Tamesis Issue 221
Lots of useful information here, so please read it carefully. I’ve just noticed that I’m due to do the next Tamesis in the same week as the baroque playing day at Burnham on 6th November. Please could you send me your information as early as possible so that I can do as much as possible in advance. May I also put in a plea for more keyboard players at this event. Don’t worry if you’re only used to playing the piano, and you won’t be asked to read from figured bass (unless you want to, of course). I’m also organising the Christmas event in Amersham on 5th December. Please send the original booking slip rather than a photocopy so that I can see at a glance what you are booking for, and make sure you use separate cheques for each event. I couldn’t get the usual hall this year, though I’ve already managed to book it for next year. Amersham Common village hall proved to be a good venue for the Senfl workshop and this time I’ve booked both halls so that we can keep the food separate from the playing. This will give us more space, but even so there may have to be a waiting list and some selection to maintain a reasonable balance of parts. Make sure you let me know if you can’t come, even if it’s the morning of the event, so that someone else can have your place. The hall seems like quite a long walk from the station if you’re carrying a heavy instrument, so please put offers and request for lifts from the station on the form. The Thames Valley Early Music Forum AGM will be held at the end of the Roman Christmas workshop on Sunday 5th December at Amersham Common Village Hall. This is likely to be soon after 5pm. The closing date for applications for the 9th October workshop on Handel's 'Israel in Egypt' is 24th September. Bookings are going very well but further applications can be accepted in all sections. Additional violinists, one bassoon and a double bass or violone would be particularly welcome for the band as would a few more tenors for the choir. I’m told that we have now lost our expected natural trumpet players so if anyone can find some more that would be very helpful. We invited our President, Jeremy Montagu, to come and play his timpani which are normally on loan to the Bate Collection at the Faculty of Music in Oxford. The problem is that he has no car nowadays, so if anyone could help with transport please could you let David King (020 8346 4759 davidking2 @ waitrose.com) know as soon as possible. The drums need to be got from the Bate Collection on about 20th-22nd September and taken to Jeremy’s house in Oxford, then taken with him to London for the workshop on 9th October and finally returned to the Bate Collection around the 11th October. It could of course be a different person for each journey, and the forum will pay for car parking in London on the day of the event. The Greenwich Exhibition and Festival is taking place from 12th to 14th November and we have booked a forum stand again. This time we are having a table in the Queen Mary ante room (convenient for the bar and coffee) and volunteers are needed to look after the stand throughout the three days. Even short periods will be really helpful. I’ve listed all the events from the web site starting on page 9, so that you can see when you will be available. Please send your offers of help to Caroline Gibbons who is drawing up the timetable of volunteers for the stand. Offers of help on the day will of course be welcome, but it’s so much easier if we know who will be there in advance. Email Caroline at carolinepgibbons @ yahoo.co.uk or phone her on 0118 9615080/07801 179414
For many years I was a regular participant at the Beauchamp summer school but recently I have been trying various others. This year I decided on Cambridge for the first time and it proved to be a worthwhile experience. On the plus side there is the experience of being in Sydney Sussex College and having accommodation on site in the middle of the city. Three cooked meals a day provide rather more calories than is entirely wise and probably account for much of the cost, but one can in theory at least opt for lighter fare, and dining in hall is a privilege. Being in the centre of Cambridge brings the problem of negotiating the arcane one-way system to arrive at the rather anonymous rear entrance to the college to deliver luggage and instruments before driving off to the long-term parking. Fortunately, on arrival I came across TVEMF members Doris and Stephen Willis, over here from their home in Cyprus, and was quickly directed to the porters lodge to collect my key.
One of the attractions of this year's Cambridge course for me had been that Jeremy West was to have been a tutor, but in view of the small number of cornetts and sackbuts he suggested that a recorder tutor would be more appropriate. Chris Hartland is young and enthusiastic and did a good job but he would be the first to admit that for cornettists he is no substitute for Jeremy, who did in fact tutor the wind group for one afternoon, which was rewarding. Philip Thorby and David Hatcher were their usual excellent selves and Jacob Herringman attracted more plucked instruments than I have seen at any other course. These added a delightful dimension to some of the very Spanish songs that we enjoyed during the week. Would I go to Cambridge again? Possibly, but next year I think it will be Beauchamp.
After a rather lengthy gap in the TVEMF calendar we now have monthly offerings lined up well into the new year. We will be trying two new tutors: James Weeks and Julian Perkins so it will be interesting to see what people think of them. Indeed we are often given suggestions for new tutors which is good, but it's much better if the suggestion comes with an offer of help to organise an event. Don't feel that you will be left on your own if you volunteer as an organiser - you will get plenty of support.
Monteverdi at San Marco – church music of the Venetian years
A workshop directed by James Weeks
St Andrew’s URC, Ealing, 11th September 2010
I was relieved to arrive at the workshop complete with intact theorbo, since the cleaners in Venice two days previously had “helpfully” disposed of the bubble wrap that protected the instrument on the way out! The workshop was over-subscribed, despite the large venue, and so we benefited from a substantial and well-balanced choir, supported by organ, theorbo, violins, viola, cello, viols, cornetti, sackbuts and curtal, performing Beatus vir I, Dixit Dominus II, and the hymns Deus tuorum militum and Adoramus te, Christe. As with the Vespers of 1610, key sections were written for small groups of one-to-a –part virtuoso singers, so the ability of the choir to do these justice was most impressive (particularly the altos who had to read at tenor pitch and from bass clef on occasion). James Weeks was a new conductor to me (I particularly enjoyed the introduction half an hour before the end of the workshop to the effect that “you may be wondering who on earth I am”), but his good humour, encouragement in tackling difficult music, and the clarity of his conducting were appreciated by all. His explanation of the context of Monteverdi’s “Selva Morale et Spirituale” of 1640, probably a collection of compositions made at St Mark’s over several decades, was supplemented by the participation of Clifford Bartlett, without whom much of this music would be unavailable. Incidentally, a quick Web search suggests that my hazy theological recollection was correct i.e. that both the psalm Dixit Dominus, and the figure of Melchizedek (being a priest and king who received tithes from Abraham) were believed to prefigure Christ. Many thanks to Nicola Wilson-Smith for organising the day in such a convenient and comfortable venue.
Stile Antico at Darlington
As anyone who has taken part in the summer school at Dartington knows, after only a week it feels like six months of rehearsals and concerts has been packed in! But singing, or just listening, in the Great Hall or the courtyard is an experience you will want to return to again and again. (My fourth so far.)
The five weeks are themed roughly by period, with early music normally being incorporated into the first two weeks. Those attending (several hundred in all) can be divided roughly into singers (generally older) and instrumentalists (generally younger). Of greatest relevance to TVEMF members in the second week this year were the vocal ensembles organised by Stile Antico, an ensemble of twelve young British singers whom I first encountered in the chapter house of York Minster last year. They work without a conductor and receive lottery funding for their educational work. At Dartington they offered vocal coaching by dividing the sixty or so of us into graded groups of about eight, who then farmed out into separate rooms around the courtyard before re-assembling for performances in the upper gatehouse. Byrd’s Ave Verum, Tomkins’ When David Heard, Morley’s Nolo mortem peccatoris, and Weelkes’ Gloria were among other classics on the menu, exploring sacred music written for private performance rather that liturgical use. A most rewarding experience, which will be on offer at future Summer Schools. (www.stileantico.co.uk)
Members of Stile Antico also sang the solo parts in the Summer School chorus and the Chamber Choir. This year James Weeks conducted Bach’s Magnificat and Handel’s Alexander’s Feast (in English, not easy to read in italics under the German in the Barenreiter edition). The performance is always a joyful occasion and a fitting end to the week.
The chamber choir (about 80 of us!) was conducted by John Hancorn, who is based in Eastbourne and has been closely associated with the Brighton early music festival. It was a real treat to perform Telemann’s Die Tageszeiten (times of the day) in the Great Hall at 8.30am, then in the courtyard before lunch and at teatime, and finally in the Great Hall at 10.45pm, after the ‘Turn of the Screw’ had ended in the graveyard behind, in front of the mediaeval church tower.
Do read Richard Morrison’s article in the Times of 6 August, where he also refers to the remarkable characterisation of Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutem, and to all that Gavin Henderson has done for the School over the past 26 years.
Note Production At High Altitude- Dateline Pontresina
The Taiswald Konzertplatz is a little corner of Vienna set in the Romantsch-speaking area of Switzerland. Every day there are open-air lunch-time concerts of Kalman, Lehar, Kreisler, Strauss, Robert Stolz and the less well-known Paul Abraham (Die Blume von Hawaii, Viktoria und Ihr Husar).
A foot infection left me unfit to climb Alps, but just about able to hirple along from the hotel to the concerts. I love the music, which is presented with flamboyant gusto - who says that in 500 years of peace the Swiss have produced only chocolate and cuckoo-clocks? (It was Harry Lime, actually, in 'The Third Man', where he compares Switzerland unfavourably with Renaissance Italy.) Anyway I was enjoying myself recommending repertoire to the Camerata when Renate and friends dragged me off to a cable-car - a terrifying device where one jumps on-and-off while the machine is in motion. Conquering my justifiable terror, I went from Pontresina (2000m) to Alp Languard (2540m) via Muottas Muragl. Unfortunately I developed bursitis in both elbows because I gripped the bar in terror - afraid not for myself but for idiot children travelling in the other direction, all the time twisting and waving. Who would take a school party abroad?
On the sun-kissed slopes of Alp Languard the counterpoint of the high-pitched piping of the marmots (sort of fat meerkats) with the melodious clang of cow-bells (Swiss cattle seem able to graze on 60° slopes) is most relaxing, but the musical highlight came this afternoon at Bernina Diavolezza (3000m - but mercifully a cable-car with proper stops!) where we came across a 28-piece Alphorn Orchestra - enough to tackle Carver's ''O Bone Jesu'' a 19, but not enough for Tallis or Striggio. Before hunger drove us to the picnic area we stood in the focus and enjoyed the Cori Spezzati effect! I don't know how old the Alphorn is - probably younger than the Scandinavian Lur - and the repertoire is probably more restricted than that for Tromba Marina, but there is at least one concerto (by the wonderful Hungarian composer Ferenc Farkas).
P.S. Not to disparage the Tromba Marina - Margaret Westlake (if I remember correctly) talked about their use as Continuo Instrument in Choir 2 (Lower Voices) in Convents (hence the term Nonnengeige), and there is a Vivaldi Concerto for Tromba Marina.