Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 276
What a splendid occasion the joint event Biber workshop at Thaxted was! TVEMF organised two joint events last year but EEMF’s magnificent workshop more than made up for it. I hear they had been planning it for a year. Beck Laxton reviews it on page 6 and I was amused to read that she rather fancied playing the timpani, because I actually was and rather envied her the lovely recorder part she had to play. Altogether there were eleven baroque trumpets there, nine in the two trumpet and timpani groups and two clarini in the main band. Is this a record? Thanks to Bill Tuck for fixing the trumpets and the loan of the timpani.
We used Clifford Bartlett’s edition of the Biber, which is still available along with almost all the rest of his King’s Music publications. They are obtainable from Elaine Bartlett using Clifford’s email address clifford.bartlett @ btopenworld.com.
The London Festival of Early Music has just taken place at Blackheath. TVEMF had a stand and took quite a good number of memberships and workshop bookings in spite of being in rather a quiet corner upstairs. Many thanks to those of you who helped on the stand.
This is a busy time of year for me. In two weeks time it will be the Baroque day at Burnham. Bookings are coming in quite well but I’d welcome more, particularly strings. Then it will be our usual Christmas workshop, lunch and AGM in Amersham. The form is in this issue and on the website. I do hope there will be enough bookings for us to do the 40-part Striggio. It will be followed by the TVEMF AGM which, if past experience is anything to go by, will be very brief. We have a vacancy on the committee. Would anyone like to volunteer?
In January we have a welcome visit from David Allinson, where we will be doing some of the lovely Palestrina music he conducted at the recent Renaissance Singers concert in St. George’s Bloomsbury. In February we go to Keble College Oxford for a day of polychoral music by Giovanni Gabrieli with Ben Nicholas. David Fletcher’s renaissance consorts day is in March, and in April Eamonn Dougan will direct a workshop on 3-choir music by the Italian composer Asprilio Pacelli (1570-1623) who worked in Poland.
Comments have been made about the acoustic at some of our venues so we’re looking around for better ones. Have you been to a concert or does your choir sing in a church with a good acoustic? If so, please tell us and we’ll investigate.
Thanks very much to our reviewers this month. Two of you were inspired to review Joe Crouch, which is excellent. It’s always good to have more than one view. I’ve been asking for years for summer school reviews, and finally Lorna Cox has reviewed Ambleside. More please!
Linda Barlow, our Membership Secretary, has decided to create herself an email address that she hopes won't lose some of the membership renewals she is expecting to get. It’s on the front cover and on page 5, so please make a note of it.
Congratulations to Niels Lous of the Orlando Chamber Choir who sent me a listing for his concert on December 12th. He is the first person ever, as far as I remember, to send me a listing which I didn’t have to change at all to make it fit our house style! It saves so much time if people send the right information in the right order with no extraneous formatting.
And finally, though it seems very early to be saying it, a happy and musical Christmas to you all!
We have some splendid workshops lined up for the next few months. First is one of our ever-popular Baroque chamber music days run by our Secretary, Victoria Helby. Then the Christmas event with Philip Thorby which is always a great success. It should be noted that Philip is cutting back on his workload and is no longer going to be tutoring on the Beauchamp Summer School. We trust that TVEMF will continue to be on his still busy schedule. In January we welcome David Allinson, another of our favourite directors, in a programme of Palestrina. If memory serves me right TVEMF was the first Forum that David directed, many years ago. He has now taken the bold step to leave his job at Canterbury and go freelance – we wish him well. I'm looking forward to the workshop but did mention to the Committee that Palestrina wrote over a hundred masses yet everyone does Missa Papae Marcelli. Well perhaps it's the best one, but I'd really like to find out by singing some of the others while I still can!
Sunday 15th December 2019 at 5.15 approx.
(after the Christmas workshop in Amersham)
1. Apologies for absence
2. Approval of the minutes of last meeting
3. Chairman's report
4. Secretary's report
5. Treasurer's report
6. Proposed amendments to the TVEMF Constitution
7. Election of officers and committee
8. Any other business
The minutes of the 2018 AGM are on page 10.
German Baroque Motets – workshop for singers and continuo
An impressive number of singers – 45 if all those on David King’s admirable list came - assembled for the workshop on German motets, directed by Joe Crouch. Joe is obviously in great demand as a teacher and tutor, but is also a distinguished cellist, and late in the day as his voice threatened to give out, he got out his cello to illustrate some points.
The principal work was Johann Sebastian Bach’s Singet dem Herrn, a singularly demanding work which occupied the larger part of our time. Joe emphasised the need for meticulous rhythmic accuracy as the clue to a lively performance. Singers need to be on their guard as combinations of consonants may be the enemy of rhythmic perfection. Joe singled out the phrase “Israel freue sich” from the first part of Singet dem Herrn, where particular care is needed to express the group “-el freu-” on the first beat of the bar, without introducing a slight drag.
The other two works provided a contrast to the joyous tone of J S Bach’s motet. The motet by Kuhnau, Tristis est anima mea, is a Latin setting of words from Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane.
The third work, by Johann Christoph Bach, Unsers Herzens Freude hat ein Ende, is an 8 voice setting of one of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and is extremely sad and penitent in mood. It provided an opportunity for Joe to give us a spectacularly dramatic rendering of words “O Weh!” to encourage us to express a fitting amount of penitence!
It was not until the final run through that we were able to realise how hard we had worked under Joe’s encouragement. In all this we were supported by the continuo group: Malcolm Keeler and Penny Bagshaw, keyboard; Kate Jackson and Dorothy Goodall, bass viol; and Kristina Watt, theorbo.
German Baroque Motets – 28.09.2019
Circa 50 singers with 2 viols, a keyboard and a theorbo met at St Andrews United Reformed Church in Ealing on 28th September to encounter three baroque motets. When I say that one of them was Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied by Johan Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) many readers will understand that challenging was a word to be heard among us that day. Fortunately we had Joe Crouch as our excellent guide, coach and general encourager for the day.
Thanks to David King who arranged the workshop the singers were well balanced between the voices. When we divided into two choirs the antiphony worked well. Joe spent time considering the text of the pieces and how they should affect our approach to the music. For instance, at one point in a 3/4 section the text needed several bars to be sung as if in 6/8 if the meaning of the words was to be supported. He showed us how our pronunciation of the German text could provide an impetus to drive the music forward and give it life. Joe’s nuanced approach may have slowed our pace through the many pages of music, but it did bring new insights.
Johan Christoph Bach (1642 – 1703), from an earlier generation of the Bach family, is regarded as second only to JSB as a composer in that family of musicians. His motet Unsers Herzens Freude hat ein Ende provided a sombre, but beautiful contrast to Singet dem Herrn. The Israelites were in captivity in Babylon bewailing their past misdeeds which had led to their exile. “O weh, O weh” they sang repeatedly, each exclamation a response to yet another of their remembered transgressions. Joe illustrated the increasing depth of their remorse by banging his head on his lectern – gently. This beautiful piece for double choir needed more time for us to really appreciate it.
The third motet took us from German to Latin. Tristis est anima mea by Johann Kuhnau (1660 – 1722) was in the expressive key of F minor, for one choir of SSATB. Its counterpoint flowed on through both minor and major keys until it came to a pause on the first inversion of a C dominant seventh chord with a tritone between the tenor and bass parts. Joe told us that this voicing of the chord supported the heightened emotion of the text at that point. After a general pause the counterpoint continued for a further 16 bars, passing through some notable dissonance until it ended on a bright F major chord. Once again I regretted that we did not have more time to enjoy such beautiful music, but now having a copy of the music it may be possible to find a recording and study it further.
For me, Joe Crouch is the ideal leader of a choral workshop. He is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the music and able to work with quite a disparate, large group of singers, drawing them together into an integrated chorus. Working with a good sense of humour Joe had everyone onside quickly, including the four continuo musicians although they were situated behind him on the stage. Those musicians gave the singers a lifeline when their decorated vocal lines became almost impossibly extended. The choice of music was excellent, but the level of difficulty in places severely challenged even the famous TVEMF sight reading. When the music is so difficult perhaps we should attempt less of it in one day, get to know it better and enjoy it more.
Thanks are due to David King for making the day possible and again to Joe Crouch for getting us through all the music with such good humour.
Biber: Missa Salisburgensis in 53 parts – the EEMF/TVEMF joint event
organised by EEMF 11-13 October
I had never been to Thaxted church, so it came as a glorious surprise. Impressive enough from the outside, but inside a fabulous light-filled space. How lovely to have plenty of room for everyone – especially as there were so many of us.
I had booked late and had come ready to sing or play a recorder, and organiser Janet Tanburn turned out to be in the same boat. Once everyone had more or less got themselves sorted out, and I’d nipped down to the lovely Tudor guildhall to see whether the brass section needed another timpanist and found that they didn’t, we discovered that there were two oboe parts to be covered, which nobody had claimed as they needed baroque instruments at A=440. As they could easily be covered by recorders, we grabbed the parts and retired to the back, settling next to the clarini.
I hadn’t encountered Patrick Craig as a director before. When I arrived I saw the terrifying score he was working from, all marked with differently coloured highlighter pens telling him who needed his attention. His demeanour was gloriously camp – he’d bought floridly flowery shirts to wear, two per day, and at one point he noticed the cornettos giving their lips a break by playing recorders, and called over to them “Oh, I love your little penny whistles!” – but alongside this playful streak was a steely focus. Despite the huge number of people and the potential for endless faff, we were off the starting blocks in a moment and heading off through the piece with an absolutely sure sense of direction from him. He’d obviously done huge amounts of preparation as I don’t think there was a moment of hesitation in all the many tempo changes.
Tucked in at the back, Janet and I stumbled our way through the first movement playing the oboe parts on treble recorders while trying to remember how to count bars (and beats, in my case). Later we got braver and switched to descants so that our tone could cut through as that of oboes would have. There was a lovely camaraderie at the back, with a lot of holding up of fingers and mouthing numbers as we counted our bars’ rest. As a singer, it’s not something I’ve done much of so it was great to have that support. And it was also lovely to be playing such as easy instrument, even if it seemed like cheating….
When Patrick talked it was brief and to the point – hurray not to have a director who tells you so many things that you’ve forgotten which notes you got wrong by the time you get a second attempt – and the day was so efficient that we played through the music more times than usual, so that by the end of the day the notes were really beginning to sink in… I suspect I wasn’t the only person worn out by the concentrated effort, though, so welcomed Patrick’s suggestion of an early finish at 4.30pm – which also usefully spared the volunteer team the huge faff of serving tea to everyone.
The next day, we were in the adjacent parish hall, which had a less flattering acoustic that encouraged renewed efforts. After another concentrated rehearsal, we adjourned to the pub for a really excellent buffet lunch – much more fun than the previous day’s trawl round the tiny selection of food shops in Thaxted. Then back to the church, now glowing in the afternoon sunshine, to set up for a final rehearsal and play-through. I’d been so enthused by how well things were going that I’d emailed my database of 250 music-lovers.
Before we started, we gave a wholehearted hurrah to Ellen Sarewitz, who had done most of the fixing for the weekend but not come to sing because of the recent death of her partner. I sent the video to her later with best wishes and reported how well the day had gone, and Janet also sent a card that we had all signed.
We were rejoined by the brass section, who had been rehearsing separately but now massed on both sides of the church, with each side having its own timpanist. Their solo piece was stupendous. Then on to the playthrough, which went extremely well – some particularly good singing from the soprano and alto soloists, and overall it felt as though we did justice to the music. Patrick was wonderful – very relaxed and totally reliable.
Huge thanks again to Ellen and Janet in particular for the ridiculous amount of work they did to make this happen. It was a wonderful weekend!
Early Music Summer School, Higham Hall August 4-10 2019
Higham Hall is an Adult Education Centre in the Northern foothills of the Lake District, between Cockermouth and Bassenthwaite Lake. The annual one-week Early Music Summer School has been running for 6 years, and in some ways is the successor to the NWEMF Summer School at Ambleside. Higham Hall accommodates about 35 students and five tutors so the atmosphere is very much that of a “house party”; each year most students are “returners” but new attenders are made very welcome, the atmosphere is inclusive and they are not “new” for long. Quite a few people come from abroad – Tenerife, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland... A feature of the course is that there is no final concert – what we are there for is to make music for our own enjoyment and to broaden our experience, in a supportive and enabling environment. Therefore there is a constant stream of unfamiliar music; really good for sight-reading skills! Sometimes a session goes brilliantly and sometimes it doesn't, but in such a non-judgemental atmosphere it doesn't matter. The other crucial feature of the week is the close co-operation and obvious friendship between the tutors, which makes for a very positive atmosphere which transmits to the students.
This year, there were eight viol players (taught by Elizabeth Dodd), about the same number of recorders (tutor Philip Gruar) and the remainder were singers split into two groups with Roger Wilkes (Head Tutor who founded the course) and Deborah Catterall. Hugh Cherry is the lutenist; he provides individual lute lessons at any level including absolute beginner as well as accompanying solo and group lute songs, which are a lovely experience. These tutors are not well known in our Southern parts but have a good following in North West England! At the end of the week Roger Wilkes announced his retirement; next year Deborah Catterall will be at the helm and a new fifth tutor will be appointed.
The first session of the morning (after Debbie's legendary warm-ups) is “like consorts” tutored as above; after coffee the grouping is mixed consorts aimed at exploring repertoire. This year these sessions included unique opportunities to work, for example, on an extraordinary Cipriano de Rore setting of Dido's lament as written by Virgil - totally unlike Purcell's version – and some demanding Ferrabosco madrigals, as well as more mainstream pieces. This mixing of singers and instrumentalists ensures that we get the chance to make music with people we might not otherwise come across, and offers the opportunity for those who both sing and play to do so. Afternoons are not timetabled but there was a wealth of optional opportunities on offer – an immersive session on the music of Hildegard of Bingen, vocal and instrumental consorts (at all levels including “for the terrified”), singing with viols, loud wind (behind closed doors), and opportunities for individuals to try an unfamiliar instrument or have a singing lesson. And more; the tutors make a real effort to include everything which people have indicated they are interested in. Or of course you can get out in the hills. After dinner there is a “tutti” session and then to the bar, with sounds of untutored music-making in nearby rooms. On the last afternoon individuals and groups can, if they wish, present items informally to the rest of the attendees.
I have mentioned lunch, dinner etc...all the food is included, and home-made in the Higham kitchens. It is plentiful and delicious, and the staff are outstanding in their provision of special diets and in general helpfulness. Higham Hall is a lovely place to stay with comfortable rooms and beautiful grounds, and the view from the front is of Skiddaw, ever-changing with the light and the clouds but always majestic.
So, do I recommend that you give it a try next year? What about the down-side? Well... Higham is a long drive from the South East and August weekends are busy on the roads; public transport is, surprisingly, feasible. Frustratingly (for some) you will not have time to walk up Skiddaw though it is possible to explore some of the smaller hills nearby. It is sad to make good friends and then not see them for another year. The excellent food will probably subvert your good intentions. All that music running round your head might stop you sleeping and anyway you will be tired by the end of the week. And beware, Higham is habit-forming.
Next year's course will be August 16 – 22. It is in my diary.
Two Last Nights! Show Business in Georgian Britain
Foundling Hospital Exhibition
20 Sep 2019 — 05 Jan 2020
Displayed throughout the whole Museum, this interactive exhibition delves into the mechanics of theatre and concert going in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain. With more than 100 objects on display, discover the surprising similarities and astonishing differences between theatre and festival-going then and now, including advertising, ticket sales, audience behaviour and dress code.
Going to a show flourished as a popular pastime in the eighteenth century and as a result the entertainment industry saw rapid expansion: many theatres were built and music festivals began in both London and the provinces. These growing forms of entertainment contributed to the vast range of audience experiences we know today. Enjoy a fascinating glimpse of behind-the-scenes roles, from theatre managers, set designers and scenery-painters, to the refreshment sellers and ticket collectors. Learn how leading artists of the day, including Hogarth, Hayman and Lambert, crossed over into the world of show business as set designers and scenery painters. The exhibition explores key venues in London and the provinces, from the theatres of Drury Lane, Covent Garden and Richmond, to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and the Foundling Hospital Chapel, as well as the provincial music festivals of other major cities in Britain. It is divided into four sections:
Highlights in this section include caricatures and drawings of Georgian audience members, who came to see and be seen. Original advertising, programmes and tickets are displayed alongside information about how Georgian audiences purchased tickets and detail the development of the modern-day ‘box office’.
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens
An important highlight of the exhibition is an original eighteenth-century supper box painting, Devil to Pay, by Francis Hayman (1708-1776) which depicts the famous actress Kitty Clive.
Foundling Museum Chapel
Two Last Nights! reveals the importance of the Foundling Hospital Chapel as a music venue in Georgian Britain. George Frideric Handel was a fervent supporter of the Foundling Hospital and from 1749 he gave an annual benefit concert, raising thousands of pounds for the Hospital.
Visitors can discover how performers capitalised on the summer season and logistical complexities of staging a music festival, including the transport of staging, singers and instruments between venues, travelling only by horse and cart.
The exhibition is free with Museum Admission.
Eton Choir Book Exhibition
In February 2008 Peter Syrus directed a TVEMF workshop on music from the Eton Choir Book in Eton College Chapel. Now the college has an exhibition celebrating Eton MS 178 and its inscription on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in 2018 in the Verey Gallery at the college.
The Choirbook was sung from every single day at a service known as a ‘Salve ceremony’. This was a short service of praise and prayer to the Virgin Mary performed as dusk was falling – it was a pre-Reformation model for modern choral evensong. On November 11th 2019 at 6.30 the chapel choir will re-enact this service, including a performance of a polyphonic hymn to the Virgin, Salve Regina, taken from the Eton Choirbook. The service will be preceded by a brief introduction by Dr Magnus Williamson of Newcastle University, and followed by an opportunity to see the Choirbook on display in the exhibition nearby. The event is free but please email L.Gwynn @ etoncollege.org.uk for a ticket.
The Eton Choirbook is a treasure-store of music and a beautiful instrument of worship, created between 1500 and 1504 for use at Eton College Chapel. Through its survival, this manuscript gives us access to a musical tradition and form of worship that was disrupted and almost obliterated by the Reformation.
This, the first exhibition to focus on the Choirbook, examines its material and historical context. It also explores the development of Renaissance sacred music in this country as traced through the Choirbook’s pages and other rare examples of music from this period, never before seen alongside the ‘queen of Tudor Manuscripts’.
The exhibition will be open every Sunday from 2.30pm-5.00pm until 8th March next year, and also by appointment, Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm. Please contact collections @ etoncollege.org.uk or visit etoncollege.com/Exhibitions for more details.
Opportunities to make music
Gerald Place directs Syon Early Music Workshop on Tuesday evenings at the Quaker Meeting House, Quaker Lane, Isleworth TW7 5AZ. Singers and players are welcome and there are termly concerts. For more information contact Gerald at sgeraldplace @ hotmail.co.uk
Minutes of the TVEMF AGM held on 16th December 2018
1. There were no Apologies for absence.
2. The minutes of the 2017 AGM, which were printed in the November 2018 Tamesis, were approved.
3. Chairman’s report
We have 305 members, down from 333 members, continuing a somewhat worrying trend. Of those who failed to renew from the previous year, at least two have died and several have moved out of our area, even as far as the U.S.A. Some have stopped singing or playing and most of the remainder never came to any of our events. It's possible that we are not putting on the sort of events that people want – for example some people don't like singing with instruments, but of course some do.
Events held in 2018
Domenico Scarlatti: Stabat Mater for voices & bc (Stephen Jones)
Renaissance playing and singing day Burnham (David Fletcher)
Music by Samuel Scheidt (William Carslake)
Charpentier: Te Deum for singers and baroque instruments (Julian Perkins) Baroque chamber music day (Peter Collier)
Victoria: Laudamus Te (Philip Thorby)
Hieronymus Praetorius (Patrick Allies)
7-part music by 7 composers for voices & instruments (Peter Syrus)
Pachelbel and JS Bach for voices and continuo, (Will Dawes)
Italian music for voices & instruments (Andrew Griffiths)
Baroque chamber music day, (Victoria Helby)
Christmas workshop: Palestrina and Victoria (Patrick Craig)
As usual I must thank the committee for their hard work – in particular our Secretary, Vicky, who organised four events as well as editing the magazine. David King ran two events as well as carrying out his role as Treasurer with his usual efficiency. Linda Barlow is also very effective as membership secretary and has taken over all my responsibilities in that respect for which I am very grateful. The other committee members helped in many ways and Michael Bloom did much of the work for the very successful Scarlatti's event. We could use another committee member or two and of course you don't have to be on the committee to help organise an event or to suggest possibilities for the future.
4. Treasurer’s report
David King distributed the Summary Account for 1st October 2017 - 30th September 2018, which Nick Pollock had kindly examined. Members were reminded that it had been agreed at the 2016 AGM that the accounting year from 2017 would run from October to September. This was to avoid presenting very out-of-date financial information at the AGM and also to provide more accurate information about membership levels. An inevitable consequence of this change is that direct comparisons between the last two completed financial periods is impossible for two years as the periods are not equal in length. This year is the second of those two years. At the 2019 AGM and thereafter a meaningful comparison can be made. This point must be borne in mind when considering the rest of this report. All figures quoted in this report have been rounded to the nearest £.
In 2017/8 there was a surplus of £937 on administrative and Tamesis costs as compared with a surplus of £324 in Jan-Sept 2017. On participative events there was a deficit of £941 as compared with a deficit of £859 in Jan-Sept 2017. On 30th Sept 2018 the total assets amounted to £8612, which was £4 lower than on 30th Sept 2017.
One very significant reason why the administrative surplus was much higher in the period just completed than the period before is that we received a rebate of £350 because our stand at the Early Music exhibition, paid for the financial year before, was cancelled. It would be inadvisable to draw any conclusions regarding advertising revenue and subscriptions because the periods are not of equal length. Similarly it would be inadvisable to draw any conclusions regarding the income and expenditure on participative events.
As has been explained in previous years it is aimed to bring down the TVEMF asset level to the range £5000-£7500. We are still above that range but it is important to reduce the assets in a controlled manner so we do not overshoot the mark resulting in the imposition of unacceptably sharp price rises for events. With this in mind the Committee has discussed events pricing and recommends that from January 2019 the following changes outlined below be implemented. The aim of the increased differential between members and non-members is to encourage people to join an Early Music Forum.
a) The price of general workshops will be raised by £2 to £16 for members of Early Music Fora and by £4 to £20 for non-members.
b) The price of one-to-a-part music days will be raised by £2 to £11 for members of Early Music Fora and by £4 to £15 for non-members.
c) For general workshops, where applicable, we will continue to offer a £2 discount for singers downloading/printing their own music
Approval of these recommendations is sought.
16th December 2018
Addendum in response to a question by Sheila Poole raised at AGM
The unusually high figure Oct 17-Sept 18 for catering is because there was a very large catering invoice for the lunch provided by Benslow Music Trust for the event held there. This money was largely recouped by the higher fees we charged.
Sheila Poole asked if music downloads worked and the Secretary said they did but made extra work for the organizer.
The price rise in the cost of workshops was approved, proposed by David King and seconded by Nicola Wilson-Smith.
6. Election of officers and committee. Wendy Davies had resigned. The existing officers and other committee members were willing to stand again. Nobody offered to join the committee. Sue Forrest, seconded by Giles Andrews, proposed that the committee should be re-elected en-bloc and this was done.
7. Any other business.
Sheila Poole suggested that membership flyers should be distributed to early music groups. David Butler added that anybody belonging to a choir or group could take flyers to them.
David King thanked the Chairman (David Fletcher) for his hard work during the year, and the meeting was closed.