Tamesis Issue 260
Our next workshop is the baroque chamber music playing day on Sunday 26th March. Peter Collier is coming all the way from Manchester with a caravan full of harpsichords, so it would be good if we could have a big turn-out. It’s always an enjoyable day, with the chance of meeting new people and finding new music to play. If you want to know more about the day I am happy for you to contact me for further information.
We (the committee) have been busy planning new events, with some difficulty as it’s impossible to avoid clashing with something on almost every weekend of the year. In April we have a workshop on the development of polychoral music in Germany. Most people will have received a booking form by email but a printed one is enclosed for those who missed it. Bookings have started coming in but so far we have no applications from continuo players so if you can play electronic organ or theorbo you will be particularly welcome. There is still plenty of room for singers and other instrumentalists.
This year’s joint event with EEMF will be in Cambridge. I hope you won’t think it’s too far to travel because it’s magnificent music conducted by Philip Thorby, so not to be missed.
The June and July events will be held in Ickenham. Don Greig will be conducting a workshop on Isaac for singers in June. If you were at the Patrick Craig workshop you may be surprised that Peter Syrus’s workshop will be on July 15th and not the week before, but in the end the 15th proved to be the better date. You may also be intrigued by Peter’s terrible punning title: “Motets from the Bach and beyond”. He writes that the day seeks to affirm ‘the’ (Johann Sebastian) Bach (1685-1750) as ‘merely’ the greatest in a long and revered dynasty. As well as at least one work by JS, we will be looking at pieces by a number of his 17th century predecessors. The day will be for all singers, viol and violin family, cornetts, sackbuts, curtals, lower recorders and continuo and the pitch will be A=440.
Knowing that John Milsom said at his January workshop that he will in future only be willing to conduct workshops using music from facsimile, we are planning a workshop in September (with a different tutor) on singing and playing from facsimile so that we will be able to invite him back in future years. It will be for voices, viols and recorders and aimed at beginners and those with a little experience. In October there will be a workshop for singers with Will Dawes on music by De Wert.
Many thanks to our contributors this month. It would be good if more people would consider writing reviews so that the same few people (and particularly Sidney Ross) don’t have to do all the work. Any sort of review will be welcome – you can just mention the venue, the refreshments and who was there and briefly describe what the music was and say if you liked it. There is absolutely no need to write an academic essay, unless you want to of course.
And finally, I thought I had identified the owner of the rather nice spoon left behind at the Christmas event in December, but it didn’t belong to the person who made the carrot salad, as I’d been told. Do contact me if it’s yours.
I was delighted that we had significantly more singers than at previous Renaissance Days, and I understand that they enjoyed the experience of singing with cornetts, sackbuts, curtals, viols and recorders (though not all in the same session!). After the usual frantic unpacking of music (only 33 box-files this time) and other necessary chores, I relaxed and had a very rewarding day.
March 21st, JS Bach's birthday, has been designated as the European Day of Early Music, and a significant number of events are being staged all over the continent - see for a list. Sadly, from my point of view, the offerings are almost all from the Baroque, so for example the National Centre for early Music in York is offering a concert of music by Bach and Handel given by the European baroque Orchestra. I'm sure it will be lovely but those composers hardly need promoting these days. There seems to be very little from before the 17th century, though the North of England does offer Medieval Music in the Dales at Bolton Castle and Songs of the Troubadours in Leeds. My Arti Fiati group will be meeting in High Wycombe that evening, playing polychoral music circa 1600. It looks as if there will be 11 of us (probably using all six of the 11-part pieces in my library), which should make a good sound and it's a large hall, so if anyone fancies popping in to hear us between 8pm and 10pm then get in touch with me. It's not a performance, more of an open rehearsal. Here is a link to the Arti Fiati web page:
Letter to TVEMF
Dear TVEMF Committee
I am writing to congratulate you on hiring such an inspirational Tutor for Saturday. Patrick did an amazing job with us all. His whole approach was inclusive, positive and educational and he simply coaxed the sound of music out of us. His energy was tangible and he passed that on to us. There was no stress, worry, or impatience. Instead, fun, lightheartedness, energy, learning, satisfaction and he covered the whole syllabus for the day.
My daughter, my friends and I travelled an amazing journey with him and the other 56 singers. Patrick took us on a great informed journey through Anthropology, Demography, Genealogy, Geography, Health, History, Musicology, Social History and so much more. For sure, he helped to raise our ' happy hormone' levels' and at the close of play, we were feeling better.
Thank you to you and whoever else who may have been involved in asking him to be our Tutor. He was wonderful and my friends, my daughter and I really hope that you have him regularly. He said to me that he is now a free agent and is branching out to 'do his own thing'. I would be very happy for my email to be sent on to him. If you choose not to, please pass our gratitude to him. He really delivered the best.
Thank you again to all of you. Thank you also for the cake and tea. Our little group loved it. Marvellous!
With best wishes,
Anne Wilkinson, Oxford.
Sidney Ross has written a splendid account of the day for us but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the May Tamesis to read it. I’m pleased to say that I’m in the process of booking Patrick to conduct our Christmas workshop in December 2018.
* * *
Fiona Weir sent me a link to an article about Patrick Craig which you may find interesting:
Some forty singers gathered together in the Friends’ Meeting House, Oxford on 21 January 2017 for another excursion into largely uncharted territory under the erudite guidance of John Milsom. The two works which occupied our day were the nine-part Salve Regina by Robert Wylkynson, (Eton Choir Book and Cantus Firmus spelling), Wilkinson (New Grove) or the hybrid Wylkinson (John’s own version), and the Gloria from the mass Et ecce terrae motus (the Earthquake Mass) by his near contemporary, Antoine Brumel (ca 1460-1512/13). The New Grove gives W’s dates as ca 1450-1515 or later, the Cantus Firmus edition as ca 1475-1515 or later. There is some plausibility to this later dating, since the Newcastle University Eton Choirbook Research Project suggests that he may have been a King’s Scholar in 1494 (so he would have been nineteen or less in that year) before becoming, successively, parish clerk, lay clerk and instructor, and then leaving, in unknown circumstances, in 1515. Although the Salve Regina will be discussed in more detail later on in this review, your reviewer would like to draw attention to the following entry in the New Oxford Companion to Music (general editor, Denis Arnold, 1st edition, 1983). It is the very last entry in volume 2, at p.1995, and it reads:-
Wylkinson, Robert (fl. late 15th, early 16th centuries). English composer. He worked at Eton College, first as parish clerk and then as Master of the Choristers from 1496 to 1515. His music survives in the Eton Choirbook and includes a monumental nine-part Salve Regina and a curious setting of the Apostles’ Creed in the form of a 13-part canon. JOHN MILSOM
Wylkynson composed two settings of the Salve Regina, the other being set for five voices. The New Grove states that his style appeared to be not fully developed in the five-part setting, but appears to perfection in the nine-part setting, one of the glories of the collection (that is, the Eton Choirbook). The nine parts represent the nine orders of angels; the starring roles go to the sopranos (Seraphim and Cherubim) and basses (Archangels and Angels). The altos, being Thrones, presumably sit around looking decorative; the baritones (designated in the Musica Britannica edition published by Stainer & Bell as the ‘inferior countertenors’) have to live up to their billing as Virtues, and the tenors (the ‘superior countertenors’ being the Dominations, and Principalities, while the Powers are allocated to the part designated ‘tenor’) no doubt are charged with ensuring that the angelic mechanism ticks over regularly and doesn’t fall apart. John’s explanation of the harmonic structure seemed to reflect this, in that (as your reviewer understood it) it is largely determined by the setting of the relevant outer parts, and the rest of the harmony is written into that structure, rather like the cream and jam inserted between the layers of an enormous millefeuille pastry. This can be seen in the small section (bars 63-74 of the Cantus Firmus edition from which we sang) devoted to the single word ‘ostende’, although it was twenty minutes before we progressed to singing the word itself rather than vocalising the notes to the syllable ‘doo’. We were exhorted, in the course of this ‘dooing and froing’, to be ‘nifty’, the particular type of niftiness being that of an eager spaniel pulling on its leash-not, perhaps, the first image that might come to mind in the context of performing a composition from the Eton Choirbook.
As John pointed out to us, the composition (which he dated to around 1505) is based on a tenor cantus firmus, Assumpta est Maria in caelum. The very strong associations of Eton College with the Virgin Mary which he drew to our attention are exemplified by the special papal indulgence granted (presumably by Eugene IV on his restoration, following the expulsion of the antipope Amadeus of Savoy) in 1443 to all penitents visiting the collegiate church of Eton on the feast of the Assumption (each penitent being expected to make a contribution towards the maintenance of the college) and the armorial bearings granted in January 1447/8 which included three white lily flowers (without leaves and stalks) denoting ‘the service of God and the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God’; see Lionel Cust, History of Eton College, (Duckworth, London 1899), pp.13 and 17. The 93 compositions which have survived to be included in the present-day edition of the Eton Choirbook include fifteen settings of Salve Regina, as well as many other Marian texts.
The setting begins with a short nine-voice section in which the tenor (T3 in the Cantus Firmus edition) renders the Assumpta est Maria cantus firmus, on the word ‘Salve’. It is periodically re-stated throughout, by the tenor, and also by soprano 1 (quadruplex) in the last of the three tropes, beginning on Et pro nobis flagellato, and the composition is brought to a symmetrical conclusion by the tenor’s final, slightly ornamented restatement, to the words O dulcis Maria, salve. The Cantus Firmus edition prints four of the six verse tropes associated with Salve Regina, though the Wylkynson setting does not utilise the Dele corpus miserorum verse which precedes O dulcis Maria, salve. Throughout, the full nine-voice sections alternate with contrapuntal or polyphonic passages. John explained to us that, technically, ‘counterpoint’ is a term which refers to settings for two voices; three or more constitute ‘polyphony’. There is but one short section at the beginning of the first trope, Virgo mater ecclesie, which is truly contrapuntal, as it is sung by S2 and B2, the Cherubim and the angels, before the tenor joins them for the second half of the verse, esto nobis refugium.
To sing through the entire piece, as we did at the end of the day, was a remarkable experience; as one tenor said at the end, ‘The final Salve Regina was worth the trip’. Indeed, John’s suggestion that the stresses of everyday living might be alleviated by obtaining a copy of the Eton Choirbook and singing along with the Sixteen or the Tallis Scholars might with advantage be communicated to Jeremy Hunt; one volume of the Musica Britannica edition at approximately £70 from Stainer & Bell has to be a lot cheaper than a course of anti-depressants, though of course, it is not so readily portable as a small pack of (say) Celexa or Prozac.
In between working up the Salve Regina to something like end-of-the-day performance level (though, unaccountably, the O clemens section and part of its trope more or less escaped any rehearsal) we were taken through the Gloria of the Brumel Earthquake Mass. Brumel was a fairly prolific composer who appears to have led a restless life, beginning as a singer at Notre Dame in Chartres, ending as maestro di cappella at the ducal court of Ferrara and holding other positions in France and Switzerland in the interval, though in a career apparently dogged by controversy and frosty relations with employers, he held none of them for more than six years. The New Grove credits him with fifteen Masses, thirty-one motets, three Magnificat settings and a few secular works with popular texts such as le moy de may and tous les regrets. The New Grove says of the Earthquake Mass, which it places in the middle period of his compositions, that ‘a work of such proportions must have been a distinct novelty at the time’ and criticises his technique, remarking that ‘the rather close grouping of the lower voices sometimes produces a thick, heavy texture, perhaps reflecting the composer’s inexperience with large forces’; and indeed, apart from three motets, two for five voices and one for eight, no other composition of his written for more than four voices is extant. The article is less disobliging about the cantus firmus, acknowledging that the Easter antiphon which serves in that role is ‘often skilfully moulded into a three-part canon’. One example is the laudamus te section with T1, T2 and B3 entering at three-bar intervals, a fifth apart.
We sang from an edition prepared by Sally Dunkley. This provoked a short debate about reduced note values which turned out to be about as inconclusive as the Brexit referendum. The setting is for twelve voices, three each of sopranos, countertenors, tenors and basses. There are no passages written specifically for smaller numbers of voices and the treatment of the text is in many places unexpected; for instance, some of the most highly ornamented and rapidly moving writing is devoted to the words ‘…miserere nobis Qui tollis peccata mundi’. It is perhaps less unexpected that this style continues into ‘Qui sedes ad dexteram patris’ but then, instead of moving on to ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’, there is a passage of a dozen bars in which the words ‘miserere nobis’ are interpolated into the text. ‘Tu solus Dominus’ proved to be somewhat disconcerting as those words are set in ways which produce different stress patterns in the various parts, thereby creating what one might call a foundation of chaos, on which was superimposed a layer of uncertainty as those of us previously unacquainted with this work picked our way through it for the first time. It was something of a relief to reach the relatively uncomplicated final section, and the tea-break
before singing through the Gloria and then the Salve Regina was particularly
We are all deeply indebted to John for another fascinating musical experience and we hope (notwithstanding his announced intention of devoting himself henceforth to directing events where the singing is from facsimile) that he can yet be persuaded to direct a TVEMF event occasionally. No-one else (at least, in this reviewer’s experience) has led us down so many previously unknown and ultimately rewarding pathways. Warm thanks are also due to Nicola Wilson-Smith for organising the event, to David Fletcher who reformatted and printed the Brumel Earthquake Mass, and to the providers of tea, coffee, cake and biscuits.
TVEMF Renaissance Day at Burnham 25.02.17
This was another stimulating day of discovery – new music in new combinations of instruments and voices. A little different this time, as there were more singers present. Enough for there to be a vocal element in 11 of the 20 different combinations across four sessions that David Fletcher managed to conjure up for us. Plus one 7-part a capella vocal ensemble.
Each musician could only experience four of these twenty groups during the day, so my report is necessarily limited to those I took part in.
My day began with Lamentations. Given the mortality of the population in the times when our music was written it is not surprising that Lamentations was a popular title. However it may not have been the best way to start a grey February day.
In the next session we arrived at Christmas and cheered up by singing Hodie Christus Natus Est (Heinrich Schütz). In fact we had a really good time with this muscular, grounded music with its bouncy triple time sections that make you feel like dancing. As often happens on these Renaissance Days we were surprised at how well our unexpected combination of two cornetts, tenor sackbut, treble recorder, tenor and bass singers worked. A great, bright sound for Christmas celebration. We followed this celebration with Maria Stabat (Andrea Gabrieli). A beautiful, if melancholy piece of music which still was effective with our instrumental/vocal combination.
In session three it was a violin, three viols and a bass singer. We tried some Balletts by Thomas Morley and enjoyed the tricky rhythms and fleetness of the music. Somehow, having the sentiments of the songs being expressed only by the bass line seemed a little odd. Though we did try to think of it as appropriate to the period, when domestic music would have been made by whoever happened to be in the room at the time. We moved on to less controversial material with Cipriano de Rore’s Motets in 5 parts. We read through Da Pace Domine, and then did more work on Concordes Adhibite Animos Musae (In Mortem Adriani Willaert). In this music the flowing lines of the strings with a legato bass line felt at home.
Session 4 for me was another instrumental/vocal ensemble producing a memorable sound. Two treble recorders, sackbut, soprano alto and bass voices combined in Gaudete Omnes by Hieronymus Praetorius to make joyful music. Having thoroughly enjoyed that we were delighted to find that Sancta Maria Succurre Miseris by Andrea Gabrieli provided us with another glorious sound. And one to linger over, making us one of the last groups to stop playing that day.
As always our thanks is due to David Fletcher for all his work in providing this day of opportunity when we could meet music and people new to us. Long may it continue. For myself, I was appreciative of the excellent musicians/singers that I was able to make music with. I very much hope that we can do this again in the future.
Here’s an interesting link:
The Demise of Sheet Music?
Sheet music takes up a lot of storage space and has to be kept in some form of classified order to be efficiently retrieved. It often deteriorates with age and can easily get damaged and mislaid. Music is also heavy to carry around and is hard to see in poor light. Converting sheet music to electronic format might solve all these problems but until relatively recently there have been problems in the use of this format. Tablets have been too small so it is hard to look ahead and pages have to be frequently turned. Tablets have also been heavy to hold for long periods at a time and this is a disadvantage for singers. Most problematic of all, it has been impossible to mark up music with further directions and to correct misprints.
In the past year or two I have occasionally seen instrumental performers reading from tablets at concerts. Furthermore at the beginning of 2016 a number of singers were downloading music for ‘Polyphony down the Pub’ (see March 2016 Tamesis). I used this method myself with my iPad 2 at PDtP sessions as it saved the time and cost of printing out a large quantity of music to be sung once or twice and then disposed of. However the screen size was inconveniently small and the music could not be marked. This did not matter too much in the light-hearted context of PDtP but clearly was not good enough for more serious work.
Around six months ago when my iPad, then over 5 years old, needed replacing I wondered if the assumptions I was still making regarding the suitability of tablets for reading music were still correct. A little research demonstrated that I was decidedly out of date in my views. The three relatively recent crucial changes have been that tablets are becoming less heavy, that there are now devices enabling text to be marked up, and that at least one tablet, namely the iPad Pro 12.9 inches, is only marginally smaller than A4 paper. I found a number of YouTube videos describing the necessary hardware and software to acquire and these convinced me that the investment was worth making. There are videos of choirs and of pianists reading from electronic scores, the latter also using Bluetooth foot pedals to turn pages. Most helpful of all is a video presented by MaestromilesUK and entitled ‘iPad Pro review as a replacement for sheet music’. Miles is a professional musician and conductor and explains very clearly why he considers this particular tablet to be the most effective tablet currently on the market and how to use it for reading music. He demonstrates how to download music available free on the Internet and recommends the Turboscan app for scanning sheet music onto a tablet and the ForScore app to enable organisation and retrieval of files of electronic music. Additionally he outlines the Apple Pencil that is far more effective than a ‘normal’ pencil as a device for marking up music, highlighting, erasing and so on. The video is aimed particularly at instrumentalists but is clearly also applicable to singers. To watch it, visit YouTube and search for ‘Maestromilesuk’.
I have now acquired the hardware and software recommended by Miles and, after a little practice at home with TurboScan and ForScore, I often use my tablet at rehearsals and workshops for both instrumental and vocal music. For instrumental music the tablet is placed on a music stand. There is of course always the danger that the stand might be accidentally moved causing the tablet to fall but the level of risk depends on circumstances. I feel totally relaxed playing string quartets in a carpeted room but less so as an orchestral player in a room with a hard floor. This potential danger does not occur when singing and, having held the tablet at all-day workshops, I have found it is not too heavy and the battery for the tablet and pencil easily last the whole period. Finding files of music from a large collection is extremely quick with ForScore and turning pages is easier than turning ‘real’ pages. The pencil takes a little getting used to but once its use is mastered it is far more flexible than a conventional pencil. For example the thickness can be varied, different colours can be employed and passages can be highlighted. When singing a middle part from a multi-part score it can be very helpful to highlight the line you are singing and this can be accomplished quickly without any danger of smudging. Furthermore erasing is very quick and clean. Once music is marked these markings will remain indefinitely unless erased. In addition to playing and singing directly from the tablet I have also downloaded vocal and instrumental scores to the tablet for reference in sessions when a group is singing or playing from single parts. Searching and downloading from CPDL and IMSLP is quick and simple and the amount of music available through these sites is exceedingly large.
I certainly do not envisage sheet music becoming a thing of the past any time soon for many reasons but I am sure, over the coming years, it will be increasingly common to see both singers and instrumentalists reading music from tablets. The technology required for this activity will continue to improve but it is already good enough to adopt now.
12-19 August 2017
Irish Recorder and Viol Course
An Grianán, Termonfechin, Ireland
Tutors: Ibi Aziz, Marion Doherty, Pamela Flanagan, Emma Murphy, Marion Scott, Philip Thorby
A course designed for players of recorders, viols and other early instruments, covering a wide repertoire from ancient to modern. Sessions include one-to-a-part groups, workshops, technique classes, consort songs, trio sonatas, choir, large and small ensembles.
Further information from:
Mrs. Patricia Flanagan, 110 Kincora Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3, Ireland Tel: 00 353 85 2880389
info @ irishrecorderandviolcourse.org
Opportunities to make music
Early music in South Croydon
Please contact Jean on 0208 406 9248 or by email at sonata30 @ virginmedia.com if you are interested in meeting once a month in the afternoon or evening to play music, mainly Renaissance and baroque. All instruments are welcome; a piano is available and also an electronic keyboard with a harpsichord voice.
* * *
The St Mary’s Singers would welcome some extra singers for their Choral Evensong in Guildford Cathedral on Saturday April 29th. The rehearsal is at 1pm and the service at 5pm. The music is as follows:
Short Service, Gibbons (Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis).
Non vos relinquam, Byrd
Please email James Reed jnmr84094 @ gmail.com to register an interest and receive music and information.
News of Members’ Activities
TVEMF member Norma Herdson’s latest Thames Valley baroque workshop in Bourne End will be on Sunday April 23rd, with music by music suitable for St George’s Day by Purcell (excerpts from the Fairy Queen), Hook (Harpsichord Concerto no. 5) and Boyce (Symphony from Solomon). Soloist in the Hook will be TVEMF member Barbara Moir and the conductor will be Michael Sanderson. You are invited to apply if you are a baroque instrumentalist at 415 or a singer. For more information please contact Norma. (01628 621367) Nherdson @ btinternet.com