Tamesis Issue 202
There isn’t much spare space this month, so I’ll keep this very short and just say thank you very much to our contributors this month, particularly to Sidney Ross who provided not only a review of the Kilburn weekend at very short notice but also a fascinating quiz on music and mathematics. I’m looking forward to having a go at it when I’ve finished this edition of Tamesis. If you’re planning to go to the course on baroque music and dance on 21st June, please could you send in your booking as soon as possible so that the tutors can have some idea of the numbers expected. It should be a really enjoyable and informative day. I keep receiving news of interesting-looking summer schools, including some in Europe. Let’s have some reviews of last year’s courses, so that we can see whether they are really as good as they appear to be.
I was very sad to hear of the unexpected death of Judy Bailey who had been a regular at our events for many years - an obituary appears in this month's Early Music Review. The annual event in Waltham Abbey was its usual success with about 80 participants coming to enjoy Philip Thorby's unique directing style. We are running out of very large-scale pieces, having on previous occasions done Spem in Alium and Ecce Beatam Lucem, both in 40 parts and The Gabrieli 33-part Magnificat. However the 16- part Sion Spricht by Schütz was just as dramatic if not more so. For me it also provided further confirmation of the relationship between tessitura and date, being rather late for a piece scored for cornetts and sackbuts, with correspondingly demanding parts. Still it was well worth the sore lips! I gather that the Mass in St Augustine's under the direction of Michael Procter was very well received by the congregation and enjoyed by those taking part. Neil Edington, who once again organised it, unfortunately lost his voice and had to drop out on the Sunday but I trust he is now fit and well again. I felt a bit guilty at not going to the St Augustine's event but the attraction of a weekend at Wedgwood College doing Venetian music with Peter Syrus was too hard to resist. The early 15th century featured composers such as Ciconia, Romanus and Christoforus de Monte who were all unknown to me. Those of us more used to 16th century music found it quite hard to get to grips with the earlier style but some success was achieved. Once we moved to more familiar musical territory we made quicker progress and the course culminated with two very different settings of O Jesu mi Dulcissime by Giovanni Gabrieli. The 1615 version had florid ornamentation and more adventurous harmonies than the 1597 setting but we enjoyed them both very much. Peter had, as always, provided copious background information and the College looked after us admirably. If you should go on one of these courses, then a trip to the museum in Stoke is highly recommended if you have even the slightest interest in ceramics. It has been quite a while since we last held an event for dancers so the Baroque music and dance workshop on the 21st June is not to be missed if you would like to try your hand at minuets, gavottes and all those other dances whose names feature in the baroque dance suites that many of us play. However if you just want to play you will also be most welcome.
Music and mathematics
The two are often said to go together, so here is a quiz embodying both elements. Questions 1-9 are all music-based, and each of the answers is a number. The nine numbers, when arranged in increasing order, are nine consecutive members of a mathematical series, starting with the third number in the series. Question 10 asks you to find another number in the series. Questions 11-19 are cryptic clues and each of the answers has a musical connection. The initial letters of the answers, when rearranged, spell out the name of the discoverer of the series, which is the answer to Question 20.
Qs 1-9 are not arranged so as to give the answers in the order in which the numbers occur in the series. The answers to Qs 3, 6 and 9 are even numbers; the rest are odd.
Qs 11-19 are arranged so that the initial letters of the answers are in alphabetical order. Two of the initial letters occur twice.
1. Beats in a Mars bar
2. Children of Bach’s marriage to Anna Magdalena
3. Songs for a mad king
4. Strings has a tromba marina
5. Coins in the fountain
6. Sirens were blest
7. Gifts did the singer’s true love send on the tenth day of Christmas?
8. What is the square root of A, to the nearest whole number?
9. Take the Fountains of Rome away from Prague
10. The second number in the series is the same as the third. What is the first number?
11. Shopping complex contiguous with London Transport (8)
12. Square composer (8)
13. Floral lutenist (8)
14. Non-musical muse’s wind instrument (8)
15. Distant angry shout (7)
16. Rescued from the Tiber, terribly wet (5)
17. She performs for Milan, in the interval (10)
18. Repeatedly rejected composer (4)
19. Exclamation elicited by The Threepenny Opera (7)
20. What name is spelt out by the initial letters of answers 11-19?
There will be a prize of a year’s subscription to TVEMF for a completely correct answer to the quiz (first one to arrive if there is more than one). If nobody finishes it, there will be a prize of a free quarter-page advertisement (transferable) for the most nearly correct answer. Answers and explanations will appear in the next edition, so the closing date is the first Monday of July. Answers preferably by email (ask for acknowledgement) to tamesis @ tvemf.org or post to Amersham address (see front cover).
On Saturday 18th May at 10 o’clock around 80 or so singers plus a small orchestra gathered at Waltham Abbey for a day’s music-making under the expert direction of Philip Thorby.
For me, it was two ‘firsts’: I hadn’t been to Waltham Abbey before and it was my first experience with the Early Music Forum. On both counts, I was not disappointed.
Regular members of the Forum were clearly delighted to see each other as they enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee on arrival. Soon though it was time to get on with the business of the day as we made our way to the chancel where chairs had been arranged to swell the seating provided by the choir stalls.
With the voices and scores sorted out, the first work we were to practise was Zion Spricht by Schütz. Schütz published this work when he was living in Dresden in 1619: a time when Dresden was home to some of the best musicians in Europe. This work demands two SATB choirs and two semi-choruses plus orchestra. With everything in place Waltham Abbey was soon lending its generous acoustic to this marvellous music. Zion Spricht is one of the Psalms of David and as well as the musical challenge, the German text, all-important to Schütz, required some oral flexibility.
Next up was another Schütz work published at the same time as Zion Spricht and another psalm: Alleluja, Lobet den Herren: again a wonderfully uplifting piece of music with fabulous words to enjoy.
After a break for lunch, not totally liquid, we moved on to Praetorius though there was a feeling that Jakob Handl might have composed the work instead! I had no feelings one way or the other but loved the phrasing and beauty of the harmony. Praetorius wrote in the Venetian polychoral style using numerous voices divided into small groups creating a sheer wash of music that rose and fell as the group, now split into four choirs, revelled in the musical glories of the seventeenth century!
By five o’clock in the afternoon we had made a fair headway with all three pieces in time to give a performance to the small but welcome audience who had quietly taken their places in the Abbey.
A super day and I look forward to the next workshop eagerly.
A group of about 25 singers (the numbers fluctuated, but there were 25 at the service) met on 31st May to take part in Michael Procter’s annual Kilburn weekend. For your reviewer, and no doubt for many of the other participants, this event is one of the high points of the TVEMF calendar. It is always a delight to sing whatever Michael selects, even if, as has occasionally been the case, the setting might have been more accommodating to one’s vocal range. However, except to the extent that singers were bronchially challenged, there could be no such complaints on this occasion. Chest walls having been raised and heads suspended by the usual invisible wire, we renewed our acquaintance with the madrigal Quando lieta sperai by way of introduction to the mass itself. The special edition of the music which Michael produced for us, with the mass, the madrigal and the offertory motet Domine convertere all in one volume, was a most welcome innovation - a bargain at the price and a great convenience in that it reduced the number of pieces of paper required for the service. Michael patiently and sympathetically guided us through the Mass, breaking the sequence of movements at one stage to introduce us to the rather different challenges offered by Domine convertere with its sinuous lines and continually shifting harmonic structure reflecting the “turning” in the text. The performance at the service was not marred by any serious mishaps, though there were a few moments of uncertainty. However, all concerned seemed reasonably content with the outcome, and members of the congregation were very appreciative. After a lengthy and relaxing lunch, during which the management of the Queen’s Head indicated that they would be glad of our custom on future occasions, we returned to the church, sang the madrigal and spent some time on the Credo, which we had barely looked at on the Saturday. All in all, a very satisfactory week-end, for which much credit is due to Neil for organising the event (and commiserations to him for being unable to take part in the service) and to Penny Vinson and Jenny Robinson, “our fifth column in the church”, as Michael described them. The organisation of the church’s music was admirable and the tea-time cakes that they produced deserve a special mention. Warmest thanks to all three of them and to all the others who helped out with the washing-up and suchlike tasks. I take this opportunity of mentioning that Michael’s quatercentenary Croce edition in 14 volumes will be available both in hardback (we saw volume 1, and very well got up it is) and paperback in the relatively near future. There is a very fetching picture of croci (unaccompanied by text) on his web-site and he has produced a leaflet about it.
National Early Music Association International Conference
In co-operation with University of York Music Department
and the York Early Music Festival 7-10 July 2009
Singing music from 1500 to 1900 -
style, technique, knowledge, assertion, experiment
Conference Themes. The widespread acceptance of historically-informed performance practices has transformed our understanding of instrumental music over the last half-century; but Monteverdi, Bach, Handel, Mozart and Rossini are still usually sung in conventional operatic style, clashing with the more informed style heard from the theatre pit. We invite contributors to consider evidence for vocal techniques and styles of the period and how such knowledge can enhance and invigorate current performances. Possible topics include:- voice production, intonation, volume and auditoria, style and ornamentation, deportment and vibrato.
The conference promises to be controversial, with opportunities for debate and networking. Questions to be tackled include: Is it possible for early specialisms, classical and contemporary styles to be compatible in the same voice? Balance between words and music. What can we learn from 'non-classical' vocal techniques, such as jazz, barbershop, folk, world music, pop and the use of digital amplification technology?
Target Attendance. Besides academics, the conference will appeal to professional and amateur early-music singers, as well as to early-music enthusiasts and concert-goers.
When and where. The conference will take place at the York University, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom from 7th to 10th July 2009 inclusive. It will lead into the York Early Music Festival, which will open on 10th July with The Tallis Scholars directed by Peter Philips in York Minster.
Style and Content. It is too early to pre-judge what papers will be presented, or how the conference will be structured. This will depend largely on the contributions received. However, we have some ideas, and hope that participants will negotiate with us on the gaps to be covered, publication policy and other aspects. Workshops, demonstrations and concerts will be laid on as part of the programme. We hope that new ways may be found to make the Conference more inclusive and outgoing than is customary for such events. For example, we will encourage contributors to present short summaries of their papers, but not to stint on musical illustrations, questions and debate. Historically informed singers and players will provide support.
Contact. Richard Bethell would welcome early indications of desire to attend (and whether you will attend day by day or residentially), though no commitment will be expected until the conference fee and accommodation charges are known. Our understanding is that prices will be at the sort of level such events usually are.
Proposals for papers and other contributions, together with an abstract or description, should be submitted not later than 1 January 2009 to: Dr John Potter, Department of Music, University of York, Heslington YO10 5DD, UK