EditorialI’ve just found a very interesting new web site www.jacobvaneyck.info/. Do have a look at it. There isn’t any more space left, so – many thanks to our contributors, and see you next month.
Chairman’s ChatStriggio's Ecce Beatam Lucem lived up to my expectations, and Philip Thorby worked his usual magic to produce a memorable final performance. The effect of works such as this and Tallis’s Spem in Alium is much greater in a real performance than in any recording, even in surround-sound, and being a part of it is a special experience. Next year we hope to tackle Giovanni Gabrieli's 33-part Magnificat in the same location, Waltham Abbey Church. The National Early Music Association is looking for an Administrator to take over from Mark Windisch who is retiring this year after several years of excellent work. If anyone feels they might be interested in the job then please get in touch with me. Next month's workshop, works by John Sheppard with David Allinson, is filling up and currently there is a small waiting list for sopranos. Tenors and basses are particularly welcome but please don't delay in signing up. I do hope we can tackle the monumental Media Vita as I still have memories of a wonderful performance of it by David's Cantores choir in Christchurch Cathedral.
‘Ecce Beatam Lucem’ at Waltham AbbeySaturday 6 May 06, and for the second year running Waltham Abbey Church welcomes the TVEMF & EEMF workshop under the direction of Philip Thorby. This time the work is Alessandro Striggio’s forty-part Ecce Beatam Lucem, considered to have almost certainly been written in honour of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este for his visit to Florence in 1661. Once again our challenge is to spend a day rehearsing the work, rounding off with an afternoon performance. With typical Philip Thorby aplomb we launch the attack, commencing with detailed work on a phrase half way through the piece, then working backwards. Philip reiterates that Ecce beatam Lucem should not be compared to the forty-voice Spem in Alium, the subject of last summer’s workshop and indeed it does feel quite different - more intimate with tricky syncopation and close voicings. As we work through the piece we are encouraged to hear the tonality and to allow the pulse and momentum inherent within the composition to dictate. Philip’s passion, humour and concern for detail are catching and by the time we’re ready for the performance we are focused and listening well to each other. Tricky passages have smoothed themselves out and the beauty of the Italian-Latin vocal sound is surfacing. In addition to the chamber organ, played by Stephen Bullamore, Director of Music at Waltham Abbey, and the continuo, we have a lovely ensemble of early instruments. Recorders, sackbut, cornett, viol, harp, curtal and violins combine beautifully with the choirs and add a powerful authenticity. But perhaps more than anything what makes the day special is Waltham Abbey Church itself. The stone Norman arches and decorated roof positively breathe tranquillity – no atmosphere could be more ideal for such a spiritual collaboration. The performance itself is wonderful.
Benslow Baroque Opera Project, April 2006Once again this year Benslow have mounted a fully staged opera after a gap of two years and after a number of letters were sent to them asking for this course to be continued. The opera this year was Anacreon by Rameau in an English version researched and arranged for the Benslow Opera Project by Peter Holman. The opera was directed by Steven Devine and the orchestra led once again by Judy Tarling. The tutors from Opera Restored, Steve Adby, John Flinders and Lucy Graham were all there as well. It was obvious from the start that this course was going to be much more of a social mix than we had previously experienced. For a start the orchestral players joined the stage performers in their warm up and movement session on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. This not only meant that we all got to know each other early on but it also gave the orchestra an insight into baroque gesture that could be applied to the phrasing and articulation that they would have to put into the music. The other thing that affected the social cohesion of the course was quite by chance that Judy had to leave us briefly on Friday to play at the Wigmore Hall in the evening. A knock on of that was that the orchestra had a rehearsal in the Theatre with all the other performers on Thursday, earlier than would otherwise have happened. This meant that all the performers spent more time together than in previous courses with beneficial effects. Anacreon is not an easy score and Steven Devine decided from the start that we could not cope in only five days with both the opera and an orchestral concert so that the orchestra devoted all its attention to the opera and the other half of the programme was provided by Judy Tarling and Steven Devine playing Couperin and Corelli to demonstrate the two styles - French and Italian. There were the usual free periods after lunch, however, with the opportunity to play chamber music if we wished to organise it I actually managed to get four violins together to play sonatas by Legrenzi - something which is not possible all that often. Something has to be said about the food and accommodation at Benslow which has improved out of all recognition since I was last there and the atmosphere was friendly and helpful. It all made for a very enjoyable week. The two performances on Saturday attracted a pretty good audience, the evening better than the afternoon as always and I think we gave a good account of ourselves. The day finished as usual with a rousing party. I got to bed at 2am after being pressed into service to provide some folk dancing with the help of Ian Cutts. We were not the latest by any means. Everyone who took part in this course was agreed on the importance of it and the need for it to be continued. There is no other course in the United Kingdom which offers the experience of working in a theatre production of an opera with all that that has to offer. It is an expensive course for Benslow to run and they need our enthusiasm to encourage them to carry it on. The take up for the course this year was disappointing in that there were insufficient singers in the chorus and not as many violins in the orchestra as they would have liked. This is perhaps to be expected after a two year gap and the course may need to be developed again but I do hope that people will support future courses. The experience is something that will not be available elsewhere and for me there is nothing to beat it.
All About Instruments – a music quizTaken by kind permission of Susan Yaxley from “The Larks Music Quiz Omnibus” The Larks Press, Ordnance Farm, Guist Bottom, Norfolk www.booksatlarkspress.co.uk Which musical instrument 1. Was radically improved by Theodore Boehm in the 1830’s?
Answers on the back page.