Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 273
There is just time to book for our June event, so I’ve included the form on the back page in case you missed it. I’ve met one or two singers who didn’t realise the day is for them, but in fact singers aren’t just welcome, they are essential! Some of us went to a most enjoyable Renaissance Singers workshop with Gareth Wilson earlier this year and it was after that we decided to book him for TVEMF.
I’ve been to several early music events since the last Tamesis editorial. I’ve written a separate review of the first of these, the Chalemie “summer” school in Headington. I had a very good day Peter Collier’s baroque chamber music day in Burnham on 28th April, playing with old friends and meeting new ones, and I even discovered two Telemann trio sonatas I hadn’t played before. It was lovely to go to a baroque day I hadn’t planned myself, but there should be one of those in November as usual.
This month’s event, David Allinson’s singing workshop on music about music, was most enjoyable and I’m pleased to say that enough tenors appeared in the end. I do wish tenors would book sooner to avoid giving course organisers so much anxiety. You’ll find Frances Thompson’s review of it on page 6. I gave her so little time to produce it that it’s almost in note form but it shows that you can write a good review that isn’t an academic essay. Someone else promised a review too (I didn’t see who), so that will appear in July.
The rest of the year is filling up well with workshops. On Saturday 6th July we have another visit from Peter Syrus with what looks like a great programme of music by Lechner and Lassus. I hope I’ll manage to get to it. Then in August we have something rather different, a workshop with Eduardo Sohns, a lecturer in early music from Argentina. It will be for singers and quieter instruments (viols, recorders etc). Details will be on the form in the July Tamesis, but meanwhile please save the date. We’re still looking for a venue so suggestions will be welcome, preferably with easy access from Greenwich – perhaps a small school in central London. In September there will be a workshop for singers and continuo with a new (to us) tutor, Joe Crouch.
Eastern Early Music Forum are providing this year’s joint event in Thaxted. I’m told they have been preparing it for the last year! Do put the date, 11th-13th October, in your diary. The invited solo singers plus continuo will be needed on Friday late afternoon and evening, but ripieno singers and other instrumentalists arrive on the Saturday. Biber’s Missa Salisburgensis is in 53 parts so a lot of singers and instrumentalists will be needed. The course director is Patrick Craig and booking forms with more details will appear on the TVEMF and EEMF websites during June.
It's surprisingly often that I come across a fine piece by a composer I have never heard of. I have some excellent music by people with names ranging from Achinger and Buel via Rota and Scarabello to Vaet and Zangius. When you see that Peter Syrus is to run a workshop featuring Leonard Lechner alongside Lassus you should not assume that only the latter will be worth performing – come and sample some rarer fare.
Another case is that of Marc'Antonio Ingegnieri whose music we shall be studying in June under Gareth Wilson. To be fair, I do have some pieces by Ingegnieri, thanks to the excellent unbarred editions of the late Patsy Moore, and very good they are, but not well-known.
I feel that an important function of a an Early Music Forum is to bring music to people's notice that they might otherwise never encounter. Do come and try these composers – you will not regret it. As usual, tenors will be especially welcome!
Musical celebration/memorial for Patsy Moore
This was mentioned in the March Tamesis but I’ve discovered that I was given the wrong email address. The correct one is mooremusic.org.uk. The site has been updated to say that the date may be Sunday 14th July, but this isn’t definite yet so keep looking.
3rd August 1927 – 5th April 2019
A founder member of TVEMF, Don was on the committee for many years and dealt with such matters as our registering as a charity and handled the subsequent paperwork with the Charity Commissioners until relatively recently. From about 1992 Don did a huge amount of work on the NEMA Early Music Yearbook, updating the database from the many paper forms coming in each year.
I met Don in 1969 when he was part of a small recorder group meeting in Wokingham. At that time he was a keen bassoonist, playing in a local amateur orchestra but soon took up the curtal. Don was a fine craftsman and, after numerous Easter instrument-making courses at West Dean College under the tuition of Eric Moulder and others, he became tutor for the portative organ course. He also did work for Eric fabricating curtal keys and made around fifty lovely cherrywood music stands.
Until travelling became difficult, Don was a regular at TVEMF workshops and at the South Hill Park Early Music class, as well as my Wokingham early wind group and the original recorder group that continues to this day. He played beautiful instruments of his own making: curtals, crumhorns, shawms and recorders. I must have spent thousands of hours playing music with Don and will miss him greatly.
Handel’s Coronation Anthems in Oxford.
After all our worries about Sunday parking and getting big instruments to Keble College in Oxford, March 17th turned out to be a really good day. The Porter was most helpful in letting me in via the back gate to deliver my double bass to the chapel. I then parked for free in Bradmore Road.
Designed by the architect William Butterfield, the building of Keble College was started in 1868. In a city where stone buildings predominate, introducing a new college in multi-coloured bricks was shocking, particularly in the Chapel! Unfortunately on a dull day and with the subdued lighting, it was hard for us to appreciate how controversial it must have been at the time. At one side there’s also a small side chapel which houses the first of the three “Light of the World“ paintings by William Holman Hunt.
As to the music, Handel’s Coronation Anthems, we had a splendid day playing through them all. Such great pieces. In the orchestra we could have done with more strength in the upper parts, but it was great to have three excellent natural trumpets and some baroque timps. I think the choir had a good time too.
We were conducted by Benjamin Nicholas who is Music Director of Merton College and conductor of the Oxford Bach Choir. As often happens we had parts and score with different numbering but he overcame this hurdle admirably.
We had our refreshments in a very modern building a short walk from the chapel, with lots of glass doors.
Thank you to Victoria for all the organisation, her husband Alan for his help with everything, particularly the extra lighting, Jenny for bringing the music, and Keble College for giving us the use of their chapel. Keble Chapel is a lovely venue with good acoustics. Watch out for the another TVEMF day there next year.
Music the Divine Gift
Sixty keen singers gathered on Saturday 18th May in St John’s United Reformed Church, Northwood, for a day with David Allinson, ‘A Day of Renaissance Music about Music’.
The day started with David’s classic body warm up......I think we woke up every area of the body. Also some very unpleasant sounds and the dreaded forward and backwards alphabet, I suppose one day we might get further than G! So we were well prepared to start singing.
Laudent Deum. Definitely almost a practice piece but got us into the mode. David’s aside quote ‘perhaps the commission should have been adjusted’.
Super Flumina Babylonis by Palestrina. A beautiful piece, music stopping for sheer sorrow, full of repetitive lines which work so well in music but as it was pointed out to us, is really boring in speech. Some interesting tips about singing the word super, wetness in the s.........spit in the sound. David was insistent that music is for the moment, our own interpretation of Palestrina’s notes because of course, we have really no idea how he would have liked it to sound. I think it was at this point we stood in the
round mixed up to sing this piece. Interesting that we stay so much better in tune on these occasions. Shows it’s all about listening........
Of Joys and Pleasing Pains by Wilbye. A Madrigal and definitely a singers’ piece, the recycled emotion (make what you will of that comment!). It’s sad that some musicians regard madrigals as trivial when they give so much pleasure to so many singers. We sang it pretty well with our backs to the conductor and then immediately sight read through the second part My Throat is Sore. We didn’t make too awful a rendition of it.
Lunch, and then another brief warm up before the dreaded graveyard shift. And to my horror, David tried to make us do the alphabet backwards.......definitely got to practise that before I next meet him.
Musica Dei Donum Optimi by Lassus. This was composed towards the end of his life when he was suffering from depression. The words are anonymous and there are many settings of them. It’s slow, like being under a duvet and Lassus takes a while to ‘let you in.’ David made amusing suggestions to the tenors and basses about singing the word Musica........like an angular cow or hoovering cows! He also mentioned something about a dyslexic bar, and an ill-defined centre around the keys. I was still thinking about the hoovering cows so missed the context of those. Sorry!
Cantate Domino by Monteverdi. Herewith some of our esteemed conductor’s comments on this piece. Like ostrich feathers, in and out in pairs. Slather them in olive oil. Be like a dog fetching a stick (tenors). Pour yourself through like Z(spelling?) possibly on a pogo stick. The unpicking of a higher archetypal level compared to the counter cultural 1960s anti romantic.
This was possible the piece that many of us had sung before.
Laudibus in Sanctis by Byrd. This demonstrates the absolute genius of Byrd. The beautiful poetic mix and the sounds of clashing instruments.
What a wonderful day, in great company, so well organised, some of the greatest music and of course the usual delicious biscuits and cake. Not forgetting the great, delightful conductor! Many thanks TVEMF for all your hard work in providing us with such enjoyable workshops.
The Chalemie Summer School at Easter
Just before Easter I went to the Chalemie “summer” school. I’ve been going for several years and it’s always most enjoyable, with something for everyone (except choral singers). There are classes for historical dancers, costume makers, solo singers, early instrumentalists and commedia dell’ arte. You have a main study (I did instrumental and played my bass curtal and recorders) but then there are lots of extras at different times of day. Everybody can start after breakfast with an optional warm-up class with the famous Barry Grantham, the commedia and mime tutor. In the afternoon there are open sessions such as historical dancing for all with Barbara Segal and commedia for all with Barry. There are madrigals for everyone after tea, but I didn’t find time to do that because there were so many other opportunities. I had a lesson on baroque timpani and played with the natural trumpet class, and a hurdy-gurdy session with Matthew Spring. Headington School where the course is held is on the bus route into central Oxford, but there’s not much time take advantage of that either.
And the food! That deserves a review all of its own. It’s really good, with plenty of choice so vegetarians don’t need to feel like an afterthought. There is a proper cooked breakfast, hot food and salad for lunch, cake at tea time, puddings… In the evening on two days you can work off the calories with dancing, and there are two concerts – a formal one on the last evening to show off what you’ve been during the week, and a less formal one the evening before where you can do your party piece. Altogether it’s a most enjoyable (short) week and I’m glad to know that Bill Tuck and Barbara Segal are planning to hold it again next year.
Have you met Historical Dance?
I wonder how many TVEMF members haveheard of the Early Dance Circle and early, or historical, dance. You may have seen us at historic properties, costumed as Burgundians, laced up as Elizabethans or elegantly swanning the baroque. For enthusiastic amateur or dedicated professional, what fun! If you’re
interested in playing for or even dancing historical dance you should look at the EDC website to see what it offers.
I’ve been a member of the EDC for 20 years and Secretary for 10. They re-create the dances of court & country house, tavern & theatre from across Europe. My dance group meets regularly and tries to give our technique as much care as our costumes. I had no dance experience and found a world of physical challenge, musical delight, historical interest and, what’s more, high fashion and good food. Because much early dance is social, it can suit people of all ages. It’s wonderful fun, weaving in and out of complex patterns or enjoying the dramatic game-play in so many early dances. Live music is in high demand and adds further excitement to a performance. Players and dancers both learn from trying to recover a lost art form by careful study of sources – musical, textual and visual.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR EARLY MUSICIANS? The Early Dance Circle website www.earlydancecircle.co.uk has much to offer and you can use it even if you’re not a member. You can see on the Calendar what’s going on and attend events, such as recent study days with the Lute Society and the Taborers’ Society. You could
suggest others. The EDC can help you to locate dancers to work with, whatever period of early music you play, because the Classes & Teachers or Groups and Societies pages on the website are searchable by location. If you create dance music, you might want to apply for one of the EDC grants. Finally, you can advertise your events to historical dancers on the Early Dance Calendar at secretary @ earlydancecircle.co.uk.
Do have a look at the website and link up with some early dancers.
The Serenissima Font
The Early Music Sources website has an amazing new font, Serenissima, made by Elam Rotem to emulate, both visually and conceptually, movable type, the most common way music was printed in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The font works on standard word processors; no special music program is needed. You can download it free on their website www.earlymusicsources.com/more/font-serenissima. You can also watch a video introduction on YouTube: https://youtu.be/HH1oUc4E1CA
Like any music printing programme, it must take time to get used to using it, but the result is remarkable. Feedback and suggestions are welcome and updates and improvements for the font may be released in the future. There is a Facebook page too. The programme is only one of many useful resources provided by www.earlymusicsources.com which has a huge database of sources and iconography with links.
Summer School Vacancies
Because of cancellations, the Beauchamp Early Music course still has a few non-residential vacancies. When I last heard there was one room left in the nearby hotel and there are plenty of local b&bs and Airbnbs. They really need tenors and basses, but it’s worth applying for any instrument or voice in case they can fit you in.
The other summer school I go to is the Baroque Week in Caversham near Reading. The course was full but, again due to cancellations, they now have two vacancies:
1. For a bass solo singer
2. Another vacancy (or possibly two people if sharing a twin bedroom) for a tenor singer or for string or keyboard players.
A full or part bursary may be available for a musician who could not otherwise afford to attend. www.baroque-week.org.uk for more information.
Beauchamp Early Music course
4th-10th August 2019
‘GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO’
Director: Philip Thorby
Tutor: David Hatcher
Guest Tutors: Theresa Caudle, Adrian France & Richard Thomas
There are a few remaining places on this course for singers and players of Renaissance instruments. The venue is Glenfall House, a luxurious Regency villa on the outskirts of Cheltenham. There are 4 tutor-led sessions each full day and all meals are provided.
“A great week, excellent company, superb tuition, wonderful music.”
For more information, please contact Anne on 01989 218432, email
earlymusic @ gamusic.co.uk or visit the website www.gamusic.co.uk.
News of Members’ Activities
Our President, Jeremy Montagu has a new book out on shawms, “Shawms Around the World”. You can find it on his website jeremymontagu.co.uk, as a free download, available as pdf and in Kindle and epub formats. Click on “books” then “e-books for free download”. It covers the history of the shawm from antiquity and is illustrated with photos of 69 shawms from his collection as well as historical ones, details of reeds etc. There are also two new articles among the downloads, one on the problems of reconstructing ancient Greek music.
TVEMF member Annabel Malton sings soprano in a number of small choirs and plays the viol. She particularly enjoys both singing and playing one-a-part. She also actively promotes performance of early music through her charity Angel Early Music which has a concert coming up in June at Great Waltham Church in Essex. Chelys Consort of Viols will be playing music by Purcell and Jenkins in this lovely venue. The following month you can catch Annabel in action, singing at a performance in the same venue of Monteverdi madrigals and sacred music. This is the culmination of 4 days of intensive study tutored by Philip Thorby for voices, violins and continuo. The performers, mostly EMF members, come together from all over the country once a year to rehearse and perform. Details are in the concert list.