Tamesis Issue 255
Many thanks to our two reviewers of the Purcell and Blow day at Chiswick, who look at the event from the singer’s and the string player’s perspective. I’m always pleased to receive unsolicited reviews so get writing! It’s a shame if a workshop gets forgotten because it hasn’t been reviewed.
Nobody has written about Peter Collier’s baroque chamber music day in April, apart from David in his Chat, but I found it most enjoyable. It was lovely to have a day playing music with old friends and to meet new people, and my four sessions featured flute trio sonatas, Telemann for two flutes and two bass instruments, several suites with orchestra and a Brandenburg concerto. Many thanks must go to Peter and Pam for coming all the way from Manchester with a car loaded with three harpsichords and an electric organ. I will be running a similar day on November 6th and I hope to see lots of you there. Do contact me if you need to know more about it.
I’m pleased to say that we have managed to find a venue for Sara Stowe’s medieval workshop on October 8th. That seems to be a very popular day for jumble sales and harvest festivals but we’ve been able to book the United Reformed Church in Ealing. There was more information about this workshop in my March editorial, and there are previews of the July and September workshops later in this issue. Nicola tells me that David Allinson’s June workshop still has room for more altos, tenors and basses.
I’ve been editing Tamesis since 2001 so it’s a bit depressing that so many of the emails I receive are addressed to “dear David”! David was only actually editor for a few months in 1994, the other past editors having been Chris Thorn, Wayne Plummer and Gordon Grant, but of course David does a lot behind the scenes, particularly with the web site. I had a quick look at my first issue in October 2001 and because some of you will have missed it when it first appeared I’m republishing one of David’s own contributions. You might think it should have been in the April issue but actually it’s from his speech of thanks to Philip Thorby after the Florentine Intermedi workshop later in the year. You’ll find it on page 7.
You will see elsewhere in Tamesis that the workshop studying anthems by Blow and Purcell did not have a happy beginning but once Simon Hill had got us going it proved very enjoyable. Incidentally we should all be grateful to Simon for his tremendous help and support when we were setting up TVEMF in 1988 and as a committee member in the early years.
The Baroque Day run by Peter Collier went well, thanks to Peter's excellent organisation and the able assistance of his wife Pam. Thanks to her we were able to leave the staff room at the school much tidier than when we arrived!
In the last Tamesis I mentioned that I had a lot of music that had belonged to my late wife Jackie, and I'm amazed to be able to say that it has all found a home. In total over £200 was raised for the Marie Curie charity, a very respectable result. There remain some recorders to be disposed of to a good home: two wooden ones by Kung, sopranino and descant, two plastic descants and two plastic trebles by Yamaha. If nobody wants them then the four latter ones could perhaps go to a recorder teacher to be given to impecunious pupils or to provide deliverance from out-of-tune instruments.
Advance notice about the workshop for singers and instrumentalists
on Gombert ‘In illo tempore loquentur Jesu’ and
Monteverdi ‘Missa in illo tempore’ with Patrick Allies on 16th July 2016
The option for singers to print out their own music and to be given a reduction of £2 was successful for Patrick’s workshop in January 2015 so I shall repeat it for the July 2016 workshop. I will send those taking advantage of this option the scores in electronic format but others may also like to look at the music in advance. The Gombert is available on IMSLP. You should select the version arranged for six recorders by Harmer. As far as we can tell this has not been changed from the original even though the note values have clearly been reduced and the key (C major) may not be the original though it will suit our mixed choir. The Monteverdi is available on CPDL. You should select the version edited by Kilpatrick. Click on the green circle nd select the version transposed down (Bb).
There are plenty of recordings of both works available on YouTube and Spotify though be aware that all are in lower keys than those of the scores we are using. You may particularly like to hear the YouTube version of the Monteverdi by Philippe Herreweghe and the Ensemble Vocal Européen De La Chapelle Royale and the Spotify version of the Gombert on an album called “A la incoronation’, track 6 by Ensemble Pian and (sic) Forte and the Spotify version of the Monteverdi by Odhecaton, tracks 1,2,4,6,7.
Another advance notice about the workshop directed by Peter Syrus
on 17th September 2016
1535 – a year in the life of Pierre Attaingnant
In July we shall be inviting applications from singers and instrumentalists for the next workshop to be conducted by Peter Syrus in Ickenham on 17 September. The workshop freeze-frames a richly productive year for this Parisian printer and publisher. By now he had established a market eager for his wares, sacred and secular, vocal and instrumental. Our selection will include motets by Verdelot, Richafort and Manchicourt, alongside chansons by Janequin and Claudin de Sermisy. Punctuating the day will be three settings of the joyful Marian antiphon for Easter, ‘Regina caeli laetare’. For eight, five and twelve voices, they are by Rousée, Willaert and Gombert respectively.
Orchestral Anthems by Purcell and Blow
a singer’s view
We met for this workshop on 19th March 2016 at the beautiful church of St Nicholas, on the north bank of the Thames at Chiswick. Peter Holman conducted a small section of string players, theorbo and organ which comprised the orchestra. The chorus was an SATB well balanced group of women and men, but of a modest size. Perhaps the cold, grey day through which we travelled to get there discouraged people. Or could it have been that the music was too modern for some tastes?
For myself, I loved the music, and singing with the strings gave an extra colour and vivacity to the pieces we attempted. I say that advisedly since the three Coronation Anthems we met that day are each written in eight parts – sometimes with three bass parts and three soprano parts – and the composers had made liberal use of false relations between the parts. Both of these factors required a good level of confidence from the singers.
We began with “My Heart Is Inditing of a Good Matter” by Purcell, written for Queen Mary at the 1685 coronation of James II. Peter explained that at that time new coronation anthems were written for both the King and the Queen. We were invited to imagine the two composers sitting together discussing how they could differentiate their two compositions, written for the same occasion. Purcell wrote his for the Queen and Blow wrote his for the King. The styles were indeed subtly different, with Purcell providing more decorated, possibly feminine music for Mary, and Blow making the King’s music more regal. This did not prevent Dr Blow from incorporating elements of the French Overture style, which had recently arrived from the Court of Louis XIV. As explained by Peter, this entailed a more robust approach to the rhythm of the music, shortening longer notes to make space between them, effectively double dotting the rhythm.
This approach came into play as we moved on to “God Spake Sometime In Visions”, Blow’s anthem for the King, a large scale piece with many changes of key and mood. As mentioned above, it was different to Purcell’s work for the Queen, but equally challenging.
Later in the day we moved on to Purcell’s Coronation Anthem “Praise the Lord O Jerusalem”, written in 1689 for the coronation of William and Mary. Possibly because of the extraordinary occasion of the joint coronation of William III and Mary II of England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 only one Coronation Anthem was provided on that occasion. Although only written some four years after “My Heart Is Inditing” there are already signs of increasing sophistication and chromaticism in Purcell’s writing. In the final Allelujah the flattened sevenths and thirds (anyone for sharpened ninths?) sound to modern ears like blue notes. What might he have done had he lived beyond the age of 36?
Peter Holman told us of the surprisingly large instrumental and vocal forces that were gathered to first perform these pieces in Westminster Abbey, though their disposition around the church, plus their minimal rehearsal time is likely to have had a negative effect on those first performances.
I hope that my inadequate comments on this wonderful music will encourage readers to explore it further. Each substantial piece surely deserves a study day of its own, and further TVEMF events focussed on these two composers would be welcome.
Many thanks are due to Simon Hill and Wendy Davies for organising the event, to David Fletcher for supplying the music at the last moment when other sources failed, and to Pe ter Holman for his musicianship and knowledge of the period.
Coronation Anthems at Chiswick
a player’s view
This event came about through a happy conjunction of Patrick Field’s suggestion for a workshop on Purcell for singers and players and Simon Hill’s wish that his baroque organ (housed at St Nicholas Church) should be more widely used. Peter Holman was invited to conduct the workshop and Barbara Moir (who some members know as an accomplished harpsichordist) agreed to adapt her skills to the organ. Before advertising the event to the whole membership, Simon made sure that we would have a balanced group of string players: 4 violins, 2 violas, 3 cellos and a theorbo.
The day could have been a disaster. A few days before the workshop, we heard that the vocal scores for the Blow anthem would not be available. With heroic dedication, David Fletcher downloaded the score and put together readable parts. Then, on the day itself, half an hour or so before the workshop was due to begin, we heard that Peter (and the orchestral parts of the Purcell) were stuck in what seemed to be a totally static traffic jam. Nothing daunted (or at least that’s how he appeared) Simon stepped in. He got the singers organized and while the orchestra struggled to read from the score with a page turn every few bars, he led us through some sections of the work so that by the time Peter arrived, we had done some useful rehearsing.
For string players who mostly play in instrumental ensembles, playing with singers is particularly rewarding. Phrasing and note values are dictated by the words and Peter made us fully aware of the nuances of the text. He had drawn our attention to the more ‘feminine’ style of the Purcell anthem, and I particularly remember the graceful setting of the words ‘she shall be brought before the king in raiment of needlework’ and the poignant chromatic progressions setting the words, ‘Harken O daughter , consider, incline thine ears. Forget also thine own people and thy father’s house.’
Peter is well known for his scholarship as well as his practical skills. From time to time there were pauses when he filled us in on historical background and details of contemporary performance. (These breaks were particularly welcome to our continuo player since the baroque organ has to be played standing up.) One detail in particular was useful to us players struggling with frequent changes of time signature. He reminded us that the conductor at that time would be a man with a heavy staff – not a baton – striking the floor to mark the beats, making any sideways movements to indicate subdivision of the beats impossible. The mental image of these heavy downbeats, sometimes divided into three and sometimes into two was very helpful.
After a play through of the works we had studied, we had time to look at Purcell’s ‘Praise the Lord O Jerusalem’ composed for the coronation of William and Mary. This was very different in style from the earlier two. As Simon remarked, ‘Who but Purcell would have thought of starting an anthem of rejoicing in D minor?’ The work begins with quiet sustained chords bursting into the major with the words, ‘Be Thou Exalted’.
Altogether, it was a very inspiring day and the people I spoke to said they had enjoyed performing in the church. Not quite Westminster Abbey, but as Peter suggested, since Westminster Abbey would have been stuffed to the rafters with musicians and invited dignitaries the acoustic of the church was probably not so very different from what it would have been in the Abbey. We are very grateful to Simon for facilitating this event and we hope that it won’t be the last of its kind.
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As Lorna has said, one minor catastrophe rather jeopardised Peter Holman’s workshop until our Chairman stepped into the breach. We had ordered a set of vocal scores of the Blow on hire from Yorkshire Music Library, which has a large collection of performing material that they make available for anyone in the country to make use of – or rather, I should say “used to make available”. The copies were due to be sent out to us on Monday 14th, but the following day I received an email from YML saying: “Any orders that were due for dispatch on or after 14th March 2016 will not be processed”. The reason was that the company that was managing the collection, Fresh Horizons Ltd, had gone into voluntary liquidation and that the library was closing immediately.
It seems that, although YML had a working business model that enabled them to operate on a self-sufficient and sustainable basis, the surplus that they had been generating was being used to subsidise other loss-making divisions of Fresh Horizons. However, it appears that the collection has been saved – Leeds Council have stepped in, and a new home for the collection has been found in Leeds Central Library. It will be made available through the authority’s Music and Performing Arts Library and it is expected it will take a couple of months to fully establish the service. Staff are in the process of shipping items from Huddersfield and their priority is servicing existing orders (I was telephoned on 8th April to see if we still required the Blow), but they will contact customers as soon as they are in a position to accept new orders.
Intermedio VII from 1589
Recent research by David Arrowsmith has revealed that there was in fact a seventh intermedio at the 1589 wedding. Imagine the scene (after nearly five hours of music and drama): Venus, surrounded by her entourage of beautiful, scantily-clad nymphs, is being serenaded by the finest musicians in the land. Giovanni Bassano and Fillipe Thorbi have just finished a series of increasingly competitive divisions and Alessandro Striggio has embarked on an elaborate viola bastarda improvisation, when a stage-hand, paying more attention to the nymphs than his duties, lets go of the wrong rope.
A startled Cupid plummets down straight on to the bass viol, totally destroying it. At this point the exhausted musicians decide to call it a day and go for a beer.
Of course all mention of this unfortunate episode was excised from the official records, but the popular news sheet "Il Sol" did feature the nymphs on page III of the next issue. One thing is quite clear from the reports that did survive - the organisers would never have dreamed of performing any of the Intermedii with amateurs.
The result was generally adjudged to have been a draw. Thorbi came in for some criticism for his use of a somewhat archaic style rather reminiscent of Ganassi, but was technically flawless. Bassano's avant-garde divisions were much liked, and in spite of a major blunder (playing a B flat rather than B natural at an intermediate cadence), he managed to equalise with a couple of extravagant late trills.
(thanking Philip Thorby at the end of the Intermedi weekend in 2001)
Website for downloading free baroque music
Thanks to David King for this.
News of Members’ Activities
Andrew Benson-Wilson will be giving an organ recital on Wednesday June 15th in the Kreuzkirche Störmthal in Leipzig at 5.30pm. He will be playing music by Scheidt, Weckmann, Pachelbel, Böhm, Walther and Bach on the 1723 organ which was opened by Bach. He also has three recitals in Dulwich and London in July and October which you’ll find in the Concerts list.
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Helen Dymond’s latest play will be the subject of a course in the summer school at the City Lit from July 13th to 15th. “Finding Handel” is being advertised as a 'Rehearsed Reading'. There will be a public reading of the play on July 15th and, she hopes, a full production of the play in summer 2017 in the newly refurbished City lit Theatre. Go to and search for MD819.