Tamesis Issue 237 May 2013
David King has asked me to say that bookings for the Lassus Workshop have gone
very well. He has 65 to date and won’t be accepting any more sopranos, altos or
recorders. He can probably accept another bass or two and possibly another
instrument depending on what is offered, and he would like a few more tenors. The
music to be studied was listed in the March Tamesis. Most of it is available on the
CPDL website but David wants to assure you that you will be provided with all the
music on the day so there is no need to print out copies unless you want to.
Thanks very much to everyone who sponsored my group Background Baroque’s Red
Nose Day mini-marathon in aid of Comic Relief. March 13th was a really cold day - 4
degrees C with snow flurries - and the church only had a loosely fitting glass door.
We put on the heating but it was so noisy that the electric tuner for the spinet picked
up its note and we couldn’t hear each other playing so we had to turn it off again. By
the end of two hours we were almost frozen stiff but even so we managed to play 21
trio sonatas (without repeats). So far we’ve raised £1621 so it was well worth doing.
If you meant to sponsor us but never got around to it you can still do so with a credit
or debit card on our giving page on the Red Nose Day website
Apologies if you sent me anything for Tamesis which hasn’t got in. My computer
managed to delete all my April emails (I won’t bore you with the annoying details!)
but I did search my service provider’s web site and hope I’ve found everything.
I enjoyed the Waltham Abbey event - Philip Thorby is always stimulating, and where
else would you go to perform a 28-part Magnificat? Although most of the parts were
conjectural I thought the piece worked well. It was good to see Hugh Keyte there to
sing his reconstructed work for the first time (and finding it quite tricky). The 24-part
piece by Leonard Lechner was also interesting and I can't help speculating as to why a
composer who I only knew for some four-part lieder would tackle something quite so
grand. Perhaps he was inspired to write it in response to one of the other giant works
that pop up from time to time, such as the 24-part mass by Padovano which we might
tackle another year.
I shall miss the medieval day with Donald Greig owing to a prior engagement but I
hope it goes well enough to inspire more workshops from the period, which I confess
TVEMF has rather neglected.
Hexachords in Headington
Forty-four singers gathered at the Headington Community Centre on March 9, 2013,
for another fascinating trip into the unknown with John Milsom. The two works to be
explored were Palestrina’s hexachord mass, ut re mi fa sol la, scored, in Michael
Procter’s 2005 edition, for SSAATB, and a motet for SATB by Josquin entitled Ut
Phoebi radiis, with (as is discussed later in this review) a deeply mysterious text. The
dank mist which shrouded the building and absorbed any rays which Phoebus might
have been emitting was an appropriate symbol of the complexities which we were to
encounter. In the intervals of warming-up, John imparted some information about
hexachords. (Readers who know all this can skip the next paragraph).
Rather like a box of assorted chocolates, the hard hexachord Bs are square (and were
formerly called B quadratus or, as in Thomas Morley’s Socratic dialogue, A Plaine and
Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597), B quarre) while the soft ones (B
molle) are round. This analogy breaks down with the natural hexachord, which does
not contain a B. Everything that the young man wishing to be a social success needs
to know about hexachords is set out in very considerable detail in Morley’s work in
which Philomathes, the would-be singer, is confronted at the outset with a fearsome
table (the Scale of Music), which we term the Gam, says his teacher, Master
Gnorimus, since the G which is the lowest note of the hard hexachord and is therefore
called ut was conventionally represented by G (gamma) - hence the word “gamut”.
John briefly mentioned the role of Guido d’Arezzo in devising a solmization system.
The so-called “Guidonian Hand” was a mnemonic device used by teachers of sight
singing. Twenty locations on the Hand correspond to the twenty notes of the gamut
which range, in modern notation, from the bottom G of the bass clef to the E which is
two octaves and a sixth above. Philomathes eventually plucks up sufficient courage to
ask Master Gnorimus why the scale was devised of twenty notes and no more, to
which Gnorimus replies that “under Gam ut the voice seemed as a kind of humming
and above E la a kind of constrained shrieking”. It seems that Gnorimus would have
had little time for sopranos, had they appeared on the Elizabethan social music scene.
The hexachord mass is constructed, as Jon Dixon observes in the introduction to his
edition, on the basically simple device of the constant repetition, up and down, in
various rhythmic presentations, of the hard hexachord, the cantus firmus lying in the
Cantus II part. We spent a considerable amount of time working on the Kyrie with the
primary aim of getting the six parts, in various combinations (and including various
alternations of parts between the first and second sopranos), to keep in time with
each other and with John himself. We made sufficient progress with this to be allowed
to tackle some of the later movements during the morning, before our encounter with
Ut Pheobe radiis.
In this composition, each line of the first verse has one more solmization syllable than
the previous line; the text is sung by the upper parts, leaving the lower parts with
only the solmization syllables, the basses singing the C and the tenors, the F
hexachord. The second verse mirrors this structure-the singers, having worked their
way up to the top of the hill, get marched down again from la to ut. A great deal of
effort has been expended on attempts to explain the symbolism involved. The essay
by Willem Elders entitled “Symbolism in the Sacred Music of Josquin” at pp.531-68 of
the Josquin Companion contains a substantial section on the symbolism of the Holy
Virgin including both number symbolism and the attribute called the scala regni
caelestis (which makes its first biblical appearance as Jacob’s ladder) and which, as
John told us, was a Marian symbol in Western art. Elders suggests that Ut Phoebi
radiis is the first composition in which the hexachord pattern symbolises Mary as the
Elders also detects a second level of significance relating to the Order of the Golden
Fleece (founded by Philip le Bon, Duke of Burgundy in 1430, with the motto Pretium
Laborum Non Vile-no mean reward for labour) in the textual references to Jason’s
quest for the Golden Fleece and the signs of the fleece for which Gideon prays in
Judges vi. 36-39. Huizinga, in The Waning of the Middle Ages (1919, tr. Hopman,
1924) tells us that the rules of the Order “are conceived in a truly ecclesiastical spirit;
masses and obsequies occupy a large place in them”. However, French propaganda
about the rapacity of the Burgundian nobility induced the bishop of Chalons, as
chancellor of the Order, to identify the Fleece with “Gideon’s fleece, which received
the dew of heaven” (and which, says Huizinga, was one of the most striking symbols
of the Annunciation) so as to associate the title of the Order with a more reputable
origin than the exploits of Jason, which involved larceny and perjury, according to the
French poet and political writer Alain Chartier in his Ballade de Fougeres.
After lunch we returned to our study of the Palestrina mass. We did a good deal of
work on the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei, the second part of which expands into seven
parts, the additional part being Altus III, which has the cantus firmus in canon with
Cantus II. John drew our attention to the direct quotation from the Richafort Missa
pro defunctis which many of us had previously studied with him and which itself
quotes from Josquin’s six-voice chanson Nymphes, nappes and, more briefly, from his
five-voice chanson Faulte d’argent. The Palestrina hexachord mass could thus be seen
as a homage to Josquin, whose own Masses la sol fa mi re and Hercule dux Ferrarie
were the first of the solmization genre, a device which seems to have been
particularly popular among Spanish composers (Boluda, Capillas, Esquivel and
Morales); there is also a la sol fa mi re Mass by Robert le Fevin. John was not,
initially, inclined to spend very much time on the Credo of the Palestrina mass, but
after we had worked on it for a short time he found it to be rather more interesting
than he had thought it would be, and so it received some extra attention.
Amply refreshed after tea, we sang through most of the Palestrina but did not revisit
Ut Phoebi radiis. John was very complimentary about our pitch, which had held up
well throughout, and that no doubt reflected the level of interest and attention which
his direction of these events always generates. We are all grateful to him for another
rewarding day’s singing. Warm thanks are also due to Nicola Wilson-Smith, Wendy
Davies and Diana Porteous for their work in organising the event.
The Art of being a 21st century Medieval Singer
St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in the City of London is rapidly becoming a firm
favourite for music workshops and this was the venue for a very successful event on
29th April run by The Renaissance Singers with Belinda Sykes as the tutor. Belinda is
professor of medieval music at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and is
also director of Joglaresa. I had attended an EEMF workshop with her a year or two
ago and the chance of a second session was not to be missed. A good number of
TVEMF members were present in the group of singers numbering over 40 and
including quite a few ‘Rennies’.
After a physical warm up we warmed up our vocal chords and Belinda asked us to sing
in a medieval style in which principles of bel canto and of blending are to be ignored
and instead replaced by more folky type singing including yodeling and belting. I
suspect I was not the only one to find this difficult but I enjoyed trying. We were then
introduced to an anonymous English piece ‘Magno gaudens gaudio’ which was
computer type set, used modern note values, octave treble clef, a key signature and a
metronome mark. This felt somewhat fraudulent but was nevertheless a sensible way
of proceeding if we were to sight read the notes without any time wasting. We firstly
sang the song ‘straight’ in unison (with added yodels) and then we were shown how to
prepare it for performance as 21st century singers. This involved adding drones,
occasional countermelodies and appropriate ornaments. The two forbidden acts were
to add thirds to cadences and to use late baroque ornamentation. As if we would!
Belinda explained that medieval music uses Dorian and Mixolydian modes (if you find
such terms scary then think of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ respectively),
and this first piece was Dorian. In contrast the second piece entitled ‘Quen bona
dona’ was Mixolydian. We all sang the chorus and took it in turns to improvise the
verse using the words provided. There seemed to be parallels with modal jazz and I
felt that Miles Davis would have really gone to town if he had been let loose with this
music. After exploring ‘Ave, donna santissima’ another piece in one part that we then
‘arranged’, we were introduced multi-part music. Firstly we sang ‘Flos in monte
cernitur’, a three part conductus in which the music is fairly homophonic. We
concluded with a four part motet ‘Plus bele/Quant revient/L’autier’ in relatively
complicated polyphony in which each line had a different text and three of the lines
are in French and the fourth in Latin. I guess that makes it macaronic.
Throughout the evening Belinda accompanied our singing with either an instrumental
drone or a drum and she also sang along with us demonstrating the types of vocal
technique we should employ. I n addition to the music listed above we were given
more music and we were urged to take the scores home with us and set up medieval
bands. The workshop was educational and great fun.
Music for the civil war?
On the 23rd June from 2 to 5 pm there will be a commemoration at Pankridge Farm,
Bledlow Ridge, of the civil war battle at nearby Chinnor in 1643 which ended in victory
for the Royalists. I have been asked to publicise this and to encourage any groups or
indeed individuals who would like to perform there, not necessarily in appropriate
costume, though that would be appreciated. There will be a marquee and lots of
things going on around but I gather some appropriate music would be welcomed. No
fee is offered, though it is conceivable that expenses might be forthcoming. If you are
interested then get in touch with Susanne Smith on 01494 481770, 07815 295665 or
Can anyone please identify this short piece?
It's on Jordi Savall's 'Dix ans après' played by Le Concert des Nations. It's described,
helpfully, as 'Entrée' by Lully. Of course there are dozens, if not hundreds of entrées
by Lully. I'm pretty sure it's not from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.
Nick Pollock npollock09gmail.com
Conference on Mechanical Musical Instruments
The National Early Music Association and Guildhall ResearchWorks will present a
conference on Mechanical Musical Instruments and Historical Performance to take
place at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (London) on Sunday 7th & Monday 8th
July 2013. The conference is supported by the Handel Institute and the Institute of
From water organs to player pianos, the production and reproduction of music by
mechanical means has been a source fascination to many cultures. Contributions will
focus on what can be learnt from musical clocks, mechanical organs and other
historical mechanical or automatic instruments with respect to the practice of
There will be keynote addresses from Peter Holman and Arthur Orde-Hume, and
contributions from representatives of Anglia Ruskin, Cornell University, Deutsches
Museum-Munich, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, LUCA School of Arts, Sydney
Conservatorium, University of Evry and University of Helsinki. The event will consist
of a range of papers, presentations, lecture recitals and a performance by students
and professionals in historical performance.
Visit NEMA’s home page at http://www.earlymusic.info, click the details link for
information on the conference, and click book and pay to reserve your place and pay
the conference fee by PayPal. The normal fee is £40, although concessions are
available to NEMA members and for bookings made before the Early Bird date of 17th
May 2013. For further information on the conference please contact Emily Baines on
and Historical Performance
Byzantine Chant Symposium
Tuesday 14 May, 5pm - Great Hall, Hellenic Centre18 Paddington St London W1U 5AS
Leading scholars discuss The Musical Form of the Divine Liturgy in a short series of
papers and a panel discussion aimed to reach a broad spectrum of the public, from
early music enthusiasts, to liturgy scholars and enthusiasts, to students and
practitioners of Byzantine chant. Musical examples led by Cappella Romana and the
Choir of the School of Byzantine Music, Archdiocese of Thyateira. This will be
followed by a Byzantine Chant recital at 7.30 by Cappella Romana and the Choir of the
School of Byzantine Music, Archdiocese of Thyateira. Free entry but please confirm
attendance on 020 7563 9835 or presshelleniccentre.org
News of Members’ Activities
Our President, Jeremy Montagu, has just perpetrated a frivolity, publishing an
entertaining book: Wendy, The Lives and Loves of a Dragon.
She’s for e-readers only, now up on Amazon for Kindle, where you can already read
most of the first chapter for free as a sample, and up on Kobo for epub. Lots of jokes,
some musical, puns, etc. Not suitable reading for committed vegetarians as she’s a
bit omnivorous. She travels the world to visit old friends, deep below the Drachenfels,
hiding from Wanderers with spears and Heroes with swords, in Loch Ness, in Qumran,
and elsewhere, and to renew affections, and to get her children settled in life and
Light reading for travels and between bouts of work if you, like him, carry an e-reader
for bus and plane journeys.
* * *
Marjory Bisset and her daughter Louisa appeared on the BBC quiz show Pointless in
March and won! It was a really impressive performance. Oddly enough I saw
Pointless being recorded when my husband Alan took me on a visit to Television
Centre (where he works) round about that time. I wonder if it was the very same
show. We were in a viewing gallery and couldn’t see the performers very well, but it
looked a most intimidating environment.
* * *
For those in London in the first half of August and interested in Handel's life and work,
Helen Dymond will be running a one-day course in the City Lit Summer School
sometime between August 5 - 16 entitled Handel and Susannah, uncovering Handel's
extraordinary relationship with Susannah Cibber, a captivating actress with a
scandalous reputation, and listening to the music he composed especially for her.
Date and details to be announced in City Lit Summer School schedule.
Opportunities to Make Music
Helen France has asked me to let you know more about the Baroque String Orchestra
Workshops in East Sussex. She writes:
Come to a series of friendly, relaxed and fun day-long sessions with violinist Julia
Bishop, working in detail on Baroque string repertoire and the performance practise of
the day. Enjoy playing some of the great composers of this glorious period, such as
Bach, Handel, Telemann, Corelli and Vivaldi, as well as exploring some of their lesser
known but colourful contemporaries.... Modern and Baroque instruments welcome,
pitch A440. 10 am - 5 pm at St Thomas-a-Becket Church Hall, Cliffe High Street,
Lewes, East Sussex. BN7 2AN. The hall is warm and well-lit and there is tea and
coffee and Julia's delicious home baked cakes to keep the brain cells fuelled. One of
our cellists, Humphry Evatt also does a mean baked apple cake that is not to be
missed. They will be on the following dates: 2013 - 22nd May, 26th June, 31st July,
18th September, 16th October, 20th November. 2014 - 15th January Contact Julia
Bishop 07521 897422 juliaredpriest.com.
East Sussex is quite a long way to go for a lot of our members and I’ve been talking
to Julia about doing a baroque string day for TVEMF. I expect the pitch will be A=415.
If this would interest you, please email secretarytvemf.org and let me know.
* * *
EEMF member Selene Mills, the administrator of the Cambridge Early Music summer
schools, tells me that they still have some spaces in some sections of their courses
but a waiting-list for others. On the baroque course, ‘From Monteverdi to Vivaldi’, 4-
11 August 2013, there are a few vacancies for tenor and bass voices, viola, cello,
flute, recorder, bassoon and continuo (keyboard, harp or lute family). On the
renaissance course, ‘Lessons with Lassus’, 11-17 August 2013, there are vacancies for
alto, tenor and bass voices, lute, viol and Renaissance wind and brass. Full course
details are on http://www.cambridgeearlymusic.org/Courses.php and you can contact
Selene at infoCambridgeEarlyMusic.org
Kung tenor recorder in Rosewood with c# key, and a mellow tone. Offers over £200
Kathy on 01494 762775 or edmondsxxxyahoo.co.uk
Spinet by Hugh Craig when he was at the Dolmetsch Workshop. Walnut frame, four
and a half octaves and a lute stop.
Canvas cover . The legs unscrew for travelling. Offers over £2000
Kathy on 01494 762775 or edmondsxxxyahoo.co.uk
available from teacher with over 18 years experience.
Whether you are looking to pass exams, diplomas,
improve your continuo playing, or just want to learn for fun,
lessons are designed to suit individual needs.
Please call Katharine May (GRSM Hons, ARCM) on 01628 783272 or email