Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 261
Catherine Lorigan has resigned due to pressure of work so we need a new committee member.
Sidney’s collected reviews
Facsimile for beginners and those with a little experience
The demise of sheet music 2? A comment
I was fascinated to read David King’s article. It reminded me that quite some years ago, long before I’d joined TVEMF, I wrote an article for the Associated Board’s music magazine describing how it might be in the orchestra of the distant future. What I vaguely remember is something like this ….
Under the Potts Music Reader system, each member of the orchestra would be issued with their own electronic reader (Laptops, let alone tablets, didn’t exist then, but what I then imagined has come to pass). Before rehearsals started they would download their parts (and the full score if they wanted to study it) from the orchestra website. The conductor, leader, and the leaders of string sections, could add bowings, rehearsal letters and amendments to all parts at rehearsals. If, say, a tuba player was missing, the part could be added to the double bassoon part in rehearsal or permanently. If somebody left their reader on a train, the orchestra would have a few spares and the miscreant would have to pay for a replacement which could be loaded up quickly, even on the day of the concert. The conductor would be the ‘master’ and the players the slaves, so if he wanted to go from letter B, all parts would automatically go there. With a system to follow the conductor’s eye movements, it would be possible for the system to know where the music was up to, so “pages” would be turned automatically and some equivalent of the old “bouncing ball” would guide any player who might otherwise get lost. The conductor would only have to indicate once if he were beating in 2 or 4 in a bar, as this would go into the parts as soon as he added it to the score. (A query would flash up to remind him). Individual players could tweak their own parts, colour-coding pizzicato in red, slightly greying out muted areas and similarly highlighting changes of clef, or putting into bold missable things such as pauses, stringendos and the like. There should be the possibility of varying the size of print, but less need for it - string players would not be sharing a stand, as nobody would be turning physical pages.
Of course, TVEMF members are mainly playing chamber music, though we do have some large-group events. In chamber music most people wouldn’t stand for the idea of master/slave arrangements, and all could have the luxury of a full score as singers usually do. Then, if all the tablets were linked, it would only require one of the players to touch a foot pedal and turn all the pages. I can see a generation of the future appalled to discover that well into the 21st century musicians were still handicapped with a method which hadn’t changed since the invention of printing.
The only technological fix not covered in this vision is the problem that David King has already highlighted. You still need a stand, at least one per player. The eternal problem here is that to carry it around, e.g. to the concert venue, you need it to be light, but the lighter it is the more likely it is to get knocked over with its precious contents. We need a high tech equivalent of the sandbag; perhaps somebody will now contribute a solution.
Prince Henry motets
The TVEMF event at the United Reformed Church, Ickenham on Saturday, March 11, attracted a large body of singers eager to explore the musical consequences of what may have been a major turning-point in English history. For that journey we were indeed fortunate to have, as our guide, philosopher and friend, the versatile and widely travelled Patrick Craig, who not only led us expertly through a demanding programme but enlivened the occasion with information about the chequered careers of some of the composers represented, Jacobean court life, Henry’s upbringing and achievements, and public and private reactions to his death.
There has been little to say about warm-ups in recent reviews, but Patrick’s are noteworthy in that one of their stated objectives was to exercise, by means of various combinations of bodily movement and vocalisation, both halves of the brain. The warm-up which preceded the afternoon session involved singing the familiar nursery rhyme about hot cross buns while engaging in contrary motion. For those who wish to improve their technique in that respect, your reviewer has the good news that googling “hot cross buns song actions” will yield over five million results, many of which are on YouTube.
Henry, had he lived, would undoubtedly have been a patron of literature and music as well as of architecture and garden design, in which he had already shown a great interest. That clearly appears from the two books which Patrick brought to the event, the biography by Roy Strong (Henry, Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance, 1986) and the book of the exhibition of 2012 commemorating the four hundredth anniversary of his death, entitled The Lost Prince: the life and death of Henry Stuart, edited by Catherine Macleod and produced by the National Portrait Gallery. Among the contributors to the flood of elegiac literature were well-known poets (Donne, Herbert, Campion and Chapman) and playwrights (Tourneur, Webster and Heywood). Classical allusions permeated the titles of these works. The otherwise almost unknown Josuah Sylvester, who would probably have been Henry’s court author, produced Lachrimae Lachrimarum or the Distillation of teares shede for the untimely
end of the incomparable Prince Panaretus, (“all-virtuous”), while William Drummond of Hawthornden contributed Tears on the death of Moeliades, which he then turned to commercial advantage by having his 1616 collection of verse sold under the title Poems Amorous, Funerall, Diuine, Pastoral in Sonnets, Songs, Sextains and Madrigalls, by W.D., the author of the Teares of Moeliades. The appellation Moeliades apparently derives from a chivalric event which took place on the occasion of Henry’s “official entry into this romanticized and ritualized martial world [which] came on 31 December 1609, when under the guise of Moeliades, Lord of the Isles, Henry issued a challenge to all the knights of ‘greate Brittayne’ ”. (Catriona Murray, The Pacific King and the Militant Prince? Representation and Collaboration in the Letters Patent of James I, creating his son, Henry, Prince of Wales, eBLJ 2012, Article 8)
The nine items of the selected programme included the works of five composers. Weelkes, Wilbye, Tomkins and Orlando Gibbons are no doubt very well known to singers of the music of this period, being represented in all the standard anthologies. Ramsey is much less well known, though two volumes of the Early English Church Music series (one of English and one of Latin sacred music) are devoted to him, and among his other works is a set of consort songs entitled Dialogues of Sorrow upon the Death of the Late Prince Henrie, published in 1615. In English Sacred Music 1549-1649, (Gimell, Oxford, 1991) Phillips gives pride of place among those five composers to Gibbons and Weelkes (one chapter between them), Tomkins (a chapter to himself) and divides the rest into professionals and amateurs, Ramsey appearing in the latter category among the “amateurs influenced by the Italian monodic idiom”. He was of Scottish origin, born in the 1590s, but spent most of his life in Cambridge, graduating B. Mus in 1616 and becoming organist of Trinity College in 1628. Phillips says of him that he “unmistakably showed more daring in his English anthems than was common among professionals, though he achieved no fame for them at all during his lifetime”. Phillips also refers to a number of contemporary compilations to which he was not invited to contribute and works of reference in which he was not mentioned, and surmises that that was because he was regarded as eccentric compared with his more orthodox colleagues at Cambridge. In more recent years Sleep, fleshly birth (one of his eight madrigals) has been included in the Oxford Book of English Madrigals and his anthem How are the mighty fallen, which was one of the items in our programme, is his sole contribution to the collection of Tudor Anthems edited by Lionel Pike (Novello, 2010). That collection also includes two other items in our programme, Wilbye’s O God, the rock of my whole strength (one of his very few incursions into the field of sacred music) and Tomkins’ Then David mourned.
David Butler’s excellently produced booklet containing eight of the nine items in the programme was headed “Music inspired by the death of Prince Henry in 1612”. That reflects what Alan Clark would have called the “actualité”, since very little seems to have been written specifically for the obsequies. The only such anthem identified by Phillips is Tomkins’ Know ye not (SSAATBB) which sets texts from Ezekiel, Lamentations, Amos, Zechariah and Psalms as well as the familiar texts from II Samuel. This was not included in our programme, which, however, began with one of Tomkins’ better known anthems, When David heard (SAATB), with text from II Samuel xviii, 33. This is a tragedy in two acts; the narrative which builds up to the repeated “and wept” and is linked to the lament which takes up the second part by “and thus he said”; the tenor entry on top G initiates the successive waves of grief which eventually die down, in the final 3:2 section, to a more reflective conclusion. Next, we attempted a less well-known work by Tomkins, When David mourned (SSATB), from his Musica Deo sacra, with a different text, from II Samuel i, v.17. It is interesting that composers of this era set texts which portray the relationship between David and Saul in affectionate terms. Move forward to 1738 and we have the libretto which Charles Jennens wrote for Handel’s oratorio, Saul, drawing on the later chapters of I Samuel in which Saul’s original admiration for David’s prowess turns to envy and hatred, vividly portrayed in Part II, scene IV (beginning with Saul, recit., “The time at length has come when I shall take My full revenge on Jesse’s son…”, and ending by ordering Jonathan to kill him.)
Phillips (p.187) says of When David mourned that it “relies for its effect on very unstable tonality, based not on modulation but on the rather unfocused use of only vaguely connected chords and chromatic notes”. Having emerged from this unfocused chromaticity, we set out on our exploration of the three items by Ramsey, When David heard (SSATBB), How are the mighty fallen (SMATBarB) and the first secular item of the programme, Wilt thou unkind leave me weeping (SSAATB). By comparison with both Tomkins’ and Weelkes’ settings of the same text and his own How are the mighty fallen, Ramsey’s When David heard is a relatively small-scale and inexpressive composition. His How are the mighty fallen, which followed, was undoubtedly the centre-piece of our programme. The text is from II Samuel i, vv.25-27, and the structure reflects that fact that the title phrase occurs at the beginning of both v.25 and v.27. Its rapid repetition in all voices in the opening section conveys the impression of the mighty falling individually, with “in the midst of the battle” depicting the culmination of their destruction. The change of theme from carnage to mourning is smoothly managed and the treatment becomes broader and more reflective as the text moves on from the slaying of Jonathan, through the expression of woe, to the eulogy on the quality of the love between them, while the reprise of the opening words in the final section seems almost to exult in the fall of the mighty and the destruction of the weapons of war. In the last of three Ramsey compositions, a madrigal, we passed from shared to unrequited love, with the disdained lover traversing a familiar gamut of emotions, ending with a rather charming sequence of defiance in which he first invites the loved one, almost with a battle-cry, to enjoy his deadly pangs and then, in supplicatory mode, to re-invigorate him so that he can revel in further torments.
The short composition by Orlando Gibbons, O Lord, how do my woes increase, is a setting of a poem by Sir William Leighton. Leighton, a Gentleman Pensioner of James I, had plenty to complain about and plenty of time in which to express his dissatisfaction with his fate, since he was imprisoned for debt in 1609 and passed the time by versifying. The collection contains fifty-three pieces and, apart from Leighton himself, Byrd (with seven) was the most prolific contributor; Tomkins is the only major composer of the period who did not contribute (see Phillipps, pp.86-89). Gibbons’ brief depiction of the incessant and increasing woes is most easily seen in the Cantus line with its interrupted upward movement. From the least to the most madrigalian composer of the programme-Gibbons to Wilbye-was our next step; O God, the rock of my whole strength is another piece from the Leighton collection.. Wilbye spent much of his life as household musician to the Kitsons of Hengrave Hall in Suffolk, who do not seem to have required him to set any sacred texts. In this madrigalian anthem Wilbye gives full expression to Leighton’s text.
The final items in the programme were two anthems by Weelkes. The text of the first, O Jonathan, woe is me, (SSAATB) is from II Samuel i., 26, that is, the same text as the central section of How are the mighty fallen. Although Weelkes stands much higher than Ramsey in the general estimation of composers of this period, your reviewer would venture to suggest that in a comparison of those two settings, Ramsey emerges as the clear winner. “Very kind hast thou been to me” seems almost perfunctory and “thy love to me was wonderful”, disposed of in only four bars, even more so. On the other hand, When David heard (SSAATB) gives the text full value although in shorter bursts of grief compared with Tomkins’ more sustained
expressions of it; a clear example of this is the treatment of the words “O my son Absalon” in the two settings.
After a generous and nourishing tea-break we returned for a final session which was mainly devoted to polishing up our performance of How are the mighty fallen. Whether this will kindle a more general desire for further exploration of Ramsey is in the lap of the gods (as represented by the management of TVEMF) but for your reviewer, that one item alone was worth the journey.
Finally, our warmest thanks are due to Patrick for his expert and entertaining direction of the event, to David Butler for organising it and producing the music, to Vivian Butler for a stellar display of the cake-maker’s art, and to all those who helped in less noticeable ways to make the occasion such a success.
Cori Spezzati in Little Chalfont
On 22nd April some 65 players and singers gathered in Little Chalfont Village Hall for what proved to be yet another splendid day of TVEMF music making. Conducted, informed, educated and inspired by Andrew Griffiths, we proceeded to re-create music which only the most wealthy patrons in the late 16th century could have afforded to commission. Among the diverse instruments in the orchestra you could not miss the contrabass recorder and the theorbo standing tall above the rest. Andrew’s enthusiasm plus his erudition kept us in thrall all day while we explored the development of music for multiple choirs. Tradition says that this music originated at St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, but we learned that it was very quickly taken up in the countries of northern Europe, who then exported their Cori Spezzati back to Italy.
We began with Alma Redemptoris Mater a 8 by Orlando di Lasso. It took a while to arrange the massed forces into two choirs plus orchestra and some people had to decide whether they would sing or play. Once this was accomplished we began to get into the mid sixteenth century sound world of di Lasso, and perhaps the beginning of Cori Spezzati.
Jam Lucis Orto Sidere, again by Orlando di Lasso but what a contrast in sentiment. Andrew gave us a graphic translation of the text, which is a hymn to alcohol. We sang with enthusiasm, encouraging each other to drink, drink, and then drink some more. In the final section of the piece those who chose to drink water were told to go to hell literally. But it ended with a sanctified plagal cadence, presumably as insurance for the future.
Hodie Christus Natus Est a 10 from Hans Leo Hassler in 1591 is a Magnificat Antiphon for Christmas Day requiring two 5 part choirs. As with other settings of these words, the metre moved back and forth between double and triple time. At one in a bar the triple sections fairly bounced along causing Andrew to execute some dance steps which he said would get him into trouble at home. The singers were dancing verbally, having been taught by Andrew to make their Allelujahs ring by pronouncing all three l’s in the word. Try it, it does work. The music was full of glorious rhythmic interplay and syncopation, spiced with occasional false relations. We made such a grand sound that people passing the open windows of the hall were drawn to investigate what we were doing.
We stayed in the Christmas season with Michael Praetorius’ arrangement of In Dulci Jubilo. This was for two SATB choirs and wove the familiar melody into the texture of the music. Sometimes heard, sometimes not. The music passed back and forth between the choirs, with a little decoration in the upper parts, until there was a surprise on the last page. When the upper parts reached “matris in gremio” the basses suddenly took off on a florid double time obbligato line in their low register with some tricky timing. As one of the bass singers I can’t say that I quite mastered this line, don’t know why it is there, but did enjoy the challenge.
We moved on to Christmas a few years later with Angelus Ad Pastores Ait by Hieronymus Praetorius (1560 1629) no relation, said Andrew firmly. This piece needed two SATB choirs singing with the wind instruments, plus a small group of singers who sang with the strings. Andrew explained that the small group was described in the score as the Favoriti. That is, the sweetest and most mellifluous voices available. He then asked who would form the group. A few brave people volunteered. The music began in a grand manner, each large choir echoing the other while the Favoriti gave an occasional musical commentary. When the Allelujahs arrived the notes changed from white to black, the antiphony intensified and the music built to a monumental tutti climax. This must have been written for a very important occasion.
Leaving Latin climes and moving directly north we changed our language to German and met Heinrich Schütz. His Ich Freu Mich Des had two SATB choirs, both antiphonal to the orchestra at different times. This was a different use of the musical resources, as in the pieces we sang earlier the instruments mostly doubled the vocal parts whereas here they had their own music. A bright triple time at 1 in the bar with three semibreves to the bar made for some tricky vocal sight reading. Not to mention the German text of Psalm 122.
We stayed with Mr Schütz for the final piece of the day Zion Spricht a 21. This was for two SATB choirs and orchestra. At the end of the second page a debate sprang up about the kind of mother that Mary was. Was she leiblich (as per the text), or was she lieblich, which some people felt to be more appropriate? Andrew ended the discussion. In this case she was leiblich. This piece felt like an evolution of the Venetian style into something more complex. The music was illustrative of the text, with decorated lines expressing the anguish of Der Herr hat mich verlassen. There was clear antiphony between the two choirs, and instrumental interludes between the choral passages with a wide range of note values from semiquavers to breves used to illustrate the words. As a side comment, this piece allowed the bass singers to enjoy some warm low notes. We were several times on leger lines below the stave, and the final breve on a low D seemed to be free floating on the page. Very satisfying.
In the morning I wondered if the amount of music prepared would be too much to cover in one day, and indeed there was a lot; but Andrew Griffiths’ energy and enthusiasm enabled us to work hard throughout the day and at the end still be engaged with the music. No small achievement and our thanks are due to him. As they are to David Fletcher and David King who together produced the huge amount of sheet music that was needed for the day. Thanks also to those who provided the much needed refreshments.
I wrote at the beginning of this review that it was a splendid day of music making. I hope that we can persuade Andrew to lead us on another such occasion before too long.