top of page

Tamesis Issue 236

March 2013

Have you renewed your membership? If not, you won’t be on the membership list or get your next Tamesis. Please save David the trouble of having to chase you! Peter Collier tells me that thirty-one people have booked for the baroque day so far. He is very short of violins and violas so do book if you play one of those. Only one oboe so far as well, and more keyboard players would be useful too. This doesn’t prevent other instruments and solo singers from booking - I was just asked to mention special requirements. It’s on Saturday 13th April and I hope to see a lot of you there. There are lots of bookings for Waltham Abbey but some more sackbuts and violins would be useful. I haven’t closed the bookings in any part yet, but will shortly. We’re still having trouble getting enough venues for our events. Where does your choir or orchestra rehearse? Please send the info (address, contact, suitability, cost if you know it) on an email to me at secretary* You’ll find enclosed a sponsorship form for Background Baroque’s latest Red Nose Day mini-marathon in aid of Comic Relief. We (Shelagh Aitken, Simon Hill, Elaine Mordaunt, Mary Anne Unrau and I) will be playing as many trio sonatas as we can in the space of two hours in St Michael’s church in Amersham on the Hill between 2.30 and 5pm on Wednesday 13th March. Our record is 27 in three hours (ten years ago) but we’re playing for only two hours this time as the church isn’t available until 2.30. We’ll aim for twenty, without repeats. You’re most welcome to come and listen for a bit, though I warn you it won’t be a fully rehearsed performance, but the main thing is to sponsor us. You can email me with your offer of sponsorship or send the form, but the easiest thing is to go to our page on the Red Nose Day website where you can use a credit or debit card. If you decide to come and listen, the church is in the middle of the shops and cafés in Amersham on the Hill (70, Sycamore Road, HP6 5DR) and there is a nearby car park if you can’t find a space in the road. Some help with collection buckets and sonata counting would be useful too.
Victoria Helby

Chairman’s Chat
The committee of the Southern Early Music Forum has been giving thought to publicising the fora amongst the graduates emerging from conservatoires and university music departments. This mainly entails letting people know how and where to find us if they want to continue their (early) music making once they leave these establishments. It has long been a concern of mine that our membership seems to increase in age almost one year for every year that passes, so I feel we should be actively trying to attract young members. Of course young professional musicians may feel that we have little to offer them, and we might do better to target trainee teachers or indeed schoolchildren. I'm sure we must have members who could offer advice in this area and I would very much like to hear from them. I've been doing a lot of work on the new web site for the National Early Music Association at You can use it to make entries in the concerts and events diary or to add you name to the Early Music Register, derived from the Early Music Yearbook. I am trying to collect links to useful sources of downloadable sheet music and other resources, so do look at the Links sections and the Internet Resources section within it. You may think that a Google search does everything that you might want but when looking for music to play from you will simply find myriads of CDs and YouTube versions, so these links are quite useful and I would be glad to know of other good ones.
David Fletcher

Renaissance Playing/Singing Day 2nd February 2013
Another winter’s day, another gathering of enthusiastic TVEMF members and friends at Burnham Grammar School. David Fletcher managed to conjure 28 different combinations of instruments and voices to keep us stimulated through the four sessions of the day. A great amount of music was available from David and people also brought music they wanted to play. Versatility was sometimes called for when people changed from wind instrument to stringed instrument to voice in order to match the range of the parts presented to them. As a non-playing singer my hope was to repeat the experience of singing with a group of sackbuts (consort? choir? herd?); a warm and burnished sound which goes so well with a male voice. Sadly for me, it seems that sackbut players are in as much demand as tenor singers, and only one sackbut player joined us at Burnham. But that one was Audrey Turner, with whom I have made beautiful music before. Audrey and I again found ourselves moving together in thirds, a delicious harmonic experience I shall savour for some time. My share of the 28 ensemble combinations was: 1. 2 female singers, 1 male singer, 1 viol, 1 sackbut 2. 1 female singer, 1 male singer, 2 recorders, 2 viols 3. 2 male singers, 2 recorders, 1 sackbut 4. 4 bass singers The last combination resulted from a dilemma: an increased number of bass singers with no tenors. Who were presumably busy being celebrated at the Tenor & Sackbut Festival somewhere. David’s solution was to give the basses a session to themselves with a piece he found called “Calami Sonum Ferentes” by Cipriano de Rore for four basses. Now one must assume that when this piece of counterpoint was written circa 1555 Cipriano had particular singers in mind, and that they actually sang the music. If I sound incredulous that’s because Calami Sonum Ferentes proved to be one of the most difficult pieces of music I have tried to sing in a long time. Up there with the Stravinsky Mass (1948). Cipriano’s piece is so relentlessly chromatic and densely contrapuntal that we four able singers, after an hour’s hard work, were relieved to find a couple of brief homophonic passages. Which we repeated several times to reassure ourselves that we still had the ability to make music. Those wishing to investigate this piece further can find a performance on YouTube by four serious men in Antwerp. They have a conductor who works furiously to hold it together. Brian O’Hagan sent me a really long article about churches in London. Not all that much of it was about early music, or even music at all, so I’m afraid I’ve had to edit out a lot of it (sorry Brian!). I’ve left in some of the non-musical references so that you can get the flavour of the original, and if you would like to read the whole thing I’m sure Brian will be pleased to send it to you.

How to live in London and enjoy music in churches
but manage to avoid the English Cathedral Sound

Once a month St Michael and All Angels (Turnham Green) has a Bach cantata. For Bach cantatas in a liturgical context, visit St Anne and St Agnes, Gresham Street, a Wren church now used for Lutheran worship. I've gone to Estonian and Latvian Services which consisted mainly of Bach and Praetorius, but the German services use Bach's instrumentation (Oboe d'amore, Corno di Caccia, Zink, Violone as well as Double Bass, etc.). St George's German Church, Alie Street (Dietrich Bonhoeffer was Pastor in the 1930's before his martyrdom in a concentration camp) has monthly organ recitals and usually a jolly West Gallery Christmas Concert. (For those unfamiliar with West Gallery music, think CAMRA enthusiasts/refugees from Cecil Sharp House... The one West Gallery tune that everyone knows is 'While Shepherds Watched’, of which 'On Ilkla' Moor Baht 'at' is a contrafactum.) Parenthetically, London Gallery Quire has various 'packages' - hymn sandwiches for URC services, seasonally-liturgically-appropriate settings for evensong/Sunday and welcomes invitations to provide music for services. (They receive return invitations from several relatively High Churches - there's a concert on Fri 15 Mar in St Peter's, Belsize Square.) I know two other German churches, one in Sandwich St, Bloomsbury, the other the Deutsche Evangelische Christkirche in Montpelier Place which also has organ recitals. And now to The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy (where Her Majesty is referred to as His Grace The Duke of Lancaster - as she is also in the Channel Islands) and where there is a series of evening organ concerts in June. St Magnus-The-Martyr, near The Monument, has the oldest swell-box in England (I think) as well as the stumps of the original (Roman) London Bridge. Now three Hawksmoor churches - St George-in-the-East, where I've had vocal coaching from Mary King and where The Cornhill Players now put on The Mummerset Mystery Plays; Christ Church Spitalfields with its summer and winter Festivals; and St George Bloomsbury with its spire modelled on the Tomb of King Mausolus but surmounted by a statue of George I. Between Easter and July services of The Chapel Royal are held in The Queen‘s Chapel, Marlborough Road - they are usually small-scale, eg Haydn masses. Refer to The Times for times of services in St James’ Palace. Be sure to visit nearby Pickering Place, venue for the last duel to be fought in London (a plaque on the wall of the wine-merchant‘s marks the site of the Embassy of the Republic of Texas). See also Lobb (Bespoke Boots) and the hat shop with templates of all the important hatted heads of the last 200 years.
Brian O‘Hagan

bottom of page