Thames Valley Early Music Forum
Once more in Ealing…
Four-square and uncompromising, St Andrew’s United Reformed Church stands out as a focal point among the Victorian villas of the respectable city gentlemen of that time, exemplified by Jerome K. Jerome’s comic creation, Uncle Podger, who caught the 9.13 from Ealing Common to Moorgate Street, two hundred and fifty days a year. Uncle Podger, who made his first appearance in 1889, when Three Men in a Boat was published (though his daily routine was not revealed until Three Men on the Bummel appeared in 1900), probably would not have worshipped at St Andrew’s, since it was built during the ministry of the Reverend Joseph Brown Logie, M.A., which extended over the period 1908-37. Inside, the church is well-appointed and spacious, and provided a most acceptable venue for Alistair Dixon’s second TVEMF workshop of 2009, the first having taken place at the Quaker Meeting House only a short distance away. A large and enthusiastic group gathered together on 31st October to perform music for All Saints. Although the text of Gaudeamus Omnes makes its intended use for All Saints perfectly clear, the programme reflected the fact that relatively little music of the period was composed for use on that occasion. By way of illustration, the index to the sixteen Chester Books of Motets, which contain in total 166 compositions, lists only Justorum Animae (Byrd, Lassus), Audivi (Taverner) and O Quam Gloriosum (Vaet) as being for use on All Saints. We began with the relatively undemanding Tu es Petrus (SATB), by Jacobus Clemens non Papa. Prolific though Clemens was (according to the New Grove he composed fifteen masses, two Magnificat cycles and about 233 motets) little of his sacred music appears to have found its way into the current Early Music repertoire. Of his secular music, the same source tells us that love-songs and drinking-songs occupy an important place in his output. Perhaps in these times of almost unrelieved gloom we should devote a little more attention to him. Byrd’s Gaudeamus Omnes (SSATB) came next. This magnificent work was one of the pieces mentioned in the advance leaflet and was particularly demanding for the tenors, being liberally sprinkled with As and including the occasional B flat. We attempted only the first part, which was a pity, since as we finished half an hour earlier than usual, time could perhaps have been found for the verse and the Gloria. Palestrina did, as one sees from Alec Harman’s collection, compose at least one motet (Salvator Mundi) for All Saints, but Alistair’s choice of Palestrina was the dramatic Elegerunt Apostoli, an offertory motet In festo Sancti Stephani protomatyris; Stephen’s martyrdom is dated to ca AD 35. During the morning session there was the usual debate about ficta without which no early music workshop appears to be complete, and one wonders whether Alistair’s references to “diabolic intervals” referred exclusively to the anathematised conjunction of F and B natural or, additionally, to some of the less than harmonious sounds that we occasionally produced. This may have been due to difficulty in the parts hearing each other in the pre-lunch session because we were too dispersed, since in the afternoon, when we moved closer together, the improvement was apparent. The afternoon session began with a matins respond, Tallis’ Audivi vocem (SATB with two plainchant sections), thought by Alistair to be one of his earlier works. The New Grove tells us that Taverner set Audivi and also the other ceremonial matins respond, Hodie nobis caelorum Rex and that these were later set by both Sheppard and Tallis, but as most of Taverner’s choral work is thought to have been composed in the period 1520-30 when - again according to New Grove - “English church music still showed little inclination to depart from its well-established mediaeval practices” (which are quite discernible in the Taverner Audivi) it is entirely possible that Tallis was still quite young when he composed Audivi vocem . We then moved on to Victoria’s Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater (SATB x 2) which is apparently assigned to that part of the year between the Vespers of the first Sunday in Advent and Compline on the 2nd of February. John IV of Portugal (whom members will no doubt recall as the composer of the well-known Crux Fidelis) was an admirer of Victoria’s music, of which he observed that it leant towards the joyful rather than the sad, and certainly that is true of Alma Redemptoris Mater, on which Victoria also based a parody mass. The verses are commonly attributed to one Hermann Contractus (“Hermann the Cripple”), who died in 1054, and it was obviously a popular text, since the “litel clergeon” (schoolboy or choirboy) of the Prioress’ Tale was so enraptured by it that he resolved to learn it off by heart; and when he had done so, “he song it well and boldely Fro word to word acordynge to the note” - a standard which we made a fair attempt to reach. The last item was Byrd’s O Quam Gloriosum (SSATB), which provided a rousing finale before tea, but again, it would have been more satisfactory had we performed the second part. Having been stayed with tea and comforted with cake, we returned for a final sing through, in which we revisited Audivi vocem, Tu es Petrus, Elegerunt Apostoli and Alma Redemptoris Mater. It is your reviewer’s perception (though some may think otherwise) that that was our best singing of the day, and Alistair seemed to be well satisfied with our concluding efforts. As always, we are greatly indebted to him for a varied and interesting programme. We are also very grateful to the minister, the Reverend Dr Tony Haws, for allowing us (as is apparently unusual) to use the church itself, rather than the hall, for the workshop, and it is certainly a venue to which, judging from members’ comments, we would be very happy to return in due course. Warmest thanks are also due to Michael Reynor for organising the event, and Mary Reynor and Jenny Robinson for providing yet another selection of admirable cakes.
© Sidney Ross 2017