You were probably as surprised as I was to see the name of Ivo de Vento as the composer of this year's mass for St Augustine's Kilburn, though the New Grove manages to fill almost a page with information (and a certain amount of speculation) about him. Look under Vento rather than de Vento. After three years as a choirboy in Munich he was sent at Duke Albrecht's expense to study in Venice, presumably with Merulo. Back in Munich where he was appointed third organist in the Hofkapelle he may have studied with Lassus whose influence may be seen in his masses. Michael Procter is very enthusiastic about the mass Surrexit pastor bonus which is based on a motet by Lassus (which we will also sing). He has edited it specially for our weekend. This course always fills up so please book as soon as possible.
Michael has asked me to give you some extra information about the weekend. St Augustine's is an Anglican church, but its musical tradition and the warm welcome given to the TVEMF choir each year mean a chance really to experience how the music ought to be used. This is nowadays a rare opportunity for performing Renaissance sacred music in something like the appropriate context because the regular EEMF course 'Early Music in the Liturgy' in Cambridge has come to an end, at least for the time being, because of a new priest who finds such music inappropriate for worship.
Michael Procter has lived in Germany since 1995, when he took over as Professor of Choral Conducting in Karlsruhe for his colleague Martin Schmidt during his sabbatical - and has stuck there ever since. He writes that he and his family enjoy the climate (bananas and oleanders), the wine (Baden and Pfalz) and the excellent connections all over Europe, but he comes back to England several times a year for courses and workshops, and to refresh his English language, which he says is suffering horribly from living abroad. You will find his other courses and contact details in the Events listings at the back.
Last month, sponsorship forms were circulated with Tamesis for my group Background Baroque's three hour sonata marathon in aid of Comic Relief on Red Nose Day. Many thanks to everybody who returned them and for your generous contributions. If you still have your form because you don't know where to send it (the computer somehow deleted that bit) it is not too late to send it to me now (at the address on the front cover). We managed to play 27 sonatas in the available time, so if you have sponsored us per sonata I would be grateful if you could send me a cheque, made out to "Comic Relief", for the appropriate amount. We hope we have raised at least £1000.
I was surprised that we managed to play so many sonatas, particularly as some of them had five or six movements. In fact it took us an hour and a quarter to play the first nine, but after that we became more efficient at deciding what to play and giving out the music so if we had done that at the beginning we might possibly have reached our maximum target of 30. Next time...? There was a certain amount of hair-raising sight-reading but no disasters, even though our fingers were rather too cold for fast semi-quavers. Luckily a member of the church had kindly sponsored us to have the heating on or we should have had to play much more slowly! Many thanks to everyone who took part either by playing or by collecting money, moving instruments and counting the sonatas (which were by Weiss, Naudot, Schickhardt, Boismortier, Telemann, Rossi, Loeillet, Dornel, Corelli and Finger).
It's over 40 years since I bought my first treble recorder and taught myself to play it using the School Recorder Books. Having more or less worked my way through book three, I went into the local music shop and asked what they had for solo recorder. As there was little choice, I came out with Telemann's sonata in C major from Der Getreue Musicmeister, a work which I find challenging even today. After much study I could manage it at about half speed, but then I discovered the companion sonata in F major was much easier and I became a lifelong Telemann addict. My first contact with other recorder players came at a London SRP meeting in 1964 and showed that whilst I might be able to play notes reasonably fluently, my sight-reading had a long way to go. I joined John Thomson's evening class in Marylebone and eventually became capable of holding a part in a consort. John, who subsequently became editor of The Recorder Magazine and (more successfully) of Early Music, was one of the founders of the National Early Music Association, and remained its President until his untimely death a few years ago. He was a delightful New Zealander whose patience and encouragement were much appreciated.
Recordings of early music were not very plentiful in those days, and my first such record was of music by Telemann, made in the 1950s by a variety of artists including Ferdinand Conrad who played the Partita in G major quite beautifully. A little later I was given a record of the New York Pro Musica playing dances from Terpsichore by Praetorius and A la Battaglia by Isaac on recorders, crumhorms and racketts. The instruments were such a novelty that on the second side they were demonstrated individually. Coincidentally, Chris Thorn, our former Tamesis editor, says he also bought this record and like me found it a revelation.
Why am I telling you this? Mainly because I sometimes marvel how much things have changed over those 40 years. Now there are concerts of early music almost every day and it is no surprise to hear it on the radio. We used to have performances on "authentic" instruments (often anachronistic by hundred years or more) where now we have "historically informed" performances. In the early days there was the famous broadcast when Tom Crowe asserted that cornetts could not be played in tune. Whilst some of my friends might still be inclined to believe this, those who have heard any of today's professional cornett and sackbut ensembles know better.
However the battle is by no means won. Yes, these days we can hear Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann any week on the radio but the further back we go the rarer it is to hear anything at all. Of the 17th century we sometimes find Purcell, Monteverdi and of course the blessed Pachelbel, canonised by Classic Fm, but where are Biber, Buxtehude, Lully and the rest? When it comes to the 16th century you may hear some Gabrieli if you are very lucky and composers such as Byrd and Tallis might feature in Choral Evensong. From the 15th century I can recall hearing a bit of Josquin, but Dufay, Ockeghem, Isaac and Obrecht hardly ever. When Nicholas Kenyon was appointed controller of Radio Three a few years ago I thought we would see an improvement, given that he was a former editor of Early Music, but in fact the situation seemed to deteriorate or am I imagining it? My feeling is that it is mainly we amateurs who cherish the music from earlier times. Is that because this music is better experienced from the musician's perspective or should Guerrero and Brumel simply be looking for a different agent?
Three excellent limericks from your recent competition have appeared in our latest newsletter. As they all related to the composer Scheidt, I was reminded of my own entry for our own limerick competition some years ago. It appeared in our anthology of which you may have a copy, but if not, here it is for what it's worth:
An early musician named Dwight
Insisted the pitch must be right
Whilst it mustn't relax
In the music of Bax
It may go down in the Scheidt.
The anthology, which contained some 40 entries, was printed as the result of a MEMF competition in 1991 and called 'Ye Olde MEMFE Limericke Booke'.
John Bason, MEMF
A tenor recorder for small hands
In the February issue of Tamesis, Carole Shaw asked for a tenor recorder suitable for small hands. I am grateful to Madeline Seviour for sending the following information:
Zen-On Model 2000B.
I don't know if this is still on the market - I bought mine in the late 1970s. I think the wood is maple. The instrument is light; the holes are non-aligned and cut at quite an angle. And when I bought mine it was incredibly cheap. The tone and tuning are good.
1. Single key for bottom C (though I believe there is a more expensive model with double C/C# key).
2. Mine came with thumb-rest screwed into position. Luckily it was all right for me, but others might not be so lucky.
3. The exterior is stained a horrid orange colour and varnished!
TVEMF workshop-William Mundy
Some 50 enthusiasts gathered at The Church of the Holy Innocents, Paddenswick Road on 15th February to extend their acquaintance with the work of William Mundy, who is distinguished (quite apart from the quality of his musical output) by the fact that the article about him in Grove gives five other spellings of his name. It is perhaps not fanciful to speculate that the Latin epigram "Ut lucem solis sequitur lux proxima luna, sic tu post Birdum Munde secunde venit" printed at the end of "Sive Vigilem" owes its origin to the variant spelling "Moondaye".
I suspect that very few of us had ever sung anything by William Mundy except "O Lord, the Maker", which is in the Tudor Anthem book. With hindsight, it might have been more satisfactory to begin with that relatively well-known piece, because the Arctic conditions in the church (due to a broken window), combined with some uncertainty in singing the plainchant sections of the Kyrie "Orbis Factor" combined to create rather heavy going in our attempts to master that item, with which we began the programme.
Grove, in a rather sniffy article, gives "O Lord the Maker" and "O Lord I bow the knee", which we also studied, the muted accolade of being "of some interest", but describes Sive vigilem and Beatus et sanctus as "two striking pieces"; and certainly we seemed to approach Sive vigilem with more confidence and a greater sense of enjoyment. Refreshed by lunch (at any rate in the case of those who repaired to The Thatched House), we returned to the warmer ambience of the church hall to tackle Adolescentulus sum ego. Fortunately, the percussion obbligato provided by the energetic activities of the children in the room above did not prove too distracting, though a short oxygen break was found to be necessary.
Tea was followed by a return to the church for a sing through which, apart from some uncertainties in the Kyrie, made a very satisfactory end to an interesting and rewarding occasion, for which we are all grateful to Alistair Dixon and the organisers. There is no doubt that many of us would enjoy a further exploration of Mundy, perhaps in combination with another of his contemporaries whose music we rarely get the chance to sing.