steger More recorder music with an operatic flavour. Telemann: Paris Quartet no 12 or indeed any of them. Dancing in the Isles: Baroque and Traditional Music from England, Scotland and Ireland - Musica Pacifica 1 - The Beatles 2000 compilation album of all their number 1 hits A Quiet Night Out - Richard Stilgoe and Peter Skellern because it’s so clever and makes me laugh a lot.
Memorial Service for Michael Procter
The memorial service for Michael Procter was held at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate on All Souls Day, November 2nd. This was a particularly appropriate venue because of the long association of the church with music and also because of its proximity to the original site of his old school, Christ’s Hospital, in Newgate Street; though by the time he entered the school, it had been located at Horsham for almost sixty years. The school also has a strong musical tradition and it was there that Michael’s musical talent had its first opportunity to flourish. Of the three masses customarily sung on All Souls Day, one is for the faithful departed. It was therefore entirely fitting that the Mass which was sung at the service for Michael, who was such a deeply committed Christian, and such a fine interpreter of the great Renaissance composers, was Victoria’s Officium Defunctorum. Over the years during which Michael directed a variety of musical groups, a great many singers and players enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of being guided by him through the music which he knew and loved. He was erudite without being pedantic, precise without being fussy and entertaining while remaining firmly focused on getting the best possible performance from his singers. The service, designed by Robin Rigby and conducted by Canon Peter Sutton, was so arranged that a substantial number of those who had sung with him over the years were able to participate. The singers were drawn from four such groups. The Introit, Offertorium and Versa est in luctum were performed by the Renaissance Singers, re-founded by Michael in 1992 and directed by him until 1995 when he was succeeded by Edward Wickham. The other participating groups were the Eastern and the Thames Valley Early Music Fora, whose events Michael had so often directed, and his invitation-only group, the Proctet-the number of those singers being sufficient for several Octets. Under the direction of Keith Bennett, the Proctet sang the Kyrie and Gradual, the Eastern Early Music Forum sang the Sanctus and Agnus Dei and the Thames Valley Early Music Forum, the Communio. Between the movements we heard tributes and reminiscences from Michael’s sister Linda Bailey, his stepdaughter Rebecca Ursell, his son Benedict, whose speech displayed a verve and assurance so reminiscent of Michael, and Claudia. After Versa est in luctum and prayers, the concluding musical element was the singing of “The duteous day now closeth” (Robert Bridges’ translation of the German original), set to a hymn tune much loved by Michael, Heinrich Isaac’s Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen. Your reporter does not recall any musical activity directed by Michael which was not followed by a convivial drink. Most of those who attended the service stayed for the wine and other refreshments which had been provided, and our thanks go to Rebecca Ursell and to Neil Edington for organising this and to those who contributed and who assisted with the distribution and clearing up. For their respective parts in the creation and performance of the service, and the organisation of the singers, we are deeply grateful to Robin Rigby, Peter Sutton, Keith Bennett, Helen Price, Chris Hunter, Pippa Dice, Selene Mills and Sarah Young. Finally, this report provides an opportunity to mention the memorial fund which has been set up to help provide for the University education of Michael’s son Benedict, in about five years’ time. Donations from the UK may be made to the following account:- Name R. Rigby Reference BenedictFund Bank:- Barclays Bank plc Sort Code 20-41-41 Account number 00780898
King Arthur at St Sepulchre’s 17th November 2012
This was another day to learn something new for most of us. Henry Purcell's work is unfamiliar probably because of its hybrid nature; not an opera, more than a play with music, very difficult to stage today without radical surgery. But the music was a pleasure for us to sing.
65 of us gathered in the Musicians' Church, St Sepulchre-without-Newgate directed by Ralph Allwood. A large chorus and a small but effective orchestra had an enjoyable day pretending to be sprites, fiends and fairies creating problems for King Arthur as he fought with the Saxons. The chorus music initially appeared quite accessible, but later some frosty special effects required extra work (trembling on some notes but not others), and when the music became more difficult to keep in tune Ralph pointed out that we were singing a succession of augmented chords. Very ahead of Purcell's time. There were no volunteers for the solos so the chorus sang everything. Recurring heldentenor solos were performed at pitch by an assembly of altos, tenors, baritones and basses all doing their best. The effect being slightly akin to a chorus of sailors snatched from the inns of Limehouse in Purcell's time. The absence of solo singers also led to some virtuoso sight reading by the sopranos. TVEMF choruses are known for their good sight reading skills, but the intricate decoration and rhythmic embellishments encountered in the soprano solos and duets in this piece presented a real challenge at first sight. In the two part writing some altos also took up the challenge and acquitted themselves well enough to "wear the bays", to use a contemporary compliment.
In the orchestra the harpsichord, bassoon and two bass viols provided a strong continuo holding us all together. There was beautiful playing from two oboes and a pair of recorders, while a small group of strings provided antiphonal responses to the wind players. Ralph conducted us through a substantial amount of music with patience and good humour, enabling us to become acquainted with this little heard work. Thanks is also due to Kate Gordon for all her work in setting up the day.
Byrd was an alto
Some sixty singers gathered at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate on Sunday, January 6th, for the first TVEMF event to be directed by Jeremy Jackman. The event was publicised as Byrd Without Barlines but, for reasons which will become apparent, a different title has been chosen for this review. Members would no doubt agree that we are very fortunate to have so many events directed by musicians and musicologists who are able to combine instruction with entertainment and provide us with days which are highly rewarding in both respects. However, Jeremy’s interesting discourse on the history of the church at the start of today had a touch of the macabre; he reminded us of the proximity of the church to the former Newgate execution site and directed our attention to the handbell which was rung when such events were about to take place. Less pious observers were wont, as is recorded in The Execution, a poem in the first series of Barham’s Ingoldsby Legends, to view the scene (until public executions were abolished in 1868) from the conveniently sited ancient inn across the road, the Magpie and Stump, the site of which is now occupied by a bar called The Firefly. Returning to the event itself, Jeremy explained that the aim was to give us some idea of the conditions under which singers of Byrd’s day would have performed. To this end we began with a piece familiar to almost all of us, Ave Verum Corpus. We sang this first of all from the John Morehen edition which is reproduced in the Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems. This provided the base from which Jeremy expanded on the theme that Barlines Are Bad For You. They encourage mechanical stresses on the syllable immediately following the bar line, thus distorting the natural rhythms of the words: bar lines, as expressed in his ingenious play on words, get it wrong at a stroke. We then sang it from an edition prepared by Jeremy from which all the bar lines had been removed, but brackets had been inserted to provide some guidance as to the phrasing. Finally we sang from individual parts. This inevitably required us to pay more attention to what was going on in other parts instead of concentrating on our own respective lines. Throughout this gradual peeling away of editorial addition we were constantly exhorted not merely to “go tick” but to do so in concord with our neighbours. We continued with the much less familiar Psallite Domino from the second book of Gradualia (1607), first in an edition without bar lines and then with individual parts only. The text is taken from Psalm 67, vv. 32-33. The rhythmic complexities of this piece, which required even more assiduous ticking, prompted Jeremy to observe that Duke Ellington was good at jazz, but Byrd was better. Byrd’s career as a composer was of course complicated by the religious persecutions of the second half of Elizabeth’s reign (the execution of Fr. Edmund Campion and two other Catholic priests in 1581 being a particularly brutal example) and he himself was cited for recusancy on a number of occasions from the mid-1580s onwards, but somehow he survived personally, prospered financially and attracted some degree of official tolerance and even approval, composing, for instance, a consort song, Look and bow down (with words by Queen Elizabeth), on the defeat of the Spanish Armada, as well as O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth, our Queen (which we studied later in the day). Nevertheless, as Jeremy told us, his survival was always precarious, and we were treated to an entertaining, if perhaps slightly fanciful vignette of life in the Petre household at Ingatestone, which portrayed the family engaging in secret worship with the musical assistance of the butler singing bass and the housemaid, soprano. Drawing attention to the richness of the alto part in Justorum Animae and the prominent ornamentation of that same part in Psallite Domino, he propounded the hypothesis that Byrd was the alto in this ensemble, supporting it with the observation that he was succeeded in the Chapel Royal by an alto (though your reviewer has been unable to identify that successor in the short time available for writing this review). Next came the largest-scale and most demanding item of the programme, Laudibus in sanctis from Cantiones sacrae II (1591). The original voicing of this was ATTBB, but we sang it from the CPDL edition by Diana Thompson, transposed up a major third for performance by SSATB. Jeremy regaled us with an interesting disquisition about the consensus on such transpositions (the received wisdom for many years having been that a minor third was appropriate) and the doubt cast on the received wisdom by the discovery of part of an organ which had been incorporated into the wall of a barn in Norfolk. He was clearly sceptical about this discovery as a basis for such doubt, but in any event he decided that we should sing it in E flat major instead of E major as printed, that being a more singer-friendly key. Laudibus in sanctis is in three parts. The text of the first part somewhat resembles that of Psalm. 150, vv.1-2, and there are echoes of succeeding verses in the second part, Magnificum domini, where tympani and organa resound in praise of God, but the third part goes off on something of a frolic with arguta joining in the instrumental ensemble, agile praise, joyful dancing (chorea from coreia, a dance in a ring) in three-time, and back to the well-tuned cymbals before the long and ornate Alleluia which, most unusually, has additional text-Alleluia (all five syllables) canat, tempus in omne Deo. Once again the malign influence of the bar lines was remarked upon, and we were also reminded that our perceptions of Renaissance music are refracted through the prism of all that has gone before, from modern, back through romantic, classical and baroque, so that a conscious effort is required in order to realise the music free from these perceptual accretions. Opinions are apparently divided about the merits of O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth, our Queen, the text of which is adapted from Psalm 21. It has also been pressed into service for male monarchs, with “Elizabeth, our queen” replaced by “Our sovereign Lord, the King” when James VI and I was the subject of the requests for divine favour; and, of course, Handel’s Coronation Anthem “The king shall rejoice” is based on the same psalm text. The interesting point was raised that the normally unimportant words “and” and “but” seemed to be given undue prominence in the setting, but this is explicable as a rhetorical device pointing up the accumulation of requests which are being made for the monarch’s physical and spiritual well-being, the request for a long life being of particular importance in an age of short life expectancy and danger of assassination or death by other non-natural causes. The last item which we attempted was the Agnus Dei I from the four-part mass, again sung in an edition without bar lines, our final rendering being sung, scrambled, from the altar steps, giving us a chance to appreciate the acoustic along the length of the church. There is really nothing to say about this well-known and much admired work except that it was a fitting conclusion to a most enjoyable and instructive day which has given us much food for thought. We are all most grateful to Jeremy for all the work that he has put in to making the day such a success, and our warm thanks are also due to all those who helped to organise the event.
Byrd without barlines
Jeremy Jackman’s day on Byrd was in many ways enjoyable and interesting; we also got to sing some lovely music, much of it new to me. The 2-stage course on reading 16th century music obviously involved him in a lot of work, but did achieve its object, as we ended up able to handle barless music fairly well, though not 16th century soprano clefs, which I think would have defeated me utterly.
I asked at one point when bar lines started to come in, and this apparently isn’t known exactly – however, it does now occur to me that this probably wouldn’t have been under pressure from the needs of singers, as you can usually find somewhere where the singers are all on the same word or a new set of words begins. Instrumental pieces are a different matter, and can cause problems even today when half the orchestra has letters and the other half rehearsal numbers and you may have to resort to counting bars. They might have started by indicating important cadences with a bar line – I would be interested to know the history in more detail. There could also be room for a "Part 2" of this course, in which we have to sing from part books and master what I think is the hardest part - large numbers of rests, especially numbers of bars rest. Even with full scores and modern notation, rests are often a stumbling block. Mr Jackman can be lots of fun and I could relate happily to all the musicological points he made. There is however always the matter of how you divide the time between talking and singing. I’ve known directors who rush you into singing without giving you any time to take in explanations. On the other hand, too much time spent explaining can make you feel patronised and you start getting fidgety looking at the copy and wondering when you are ever going to get to the end of the work. I think during one of the digressions I heard somebody muttering, “I want to SING!” I did agree, but maybe not everyone else did.
A review of the workshop with Jeremy Jackman
The workshop of January 6 at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the City of London welcomed Jeremy Jackman, a choral conductor, and in the past a singer, of huge renown. He is a great tutor and his charisma and humour are additional attractions. The theme of the workshop was to introduce us, or for some of us to re-introduce us, to singing without bar lines. For me at any rate it was an absolute revelation how freeing it was to be shot of these black lines intruding between notes, and so to realise more clearly what the ebb and flow of the music and the words amounted to. We started with a piece that almost everyone knew, the Ave Verum Corpus by Byrd. We sang first in the usual full format that one is given, then in full score but without bar lines, and then seeing only our own part. In the final form the necessity of counting and listening to the whole form of the music as created by all four parts was for me a delightful exercise and one I would certainly want to repeat. I have no wish to see the bar lines again in this sort of music! We also sang a cheerful little number, Psallite domino, a to me not particularly successful piece on the part of William entitled “O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth “, and an amazingly successful piece, the Laudate in sanctis, and finally the lovely Agnus Dei from the four-part Mass. At all times Jeremy was, among other things, insisting that we sing with the flow of the words and completely get rid of the idea that the first beat of the bar has to be emphasised. Away with bar lines! The church, as some of us knew already, not including me, was a revelation, both through its size, its beauty and its acoustics. My feeling is that everyone really enjoyed and appreciated the day, and that is particularly important to me as I was the one to suggest inviting Jeremy. I hope this event can be repeated.
Many thanks to Charles Lewis, Nicola Williams and Nick Pollock for this event. I’d certainly like us to try the idea again, next time with the challenge of singing the music from facsimile after practising it with and without bar lines from a modern edition.
Helena Brown memorial performance
Isleworth Baroque are organising a performance of J S Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in memory of our founder Helena Brown who died in April 2012. This performance was one of her last wishes.
The performance will be on Sunday 17th March next in Isleworth, with some preliminary rehearsals.
If you knew Helena and would like to sing or play an instrument in this performance, please contact us:
By phone to 07740 586424 (our conductor Leslie Lewis), or
By email info @ isleworthbaroque.co.uk, or
(preferably) via our website www.isleworthbaroque.co.uk and then via the link to our December newsletter to helenabrown.wordpress.com, where further information about the performance and contact details are given.