Tamesis Issue 208 February 2009


There were quite a number of entries to the crossword puzzle competition, and the winner is Mark Leonard, whose prize is a year’s free subscription to TVEMF. Most of the entries were correct, though there were a couple of wrong answers to 8 down (elect Ron), so well done everyone, and congratulations to Mark whose entry was first out of the hat. The answers appear on page 10.

Many thanks for all the contributions to this issue. I hope you enjoy reading them. These include event reviews, a concert review, a summer school review (by one of the tutors!), a preview of the Saul interforum weekend in Nottingham and, by popular request, the recipe for the lovely bread which Derek McLean brought to the TVEMF German Christmas event.

There was some concern expressed at the AGM about the cost of the Greenwich exhibition in 2007. Jim Wills our treasurer has given me the correct figures, and it turns out that the £773.05 which caused the concern was the gross figure. After deduction of contributions from NEMA and other forums, and the amount paid for a share of the stand by an American viol maker, the net cost was a much more reasonable £263.05. The income for the stand was included in the summary accounts, but everyone (including me) seems to have missed it. Last November’s costs should be lower still because, thanks to Jeremy Burbidge of Jacks Pipes and Hammers and Recorder Music Mail, we only had to rent half a table.

The other subject which has caused debate amongst the committee and event organisers is the question of whether people who receive their Tamesis and its enclosed booking forms at an event have an unfair advantage over those who get theirs in the post. Although I can’t find any evidence that an event has ever filled up in any part before other people’s newsletters arrive, just to be quite sure that this can’t happen and to be fair to people who are out at work when Tamesis arrives and so miss the post, I propose that bookings should be collected together until three days after the first one arrives by post with the organiser. Then, in the unlikely event that a part immediately fills up, the bookings which have already arrived can go into a draw for the available places. Some events with only small numbers fill up very quickly, so you need to remember to get your booking in fast.

The form in this issue is for the Oxford baroque chamber music day organised by Peter Collier. This is always a really enjoyable event, and the school is big so you are unlikely to be turned away, but even so please book early to give Peter a chance to get his organisation going, and whatever you do don’t fail to turn up without warning. The format is the basically the same as for the baroque days which I organise, but Peter’s library is different from (and larger than) mine and he has a good selection of orchestral music so I hope plenty of string players will go.

Victoria Helby

Chairman’s Chat

Those of you who came to our Eton Choirbook workshop but were disappointed at being unable to see the actual book might like to know that it is on display in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, until the 25th of April. It is part of The British Choral Tradition exhibition which also has the earliest extant score of Spem in Alium albeit in its reworked version as Sing and Glorify for the coronation of the Prince of Wales. There are autograph scores of famous works by Purcell, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Elgar, Britten, Walton and others - see www.ouls.ox.ac.uk/about/exhibitions for details. It's a small exhibition but well worth a visit.

It is always a pity when we have to turn away people from our events and we normally do it on the basis of "first come first served" within each voice category. It's hard to devise a better system and it does have the benefit that it makes the provision of music much easier if we know the required forces at an early stage. The best solution to the problem is to run so many events that it happens less often, so why not consider helping to run one? The workshop with Alistair Dixon is full. On the other hand there is plenty of room on my Renaissance Day on March the 1st for more players and singers, especially tenors of course.

We have rarely held verse anthem workshops and it was interesting to have the well- known viol player William Hunt trying out some ideas of performance practice at our event in January. We know that wind instruments played in cathedrals in this country in the renaissance but we do not know exactly how they were used. It is reasonable to assume that they would have been used at important festivals or on occasions such as royal weddings and funerals and so we tried the effect of adding cornetts, sackbuts and recorders to the normally accepted viols. Certainly the result was dramatic and although our tutor was rather startled by the volume we produced I think it counts as a success. The problem with events where soloists are involved is that inevitably the chorus is less than fully employed and this applied a fortiori to the cornetts and sackbuts who did not even play in all the choruses. I thought the soloists did as well as could be expected but it was a good thing that for the afternoon session we were all allowed to play all the way through initially.

Because of the time taken in tuning the strings and then in handing out the music, we made a rather slow start. I think we ought to try to provide a quiet room for the strings to tune before the starting time as once everyone is gathered together the noise makes tuning difficult. For strings which have to tune up to A=440 from A=415 we often insert a sentence in the form about tuning up the previous day, and it would be good if players took care to do this. For large events with separate instrumental parts the distribution of music can take quite a while and we probably should designate "music monitors" to hand out parts in parallel or even pre-allocate the parts. Having said all that, I did enjoy the event and consider it was a worthwhile experiment.

Because of the various leaflets this issue is going to be very close in weight to the 100 gram upper limit for a second class letter. Since going above this would cost about £140 I shall not be sending out duplicate membership renewal forms to those who have not paid. If you are in that category you will find the phrase "Subscriptions are now due" on the cover. If you have lost your form you can get one from our web site or request one from me.

David Fletcher

Advent in Amersham.

TVEMF's pre- Christmas event under the able tutelage of Philip Thorby focused on the music of Praetorius. However, the first thing we sang was a Magnificat tone on which, Philip informed us, many Christmas carols were based, including some of the four pieces by Praetorius which we sang and played in the morning session. As ever, I did not anticipate writing a review so did not make a note of all the pieces, but they included En Natus Est and Ein Kind Geborn, and although there was some increase in complexity during the course of the morning, they were for the most part in the style I associate with Praetorius - bold, foursquare statements, factual or commanding, both solemn and joyful.

They sounded good in the hard old German pronunciation and there were some surprises when the slow tempo gave way to scurrying excited runs. In the afternoon we tackled a much more complex piece - Singt Ihr Liebe Christen Alle - with three choirs, instrumental interludes and repeated "trio" sections for reduced forces. The recorder section of the band sounded particularly seductive when playing solo and I really enjoyed the variety of sound textures in this piece which probably justified Philip's claim that at times Praetorius could equal Gabrieli. However, a disproportionate amount of time was spent on the trio sections, leaving 90% of us unoccupied in that dangerously sleep inducing period after a magnificent lunch. Additionally, the score was definitely not user friendly and I do think tutors and publishers alike should think of the difficulties for singers who like myself wear varifocals, as it is virtually impossible to pick out the words of any one of 9 verses whilst reading the music on the opposite page (a problem compounded by having to drop down from the first (unison) line to the second (harmony) line halfway through and try to hear, above the music, Philip's shouted instruction as to which section of the choir was to sing the upcoming verse). Despite this, it was a very enjoyable day, though next year I shall bring my own supply of red wine as I really hate fizzy white, but I was deeply appreciative of all the great food on offer, and especially grateful to the providers of chocolate eclairs and raspberry Pavlova which, I am glad to report are regular items at the feast and I hope, always will be.

Back to the serious business. Philip is an entertaining and informative tutor with a witty turn of phrase, suggesting, for example, that the Virgin Mary should not be approached as if we were in a beer-hall and that "we don't want any Caribbean tenors here" - no disrespect intended. I particularly liked his phrases when trying to hush the excited chatter. "It's like killing a dinosaur. You cut the head off, but the tail goes on thrashing around for some time after."

Philip described Praetorius as a very practical composer. He offered alternative ways of performing his work not because he could not make up his mind which he preferred, but to ensure it could still be performed even if available resources were limited. He also provided German settings as alternative or additional versions, where the text was in Latin. This suggests to me a composer who wanted above all to be accessible and to share as widely as possible his meaning and his message. That he could be subtle and delicate was evident on 7th December, but my chief impression was of a composer of joyous conviction - a highly appropriate choice for the Christmas season. Thanks to all concerned from the organisers to the washers-up for a good day, and thanks too to our tireless committee, who I am glad to say were re-elected at the AGM, so we should all be in for a great musical year in 2009.

Penny Vinson

Sorry you didn’t like the Cava, Penny. I looked for some appropriate German wine but couldn’t find anything suitable at a price we could afford. Judging by the number of bottles we got through most people seem to have enjoyed it!

“Semper aliquid novum”

That “there is always something new out of Africa” has been proverbial since the 4th century BC, but the Latin version is generally attributed to Pliny, and it was a dictum popularised by Erasmus. What, I sense the readers of this review asking, has that to do with the TVEMF event which took place at Ickenham on 10th January 2009 ?

The answer is that our organisers have produced a series of events at Ickenham which have had little in common except that they introduced us to music which we would have otherwise been unlikely to experience; and each director has brought his particular skills and enthusiasms to the event. There is, thus, always something new out of Ickenham. On 26th April 2008 Jenny Robinson enabled us to explore the limes with David Allinson, who once again demonstrated how accomplished a choral director he is, and he gave us, in addition to Gombert and Mouton, the virtually unknown Richafort and Phillip van Wilder. On 18th October, persuaded by Neil Edington, master musicologist John Milsom added Jachet of Mantua and Loyset Pieton to our repertoire. And now we are indebted to Jeff Gill for the instrumentalist’s approach to sacred music, bringing William Hunt to TVEMF for the first time, to take us through two anthems by Thomas Tomkins and one by Orlando Gibbons.

These composers are not unknown to us in the same sense as Richafort, van Wilder, Jachet and Loyset Pieton. They are familiar names, and yet their works have not featured to any great extent either in TVEMF or other workshops in which your reviewer has participated over the last 10 years or so. Why is this? In the case of Tomkins there are two possible reasons. One is that many people seem to find him uncomfortable to sing; one feels at sea in a way that does not occur with (for instance) Tallis or Byrd. The other is that he has not had a particularly good press from the musicologists. Thus Peter Le Huray writes in the New Grove that “The style of full and verse anthems is fundamentally imitative and as in the madrigals there is much sequential extension of ideas. This leads in places to a certain ponderous predictability and dryness”; though he acknowledges that the best of the church music (which was highly regarded in his day) “forms an indispensable part of the pre- Restoration repertory”. Gustav Reese (Music in the Renaissance, Norton, 1954), had been kinder: “Notwithstanding his mannerism of repeating words at the ends of phrases to a disconcerting extent, Tomkins is one of the finest early composers of English church music”.

We began with a full anthem in 7 parts, O sing unto the Lord a new song (text from Psalm 149). William drew out attention to the manner in which the word stresses are placed within the tactus and the necessity for not only the singers, but the instrumentalists, to adjust their phrasing accordingly. Singing a smooth melodic line was not what the setting required. The contrast was particularly marked when the broad and rather stately “Let the congregation of saints” was followed by the decidedly jazzy “sing praise unto him” section and again where the gentle “and let the children of Zion” leads into the strongly rhythmical “alleluia” with which the anthem concludes.

We then moved on to the 6-part verse anthem “Know you not”. As William explained, this style derived from the fusion between the full anthem and the consort song, and is therefore much more rhetorical. Your reviewer has not been able to trace the source of the words except for the opening, which is from 2 Samuel 4, v.38 recounting the death of David’s supporter Abner at the hands of the sons of Zeruiah, “And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel”.

The high rhetorical style was well suited to the anthem, since it was written on the death of Prince Henry Stuart (from typhoid, at the age of 19) in November 1612. William compared the public reaction to that death with that triggered by the death of Princess Diana, and one can see why. A great deal of emotional capital had been invested in each of them. Henry was something of a Renaissance figure, and Carol Lee, in The Advancement of English Ballet, describes him thus:- “a popular heir to the English throne and the embodiment of the perfect prince, Henry Stuart was an excellent dancer having a genius for sponsoring and organising festivals”. Masques were a favourite entertainment of his and Ben Jonson, Samuel Daniel and George Chapman all wrote for him. He was an accomplished jouster and at the tournament celebrating his installation as Prince of Wales he participated as the knight Moeliades. David Norbrook (Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance) tells us that this was chosen as an anagram of “miles a deo” and represented his commitment to be a soldier in the Puritan cause. His death was a setback from which that cause was not to recover for a long time.

In order to perform Know you not, soloists were recruited from among the singers, and Alice Metherill (who deserves a special mention as she had come all the way from Newcastle), Paul Smith, Andrew Black, David King, Keith Hitchcock, David Griffiths, and one soprano whom, to my regret, I was unable to identify), should be congratulated for their fortitude in coping with the verses of a demanding piece of music. Unfortunately this arrangement, combined with the time taken in instructing the instrumentalists, left the rest of the singers somewhat under-employed during the period between lunch and tea while the work was in progress.

In order to avoid a recurrence of this situation, the verse anthem We praise thee, O Father, by Orlando Gibbons, which occupied the last hour of the day, was in effect treated as a full anthem, with all the singers singing both verses and chorus. This anthem, which begins with a five-part verse (mean, countertenor 1 and 2, tenor and bass) , retains that structure for the choruses but (as is apparently characteristic of his verse anthems) uses a variety of vocal groupings for the verses. Thus the dance- like “who by his death hath destroyed death” is sung in canon by C1 and C2 alternating with M1 and M2 until the final cadence, while the tenors (divided) join them in the weightier “Therefore with Angels and Archangels”, before the chorus brings the anthem to a resoundingly triumphant conclusion with “we laud and magnify thy glorious name”. The vocal forces are therefore very appropriately fitted to the text. Your reviewer did not pick up the exact point in the music at which William referred to a “loose canon”, and while the New Grove refers to “mirror”, “crab” and “riddle” canons, and informs the reader (on the authority of Tinctoris, 1475) that “Canon is a precept which somewhat obscurely states the composer’s plan” it does not explain what a loose canon is. The quest for further elucidation was abandoned after a Google search for the phrase produced 118,000 results, many of which refer to Pachelbel’s canon. Gibbons’ verse anthems have produced mixed reactions. Reese considers that he, like Tomkins, was much less successful with the verse anthem than with the full anthem, and cites Hosanna to the Son of David and O clap your hands as surpassing any of the verse anthems. Le Huray, however, has said that “his most memorable compositions are at once dramatic and yet, as Morley put it ‘carrying a majesty’ ”. He does not (though he might well have done so) refer to We praise thee, O Father, in that context, but mentions several of the other verse anthems. Judging by the number of members who bought a copy at the end of the afternoon, there is enthusiasm (shared by your reviewer) for further acquaintance with Gibbons’ anthems.

Warm thanks are due to Jeff for organising this event (and to him and everyone else who helped with the catering) and particularly to William for his patience and good humour in leading us through an area of English church music with which we have not engaged recently.

Sidney Ross

Handel’s Saul

One of the most powerful musical experiences of my life was a broadcast of Handel's Saul in 1965, conducted by Charles Mackerras. Earlier that year I had seen the work staged (Handel Opera Society, with Geraint Evans in the title role), but it was a studio broadcast (which I taped and replayed many times) that convinced me of the work's dramatic and musical power.

Handel had created his oratorio form in the 1730s, revising his earlier Esther in 1732 and in the following year composing Deborah and Athalia. He then returned to opera, his main preoccupation until the end of the 1730s. In 1735, he received a libretto (probably Saul) from Charles Jennens, the first of three outstanding librettos that he provided for Handel. (The others were Israel in Egypt and Messiah.) Handel had little time to work on it then, but he began his setting on 23 July 1738 and finished his first draft on 15 August; the orchestration was completed by 27 September, the work involving many changes in the course of composition. Saul had no immediate successor, but in the 1740s it was followed by a series of dramatic oratorios – works like Samson, Semele, Hercules, Belshazzar, Solomon, Theodora and Jephtha, that in some ways demand to be staged, yet which generally fail in such performances for the reason that makes them so original: the dramatic use of the chorus. But dramatic they are, with operatic characters and powerful music.

There have of late been many CDs of Handel arias. I've provided the music for most of them, and it is curious that my boxes of scores and parts for Handel arias have so few from Saul. Perhaps it is because the work is constructed more by the scene than the aria. It is long, but it has coherent organisation. The first scene, for instance, is concluded by a shortened version of the opening chorus and an appended Hallelujah, and the work concludes with a prolonged 'Elegy on the Death of Saul', introduced by one of Handel's most famous pieces, the Dead March (not Handel's title). This is just one of a remarkable number of instrumental movements, which use Handel's most varied scoring: flutes, oboes, bassoons, trumpets, trombones, extra-large timpani, harp, carillon and strings. There are not many opportunities to take part in the work. If you are tempted, find the leaflet for the Interforum/NEMA course (which was in the December Tamesis) and book early!

Clifford Bartlett

Beauchamp House Early Music Summer School

Twenty-four years ago Alan and Caroline Lumsden began a series of summer courses in the outbuildings of their old farmhouse on the A40 a couple of miles west of Gloucester, with students camping on an adjoining field. Most of the courses were for children, but a week was devoted to early music with an adult clientele. Apart from a brief visit a few years earlier, I have been involved for a dozen years. The main tutors are Alan himself and Philip Thorby. Alan began his musical career as a trombonist, but was interested in early instruments and became a member of David Munrow's Early Music Consort. (Some older readers might also remember the London Serpent Trio.) His Summer School is unique because of the presence of a considerable number of cornetts and sackbuts, the standard companion to choirs in the decades around 1600. Viols and violins are also welcome, and recorder players who can also sing. The attraction for singers is the opportunity to experience new repertoire and to try familiar pieces in unfamiliar and exciting new ways.

Alan is now retired and lives in France (with the consequence that the local cider is now supplemented by wine!). He spends much of his time selecting and typesetting fresh music for the Summer School, which still takes place at his former home. Each year there is a theme, generally one that emphasises the polychoral repertoire. With roughly 50 people attending, pieces for three or four choirs are no problem, and there is the chance to experiment with a variety of mixed vocal and instrumental scorings. Weeks have been devoted to Palestrina, Gabrieli, Praetorius, Schütz (one year also with Scheidt and Schein), music from Mantua, from Spain & hispanic America; in 2009 we will explore music from Eastern Europe. Alan and Philip share the direction of the full sessions; Alan spends further time with the players while Philip concentrates on the singers. My role is to sit at the organ, and also to offer advice to budding continuo players.

The main activity takes place in a specially-built hall with ample space for performance and dining, with a kitchen capable of providing excellent food (and suitably skilled staff), and with showers for the campers. There are also B&Bs within a few miles. Musically and socially, I find it immensely stimulating. The surrounding countryside invites walking (there is time before breakfast or after lunch).

The 2009 course runs from Sunday19 July dinner (6.00 pm) to Friday 24 July 9.30 pm (Saturday breakfast available to campers). Details from Anne Ingram: holidaycourses*gamusic.co.uk or visit the website www.gamusic.co.uk.

Clifford Bartlett

Concert review

You may have seen in Tamesis advance warning of two “candlelit Christmas concerts” by Pellegrina in St Michael and All Angels, Amersham on 6 December and at All Saints, Chalfont St Peter on 14 December. A small group of TVEMF diehards attended the earlier concert and heard a charming and varied programme performed with great style.

The venue had its part to play. St Michael’s dates from 1964-6 and has an old- fashioned plan and a spaciousness executed in a simple modern style. As my Pevsner describes the church as cruciform with a central tower I imagine the screen across the eastern tower arch must be a later insertion, so that services are now conducted from the central space under the tower. This was where the musicians performed, with tea lights in various arrangements placed along the altar rail adding to the intimate atmosphere. The acoustics were soft and resonant, which gave an attractive glow to the music though occasionally some elements could have done with a little more punch.

The musicians were: Kyoko Murai (soprano), Maria Sanger (recorder), Amanda Seaborn (viola da gamba) and Alison Bowler (spinet) with guest appearances from Peter Wells (recorder) and Amanda’s husband Peter Wendland (viola da gamba – and recorder!). Apart from an extended cantata Alla Madonna by Barbara Strozzi at the very beginning, the concert began and ended with Charpentier’s infectious arrangements of the carols he used in his Messe de Minuit, first for instruments and then as a finale with Kyoko joining with the words. Between, we were treated to a variety of pieces, all from the continent as Peter Wells pointed out in his short introduction. Besides Strozzi and Charpentier we heard a variety of pieces including one of Sainte-Colombe’s astonishing duets for two gambas and Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto” (“fatto per il notte di Natale”). Vocal pieces ranged from the beautiful simplicity of settings of Bach’s O Jesulein Suß (O Little One Sweet, see page 87 in Carols for Choirs Book 1!) and Schafe können sicher weiden (“Sheep may safely graze”), to the complexity of Campra’s motet Cantate Domino and Alessandro Scarlatti’s Cantata Pastorale per la Nativita di Nostro Signore Gesu Cristo which began the second half.

Kyoko’s voice was ideal, with the right combination of purity and tone for this music. Alison and Amanda worked tirelessly and stylishly in continuo: my viol-playing companions were particularly struck by Amanda’s seemingly effortless fluency in bowing and fingering. The extra sonority with Peter joining on bass gamba produced some lovely passages, particularly in a central movement in the Scarlatti. Above them, the recorder tones of Maria and Peter blended beautifully in the warm acoustic.

All in all, an appreciative audience was treated to an excellent concert contrasting well-known with less familiar pieces, smaller with more complex works, vocal with instrumental pieces. With all the performers on excellent form, the music was delivered stylishly and with great sensitivity. Catch Pellegrina when you can!

Geoff Huntingford

Crossword puzzle answers

Across 1. Purcell 5. andante 9. baton 10. Webern 12. Leeds 13. sing 14. Lent 16. rallentando 20. Yeo 21. allegro 24. liar 25. psychology 29. I will 30. lingo 31. braille 32. octette Down 1. pebble 2. Rutter 3. Ernest Read 4. Lawes 5. Alban Berg 6. dart 7. no 8. electron 11. penny 15. otto 17. Lulu Suite 18. syllabub 19. sonatina 22. cornet 23. bygone 26. cello 27. owlet 28. viol

Recipe for bread as supplied to TVEMF 7 December 2008

There were so many requests for the recipe for the lovely bread which Derek McLean brought to the TVEMF German Christmas event that I asked him to let me print it here. He says that it may have had more molasses in it than it says in the recipe because he seldom measures things, but it is the main thing that decides the dark character and taste.

Ingredients: strong wholemeal flour, strong white flour, yeast dried or fresh, salt, water, molasses, milk, yoghurt, olive oil, butter or margarine.

Equipment: large basin, large jug, baking sheet or loaf tins, wooden spoon, weighing scales and a suitable kneading space

This recipe will make one very large loaf, or several small ones.

1 Put 1.5 litres of lukewarm water and 3 tablespoons of molasses (more or less, according to your taste) into a jug. Stir well. Add 3 teaspoons of dried yeast, or a large lump of fresh. Stir again. Leave in a warm place.

2 Weigh 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well.

3 By this time the yeast should be working well. If so, stir it, and start pouring it gradually is wet and sticky. If you have overdone it, add more flour. It should feel damp and soft, of the yeast mixture left. Pop it in the fridge and use it for more bread in a day or so.

4 Sprinkle flour lightly on the kneading surface. Empty the dough onto it, and start with a slightly damp cloth, and leave it in a warm place for 30 minutes.

5 Back to the kneading, this time for at least 10 minutes.

6 Shape the dough as you want it. Grease the baking sheets or loaf tins with margarine, and place the shaped dough on the sheet or in the tins. Cover the loaves with a barely damp cloth, or some kitchen foil brushed with oil. Put it in a warm place for an hour.

7 The dough should have risen well by this time. If it hasn’t, make sure it is warm enough. When you are satisfied, brush the loaves gently with a mixture of milk and yoghurt.

8 Bake in a hot oven at 210oC for 20 minutes, then for another 15 at 190o. As ovens vary, check your loaves and make sure they are baking evenly.

9 Take the loaves out of the oven, turn them over and tap the bottoms. They should sound quite hollow. If they don’t, put them back for a further 10 minutes.