Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 238
Thanks very much to all our contributors for making this such a varied and, I trust, interesting issue. Alas we have no review of the Lassus workshop because Sidney Ross’s computer crashed so comprehensively that he hasn’t been able to rescue the review in time.
We plan to have a workshop in October but are still waiting to hear whether we can arrange a tutor then for the promised workshop on Georgian music. Keep an eye on our website www.tvemf.org in case there is more information available before the September issue comes out.
Now that Tamesis is printed by an outside printer it is costing a bit more to produce, so rates for advertisements have had to go up to cover the cost of printing them (see the box opposite). They are still very good value!
Enjoy your summer, and don’t forget to send me a review of your summer school if you go to one.
I have just returned from a weekend course with Peter Syrus studying renaissance canons, and by the time you read this I shall also have enjoyed Peter's TVEMF workshop "Icons and Parodies". I'm sure it will go well, as he is always well prepared, bringing his own meticulous editions and his considerable knowledge and humour. You might think that a weekend of canons would be rather dull but we enjoyed it enormously and marvelled at how composers could use multiple canons, some with inverted or retrograde subject and still produce sublime music.
A reminder that details of events for the TVEMF diary, both workshops and concerts, should be sent to the magazine editor at tamesis @ tvemf.org rather than to me and should be in a helpful format. Please include brief details in text form, not just an attached image of a concert programme and send the information well in time for the copy date of the first Monday in the odd-numbered months. You might also want to enter the concert on the NEMA web site at www.earlymusic.info which will mean it appears in the NEMA listings once it has been validated.
I was sad to hear that John Catch died recently at the age of 95, as he joined TVEMF shortly after it was formed and contributed a number of items to Tamesis over the years. His letters were amusing and I would have liked to meet him, but because he was a viol player and moved in different circles from me our paths never crossed.
If you search on line for “John Catch” and “Tamesis” you’ll find links to a number of his interesting contributions in the back numbers on the TVEMF web site, though not I think all of them. I’m grateful to him not just for these but also for the recorders which he gave away last year to two of my pupils, and I know a lot of us enjoyed playing with him and now have the benefit of his music collection.
One of my adult recorder pupils, Roger Prowse, wrote to me: “I'm sorry to hear about John. I had not seen him for two or three months, but he was adjusting an electric fire at the time, and didn't need any help from a younger generation. I have good memories of him, in that he encouraged me to take recorder lessons, having come back to the instrument on retirement, and then filled me in on its history and the people involved in its renaissance, usually from personal knowledge. Some of Barbara's recorder music took me to Grade 6, and some of her recorders have gone to young local players.”
TVEMF Day at St Matthew’s Church, Wandsworth Bridge Road, Fulham.
Saturday 18th May 2013
It was easy to find the venue as the church is well served by public transport. A bus stop is no more than 50 metres from it. It is a modern building, opened in 2000, to replace an older one that stood there from 1895. The worship area, another room and a kitchen were available for our use. There were 28 singers present.
“Medieval Sacred and Secular Music: a day for singers directed by Donald Grieg” began at 10:30 and ended just before 17:00. Don began the day by describing his journey from choir boy at Westminster Abbey and choral scholar at Canterbury Cathedral to professional singer. He also has wide teaching experience. It showed! Our music, for the whole day, was ready, on our arrival, to place in ring binders. Each voice part had a whole score.
Singers enjoyed a chronological journey through six centuries beginning with early undated works (“Alleluia” St Gall, Gradual Triplex) then some from the 9th century (“Rex coeli Domine”, Musica Enchiriadis c. 850) through to early 16th (“Tu solus qui facis mirabilia” and “Deploration on the death of Johannes Ockeghem” by Josquin des Prez, 1450 – 1521). We were introduced to less familiar composers such as Machaut and music from the “Worcester Fragments”. Each piece was put into context with regard to the early development of polyphony.
I learnt many new things about music and harmony: how only certain intervals (octaves, fourths and fifths initially) were allowed; tenors were literally “holders” of the line and other voices decorated that with harmony. We sang a “Sanctus” from The Worcester Fragments in this style, our tenors holding a cantus firmus throughout it. The piece ended with a plain fifth, as triad endings were a later development. In later developments counter tenors “interacted” with the tenor line. My musical knowledge of the history of harmony was extended.
I learnt more about very early notation. That it was, at first, no more than performance instructions to singers who would already know several melodies and words: oral traditions of singing were very strong in medieval times. St Gall and Solesmes examples were available for us to look at. We singers were given an option of singing from neumes or a modern transcription. It was fascinating to compare these two alternatives. The day was superbly crafted to develop our confidence in sight singing. We began by singing in unison octaves (“Alleluia v. Dies sanctificatus”), followed by two lines (each sung in octaves) mainly harmonising in fourths and fifths. The Winchester Fragment, Christmas Mass: 20, “Alleluia” was in this style. Next came a tenor line with a decorative descant above it (Organum “Haec dies” in Leoninus style [c.1175]). We ended the morning with 3 part harmony accompanied by a base pedal (“Sederunt Principes V. Adiuva me Domine” Magister Perotinus). Consonance was evident in all the works we covered. During the afternoon we slowly made our way towards more familiar SATB works: pieces by Dunstable (“Descendi in ortum meum”), Guillaume Dufay (“Adieu ces bons vins de Lannoys”, John Trouliffe (“Nesciens mater”) and Machaut (died 1377),who was new to many of us. Don performed Machaut’s “Ay mi! Dame de valour (V3)” beautifully. The day ended with works by des Prez, listed above. We sang these in four parts. I was struck by how harmonies matched words and sentiment. The pieces were difficult to perform well.
I was stretched by the sight singing during the afternoon and lost my line in places. Somehow with others around me also trying hard it was possible to rejoin the music and continue. We repeated most of the pieces at least twice bringing steady improvement. We learnt about composers and compilers of music. Many musical names from medieval times compiled or arranged music already in existence. Machaut, who died in 1377, was different. He was a poet of good standing who wrote his own melodies and harmony. Before his death he arranged many of his works for publication, succeeded in getting them into circulation, and hence a body of his work has been preserved. Several of those present asked if Don would give a future workshop on Machaut. The day was a wonderful way to both sing and learn more about medieval music in the company of a master. I enjoyed the day immensely. Thank you to those who organised it especially Sarah Young who acted as administrator. Their planning, to ensure a balance of voices, was successful; our group split equally into higher and lower voices. I hope that suggestions for another day of medieval works, maybe of Machaut, is organised for the future. A CD of some of Don’s singing was available for purchase at a reduced price, as were copies of his novel, “Time Will Tell” (about fifteenth century composers). What good value the day was!
Mary Bagley I was most impressed by Don’s workshop, and the participants have just received a comprehensive PDF with information about all the music we sang and facsimiles of some of the pieces. We’ll definitely invite him again, but if you missed this workshop he’ll be repeating it for SEMF (no date available yet).
‘Time will tell’, Donald Greig, Thames River Press, London, 2012
Don Greig took a TVEMF workshop on medieval music in May and an account of this event appears elsewhere in Tamesis. At this workshop Don informed us about his recently published novel ‘Time will tell’ and I decided to buy a copy. The main protagonists in the novel are a socially inept second-rate musicologist, Andrew Eiger, and an English early music singing group Beyond Compère, directed by Emma Mitchell. The novel opens with an extract from the memoirs of Geoffroy Chiron from 1524 that Andrew Eiger is reading in 2015. The next chapter is set in February 1997 and we follow the adventures of Andrew Eiger from Ohio and Beyond Compère from Newcastle who, by chance, meet up on their way to a conference and concert in Tours to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Ockeghem. Andrew has with him a copy of a 15th century manuscript he found in the cathedral library at Amiens which he believes to be a 34 part work by Ockeghem. He has kept his discovery a secret and is hoping he can persuade Emma to perform it with her group. However before showing her the manuscript he has to crack its notational code. The novel alternates between the Chiron memoirs and the conference at Tours and at the end of the novel the link between these threads is revealed. The novel is beautifully constructed, well paced and highly entertaining. The stylish narrative passes smoothly between farce and moments of poignancy and the reader is kept guessing about the denouement. This is particularly a book written by a musician for musicians, especially those interested in early music and as such should appeal to all TVEMF members. It is available in hardback, paperback and as an electronic book and I would highly recommend it.
A Musical Surprise
Jackie and I have enjoyed the cartoons from Studio Ghibli in Japan (we have two on DVD) and we made sure that we recorded most of the output during Film 4’s recent Studio Ghibli season. Our pleasure turned into astonishment about an hour into ‘Whisper of the Heart’.
Many of the films are pure fantasy, but others are securely set in modern Japan, some still with some fantastic elements. The story of this one is ‘young schoolgirl meets young schoolboy’, but it starts off badly with a misunderstanding. The scene where she first meets him ‘properly’ takes place at the enigmatic antiques shop that she has discovered with the help of cat she befriends on a train (fantasy breaking through!) The shop is run by the boy’s grandfather, the boy invites her in and he takes her round to the rear lower level entrance. Just inside, she sees several unfinished violin bodies hanging from the ceiling beams. Leaning against the foot of the stairs as they climb up into the shop is a 7 STRING BASS VIOL! (I spotted the frets, Jackie counted the pegs). He excuses himself as he has to get on with something, she follows him down after little while to find him carving a scroll for a violin he is making. He explains that there is a violin-making class in the basement. His dream is to train in Cremona. He plays the violin (badly he says, but breaks easily into lots of double stopping!) and she asks him to play something for her. She has already written some alternative words to a well known American country song (oh alright - ‘Take me home/country roads) for some school function so he plays some divisions for her to sing her words against. Just when they are getting into the swing of this, the grandfather enters the shop with two friends. They hear the music and come downstairs and join in, the grandfather playing the BASS VIOL very convincingly with authentic fingering and bowhold, and one friend playing a LUTE!, the other playing a tambourine then playing a CORNETT!!! and then a BAROQUE RECORDER!!!! How many broken consorts have you seen in international cartoons? The whole thing was treated as matter of fact as if normal people get out early music instruments at the drop of a hat. Would you believe it!!!
A Musical Study Visit to Venice
Tuesday 8 – Tuesday 15 October 2013
Okay: you are more caught up in performing than in listening, perhaps, or in visiting ‘musical’ sites. And this trip certainly won’t come cheap (though it will provide excellent value for money). Nevertheless, any visit to Venice is bound to be thrilling – and the opportunity to go behind the scenes of some of the locations with important historical associations is surely not one to be missed. While actual arrangements are currently being finalised, we hope to visit, among other places, the Pietà (not so much the church, which postdates Vivaldi’s time slightly, but the orphanage itself), Teatro La Fenice (for a guided tour), the Music Conservatory (where we also hope to hear a student recital) – and both the Biblioteca Marciana and (potentially even more interesting) the Fondazione Levi, which (among much else) abounds in original Petrucci prints, the entire lute repertoire, 17th- and 18th-century operas, abundant mediaeval and renaissance repertoire, and much of the music associated with the Basilica di San Marco. And these places are just for starters; other ports of travel are both obvious ones (San Marco, the Frari) and far less so (San Pietro di Castello, San Nicolò al Lido – the church where the annual Sposalizio – the Ascensiontide ‘marriage’ of Venice to the sea – reached its climax). For those readers with internet access, far fuller information awaits on the following web sites: those of the Wilmslow Guild, Cheshire, who are organising the trip (www.wilmslowguild.wikidot.com) and of Ffestiniog Travel (www.ffestiniogtravel.com), our excellent travel company. I have the privilege of leading this tour: if you are even remotely interested in joining us, please don’t hesitate to contact me at mostlymusic @ btinternet.com or, if not connected to the internet, telephone 01565 872650. We really would love to have you as a member of our party – and please also inform other potentially-interested friends about it. We hope to hear from you very soon.
Roger Wilkes (President of NWEMF)
News of Members’ Activities
TVEMF member David Allinson has an exciting new job. From 1st September he will be University Director of Music at Canterbury Christ Church University. He'll be conducting their two choirs, lecturing (but only a little), managing the university's public concert programme and building bridges with performing arts groups across Canterbury. A particular attraction is their close relationship with the cathedral and its choir - there's a BMus programme in cathedral music, and lots of concerts happen within the cathedral. He'll be managing a lovely refurbished concert venue. It's a new full-time, senior, permanent post, with some research time too, so can pursue writing, editing and performing projects. You’ll be relieved to know that they've made it clear that they expect him to continue some carefully-chosen freelance work, such as workshops and summer schools, since he’s being employed as a practitioner. They even hope that he might bring a summer school to their premises. David will be moving to Canterbury and I’m sure everyone will be delighted that he has found a post that sounds as if it was designed with him in mind.
As well as directing our singers’ workshop on Saturday 7th September on Franco- Flemish Marian motets, David will be conducting De Profundis (Cambridge's all-male early music vocal ensemble) on Saturday 28th September at Little St Mary's Church in Cambridge. Music will be the Lobo Requiem a 8 and motets by Lobo, Cardoso and Fernandez. Contact details for both of these are in the listings at the back.