Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Tamesis Issue 233
The Greenwich Early Music Festival is coming up again, this time from Thursday 8th to Saturday 10th November. You may know that the committee discussed the pros and cons of having a stand again, at least partly because of the shortage of help from members last year. We decided that it was worth having a public face at this event but it’s really essential to have more volunteers to look after the stand. I’ve spent some time typing in all the concerts and masterclasses in the Concerts list at the back so that you can see when you’ll be free to help. Please send offers to me at secretary @ tvemf.org. I probably won’t be able to issue the final timetable until shortly before the event, so please keep any time you’ve offered free, or let me know if it becomes unavailable.
On Saturday 27th October I’m organising a baroque day in Burnham. This is my second one this year because I had to take over the spring day when the Oxford venue became unavailable. So that I don’t have to do it again next year, I’m very keen to find a new venue preferably in or near Oxford because Peter Collier feels that Burnham is too far south! What’s needed is a set of about ten classrooms preferably quite near each other, and at a reasonable rate. Please let me know if you have any ideas. The booking form looks very detailed as usual, but I haven’t changed anything except the date so you don’t need to wade through it if you’re a regular attender. New people are always welcome, and don’t hesitate to email me if you’d like more information.
Thanks to our contributors this time. Particular thanks to Brian O’Hagan who has reviewed two of our recent workshops. My spell-checker always gets a bit excited by Brian’s wide range of vocabulary, but this time his deliberate grocer’s apostrophes sent it into a frenzy. You’ll see why they’re there when you read it, and I hope I haven’t edited out any of his other embellishments by mistake. It’s good to have a summer school review too - more please!
I was very sad to hear of the death of Frances Whitfield who was a member for many years and a frequent participant at our events. She often came to my Renaissance days to play viol or recorder and will be much missed.
Once again I went to both the Beauchamp and Chalemie summer schools, and very different they were. At Beauchamp I camped, and fortunately the weather was surprisingly good considering the previous weeks, providing almost constant sunshine. It was Alan Lumsden's last course as a tutor which made it rather poignant, but I understand that his place will be taken by the excellent David Hatcher next year, alongside the redoubtable Philip Thorby. Lots of Gabrieli, as expected, including the lovely Dulcis Jesu with two tenor soloists and a couple of lovely cornett parts. Unfortunately I got to play in the Heavenly Choir that only comes in right at the end, but I've had worse birthday presents - for example last year when I got a part with, I think, 230 bars of rests before coming in.
The Chalemie course has a number of strands, including baroque dance, costume- making and commedia dell'arte as well as vocal and instrumental groups. It's nice to see some of the other disciplines and to join in the early morning warm-ups with the inimitable Barry Grantham and his wife Joan who plays appropriate music with great style. I am not noted for my ease of movement on the dance floor but it was fun to try, though I know I will never be much good. I was very impressed by the ease and grace of movement of one lady who I subsequently discovered danced with the Bolshoi for many years!
For me the musical side of Chalemie was less satisfactory than last year as although Tim Bailey is a lovely chap and an excellent musician, he plays reeds rather than brass and as a result there was a blast (I think that's the right collective noun) of shawms this year. Now I am not against shawms (my spell-chequer offers 'shams' which I was tempted to accept) in their proper place, which is outside, or at least in a large space. Indeed I used to play the instrument, and the best round of applause I ever got was when performing at a school, when a cat strolled on to the platform. I gave it a fairly modest blast and it shot off as fast as I've ever seen a cat move. I digress. It turns out that because of building work there was something of a shortage of suitable rooms but in consequence the cornetts and sackbuts played with up to five shawms for several sessions. Not my idea of a good time I'm afraid. Still I managed some crumhorn sessions and several with recorders. There was one group with two and one with three cornetts and a sackbut, challenging even my large repertoire of music to provide suitable music, but quite rewarding. The advent of extra trumpet players at the end of the course made the arrangements even more complicated but it's good to see Katie Hodges promoting the art of natural trumpet playing in true renaissance style without finger holes to help the tuning.
TVEMF play month count
Hugh Rosenbaum has suggested we should emulate the RSPB's bird count and have a music count. He writes:
"Pick a month, say, October. Appoint someone as the collector, say me. Notify all members to post every get-together they played or sang in during the appointed month to the collector. These are the private affairs, for their own enjoyment, not for an audience, or the kind of thing that is announced in the Tamesis. Basic info: Instruments or voices, number participating, kinds of pieces played (not the whole list), and one name of the organiser, contact person, or poster. Not all the names of participants. Nothing wrong with the same person posting several in the same month, if they played, sang in several. In the following month's Tamesis, a report from the collector.
6 months later, or a year later, another count, with observations, like the bird counters, of changes and developments. The collector person could be rotated around, too. At a minimum you would find out things of interest to the membership."
Well I'm happy to participate, so let's designate October, as suggested, and nominate Hugh to correlate the results. His address is 127 Fortis Green Road, London N10 3LX and email hugh4 ‘ blueyonder.co.uk. Incidentally Hugh previously suggested a TVEMF circulating CD library and I mentioned it in Tamesis some while ago. He occasionally sends me unwanted CDs of early music, some actually rather good, which I pass on after playing a few times, and I reciprocate. Both Hugh and Rowena his wife have significant birthdays this year, so maybe people would like to participate in the circulating library and send him a CD to mark the occasion.
Chalemie Summer School – Tuesday 14 to Sunday 19 August 2012
Headington School, Oxford
At the Chalemie Summer School you can play music, sing, learn Baroque dance, take part in commedia and make costumes. You choose one of these as your main subject, although you can try out other things too. Workshops in the main subject took place in the mornings, with sessions on Harlequin dance, commedia and singing in the afternoons. There was entertainment each evening consisting of dancing, lectures and concerts.
I chose for my main subject the renaissance band workshops led by Tim Bayley of the York Waits. It was great to take part in this very exciting form of music as a recorder player with sackbuts, curtals, and shawms. There was also the chance to try out different instruments, and I had a go of a sackbut, curtal and rauschpfeife. We also played in recorder ensembles, sometimes with singers, with a harp on the bass line, and some of us had two very enjoyable sessions on crumhorns. Thanks to David Fletcher for bringing music for our use.
People attending the course came from all over the world. We had informal music making sessions in the evenings. This included German songs and Japanese music, as well as anything else anyone fancied. It was really nice that people attended who weren’t doing the band workshops, notably a talented young performer, Stephanie, who sings and plays the lute.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday there were natural trumpet workshops led by Katie Hodges of the Altenburg Ensemble. You could take part as a complete beginner (as I did) or as a more advanced player. If anyone is interested in trying this out, Bill Tuck organises natural trumpet workshops in London led by Katie. Please e-mail him (bill.tuck @ thorn.demon.co.uk) if you would like to be added to his mailing list.
I asked Tim if he would do a waits workshop in the south of the country that will hopefully include an evening performance by the York Waits. He has agreed in principle although where and when is still to be determined. When I know more I will advertise through the TVEMF newsletter. I will also have a mailing list so if you would like to be added to this please e-mail me (catherinecruise @ btinternet.com).
See the following websites for further information: Chalemie – www.chalemie.co.uk York Waits – www.theyorkwaits.org.uk Altenburg Ensemble – www.altenburgensemble.com
I Can't Believe It's Not Gesualdo! (A Workshop For Voices And Viols,with Gerald Place, Saturday 19 May, 2012)
I have made the trip to St Dunstan's (Cranford)-in-the-very-far-west for an excellent voice-and-lute recital with Gerald and lutenist Dorothy Linnell, so the hour's journey to Osterley held no fears. (St Dunstan's definitely vaut le voyage - it has the oldest bell in London, a fascinating interior and a music loving rector, and is warm and dry if perhaps too small for a performance of Spem in Alium.) I was therefore particularly looking forward to unfamiliar and supposedly innovative repbbillineertoire.
Gesualdo is one of those composers who is (in)famous for non-musical reasons (namely, murdering his wife and her lover). All the history books describe his music as chromatic, dissonant and years ahead of its time, so one thinks of strangulation and Hammer films without really going to the sources. Like Benvenuto Cellini, whose rollicking Autobiography everyone knows (though not many people have actually seen his salt-cellar- rather small - or the fountain or the door - rather big - and is there a fourth work?) he is famous for being famous. There are references in Burney, and Peter Warlock (né Philip Heseltine - the pseudonym says it all!) was an enthusiast. Some 5-part madrigals were published by VEB (East Germany), there was a Novello edition by William Harris, Stravinsky re-scored "Three Madrigals" and more recently I believe Peter Syrus has attempted some completions, but by and large his music remains unperformed. (I think he was Composer of the Week some forty years ago.)
Given all the background, the Catholic Church of St Francis of Assisi was an odd choice of venue, but Gerald liked the acoustic. We warmed up with a piece of early Lassus 'Carmen Chromatico a 4'. I'm afraid I found it disappointingly short. We then sang 'O Dulcissimae Filiae Sion' (SSATB) by Trabaci. It is interesting to see how Old Testament Sibylline prophecies merge into Catholic liturgy. What have Tenebrae to do with the Destruction of the Temple in Jeremiah's time? And is it 'fair' to graft Isaiah onto The Messiah?
Biblical borrowings apart, Gerald explained the various borrowings between today's composers. Pomponio Nenna - not familiar to me - was employed in the Gesualdo household, and Gesualdo appears to have set words to melodies composed by Nenna, but this does not seem to count as plagiarism. Nenna's 'Plange Quasi Virgo' a 4 (for the Saturday of Holy Week) has some element of repetition, with structure AB(V)B, and so is slightly longer. We were therefore being treated to responsories as part of the Holy Week experience (as opposed to madrigals for domestic performance).
The singers then tackled 'Amor Che Rider' (SSATB) by Alfonso Fontanelli, fellow composer, diplomat and uxoricide. (Did he plead diplomatic immunity?) At this point I found myself drawing Venn Diagrams - Spy, Diplomat, nobleman, Duellist (Ferrabosco - see Norman Lebrecht's entertaining 'Music in London'), Murderer,... but, like Fermat, did not have enough room in the margin. After some more Nenna - 'Ecce Vidimus' - a short piece (but with long phrases) we listened to dances by Trabaci and Gesualdo performed on viols. The common definition of a gentleman - someone who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn't - is readily adapted for the viol. I much prefer the sound of plucked-string instruments. (The Baryton is a bit of both. Listen to the baryton trios of Haydn or of Tomaselli his fellow-Kapellmeister at Eszterhaza.) My favourite instrument is perhaps the valiha - Ray Man, 55 Chalk Farm Road, generally has some in stock.
A non-liturgical work "L'Amoroso Veleno' (SSATB) by Nenna had me baffled - it means Love's Venom. (I had made a silent guess that it meant The Amorous Whale.) In the first three bars all voices have chromatic scales. Falling intervals conventionally signify grief. (Certain ornaments can also convey emotion - Gerald told us about his devout Welsh voice-coach - 6th or 7th in succession to Handel's original tenor in 'The Messiah' who exclaimed in horror at Gerald's interpretation "You can't put an appoggiatura on the name of the Deity!") Now some more (self) borrowing - 'Love's Venom' ends with the tag 'Vita della Mia Vita', which Nenna quotes in other works.
We finally came to Gesualdo proper, with 'Cor Mio D and eh, Non Piangete' a 5. Falling 5th's and 6th's (and in the case of the Soprano, 7th's) paint Weeping. Crotchets mean moving on - music cannot stay still (or on a uniform dynamic) or it dies. The structure is fairly homophonic. Note that conducting the Maestoso section slowly makes more work for the conductor. Two more pieces 'Adoramus Te' (SSATTB) And 'Ecce Quomodo' a 6 may have shown his depth of religious feeling, but failed to convince me of his importance.
Biber Brussels Mass with Philip Thorby 12th May 2012
Salzburg has had its share of eccentric archbishops - Colloredo (kicked Mozart downstairs), Marcus Sitticus (built palace at Hellbrunn and subjected his dinner guests to cruel and unusual punishments, imprisoned his cousin Wolf Dietrich,...) Wolf Dietrich in turn became archbishop, built elaborate hunting lodges for his mistress (and a magnificent imposing mausoleum for himself just off the Linzer Gasse). I used to believe Paris Lodron was a street named after the wagon-lits on the Trans-Europe Express until I read a book review in Clifford's "Early Music Review" (definitely vaut l'abonnement!) about Polychorality in Salzburg under his Archbishopric, whereupon I remembered that he had commissioned Biber's (it's not Benevoli!) Missa Salisburgensis a 53. As Salzburg, next to Montepulciano, is one of my favourite places, I was looking forward to my fifth (and Renate's third) Waltham Abbey experience.
Stylistically Biber is on the Baroque/Phantasticus cusp and like Schmeltzer in The Fencing School (or Moncayo in Huapango) is a master of special - and spatial - effects - (Choir1 vs Choir 2, or Drunken Musketeer versus just about everyone else, or, in the Rosary Sonatas for solo violin, elaborate and differing scordatura for each section). Also I love his Nightwatchman's Serenade, where the cellist walks off in the last movement singing a blessing and prayer for peace. Selene organised a performance of a Requiem in F some years ago and yet another Requiem, with no gimmicks, has a deep personal meaning for me.
Today's Missa Bruxellensis was composed for the inauguration of the Knights of St Rupert, a newly formed order of chivalry, which might explain the plethora of trumpets/trombones. (There were 8 in Salzburg, spatially separated. EEMF had four but grouped together so as to enable the players to chat loudly among themselves when not actually playing.) Biber's better known Missa Salisburgensis a 53 uses twelve trumpets. In discussions with the late Michael Proctor (about Benevoli ), Michael suggested that we approach the French cavalry who, whenever a cupola is provided, are delighted to space themselves around it. In the introduction (readily available on the Internet) to the 2004 RAH Proms performance of the Brussels Mass, James Clements tell's of the discovery of the Brussel's m's. A nineteenth century Salzburg choirmaster doing his weekly shopping - (for Brussel's Sprout's perhaps?) - noticed that the greengrocer was using music m's' to wrap the vegetables. Realising the importance of the music he rescued it - appropriately the m's is now in the Belgian Royal Library in Brussel's - hence the title.
(Incidentally the June EMR has an interesting review of a new book "The Trumpet", co-authored by John Wallace. EMR is worth the subscription just for the footnotes alone - I'm already following them up.)
With the entire day devoted to one work Philip remarked that there was "plenty of scope for improvement." As usual we practised spotting hemiolas (the first seems to occur at bars 45-46.) As Philip had imparted detailed advice on Rhetoric at previous workshops he hoped that regulars had retained at least some ideas. His advice on singing was always practical. (1) Rather than saying 'SILENCE means "This is where I start to sing", adopt the active approach - when you stop, it is to introduce someone else. (2) and rather than "gasp - close mouth, hold breath, wait for your turn", why not form the shape of the vowel with mouth/tongue, breathe IN quietly, then sing? (This advice was echoed in other workshops that I've been to recently.) (3) Strings move to occupy space. (4) Notes are not over-dotted. (5) Detailed advice on voiced consonants - voicing ends on LHS of the bar-line, so the organ enters homorganically, as it were. (6) Think about meaning - when you sing 'Christe, Christe..', yearn for the second coming of THE WORD, hence intensification of the second Christe. Also, Christe, Christe ...is one long note, not just a phrase.(7) Paradoxically each individual line is stronger than the TUTTI line. In this style of music everything has dramatic shape built into it.
More Rhetoric - The Everest Principle - "Why are you singing those four crotchets?" ("Because they are there!" is not enough.) YOU don't have to believe - You have to make ME believe. Each quaver has to have support. (I was multitasking at this point, trying to capture Philip's aperçus - at least I was familiar with the words of the Mass.) (111) contradicts the Blackadder school of snarled Kyries, (although outside the Lucca della Robbia figures in the Cantoria in Florence, Renaissance singers don't seem to be enjoying themselves much, going by the traditional iconography). The melodic line is now subsumed to a (?) Phrygian cadence until we come to (131) - move into this section darkly, then come out of it brightly. There's a minor hemiola at 141 and a misprint in the underlay at 162. Aficionados of Spinal Tap will note the significance of bar 26 where the number of voices in the choir goes up to eleven.
We now enjoyed a masterclass in conducting, with hand-signs for ON ; for 'vowel ends', (vs 'sing syllabic -n'); vs come totally OFF, and much else. Perhaps the most memorable line of the day was 'I care not a fig about your need for respiration, the needs of the music are paramount!'
Note there must be silence at the end of bar 4, thus Kyrie (Break) Kyrie Eleison, and not Kyrie Kyrie (Break) Eleison. Note tempo giusto for the Gloria, make 'Pax' a terminus ad quem, and, (remembering Rhetoric 101) sing 'Pax Pax Pax HOMINIBUS'. At this point we had a well-urned tea-break (thanks, Ellen!) The next section "From the Home Counties to the Antipodes - and back again" was more Kylie than Kyrie, with Philip concentrating on remedial vowel production after a particularly vicious snarled 'Adoramus'. With our vowels back in place as per Sir Donald Wolfit we were enjoined to 'communicate with a person standing behind a pillar', with each statement being less LOUD but sung with greater intensity - "not a small sound, but a big sound far away. There were venomous glances and accusing looks as singers tripped over tempi in the Adagio. (One possible solution - look at Philip!) Qui Sedes was taken as an Allegro - with no hemiolas as far as I could tell. Mome tips - in no particular order - Practise the Donald Wolfit school of vocal production then sing Sanctus. Remember that you create a silence (277) in order for someone else to fill it. Use (interphrasal) BREATH to create breathless excitement. Cum Sancto Spiritu is joyful - shades of Puccini and Verdi. The Affekt of legato Phrases (cf "Erbarme Dich..." in the St John Passion) emerges clearly in p26 bar155. On p55 note the ruthless dominant minor 9th (deprecatioNEM).
In music of this period the number of instrumental parts is normally one more than that of vocal parts, so the top instrumental part can be an obbligato while the other instruments double vocal parts. Maintain the integrity of a vowel a) over a melisma and b) over a phrase (consubstantiaAlem pAtri). Bring out the word-painting in the tortured chromatic CRUCIFIXUS. Beware the danger of a late vocal entry after a crotchet rest- PLENI...(rest)... To maintain a line don't think solely of punctuation and breathing - sing the phrase across boundaries (Consubstantialem QUI PROPTER NOS...) After Philip's emphasis on the DRAMA of the work I found myself interpreting S-R (Solo-Ripieno) as (anticipatory) Silence - then (my) REACTION.
Perhaps we had been spoiled by Philip's broad expansive gestures in the Sanctus, but when the choir stood for the final performance, the brass complained that they could not see the conductor! (If we had invited French cavalrymen, on horseback naturally, there would have been no problem.) As it was, the brass' petulant whinging did not spoil a wonderful workshop. My thanks to Ellen (often overlooked) for the tea, to Clifford and the local lad - sorry, I didn't catch his name, on keyboards, and of course to Philip.
Brian obviously didn’t notice that TVEMF organised the joint workshop this year, and the “local lad” was Stephen Bullamore, Director of Music at Waltham Abbey, who kindly allows us to hold our workshops there.
News of Members’ Activities
It’s not very early music, but I’m sure you’ll be interested to know that TVEMF member Jim Wills will be performing lieder by Robert Schumann (including the full Dichterliebe cycle) with pianist Celia Vince in the lunchtime concert series at St Martin-within-Ludgate (Ludgate Hill, EC4M 7DE) at 1.05pm on Monday November 5th. Free admission - donations in appreciation gratefully received towards church running costs. The church’s web site is www.stmartin-within-ludgate.org.uk.