Tamesis Issue 252 November 2015
Are you a singer/keyboard player who is coming to the Stephen Jones workshop on
January 30th? Stephen would like to borrow a small organ/keyboard during the day and
you would then play it yourself, presumably after being given a chance to practise,
during the run-through of the Tomkins Third Service.
This edition of Tamesis is probably the biggest ever and I’m most grateful to all our
contributors for the wonderful collection of articles it contains. I hope some of you will
think about writing something for the January issue.
I’m looking forward to seeing lots of you at the Baroque chamber music day, Greenwich
and the Christmas event. I’m pleased to say that we have plenty of volunteers for
Greenwich. This will be the last time the festival is held there for a year or two, due to
renovations, so do come and enjoy the musical atmosphere and some of the concerts,
masterclasses and demonstrations. The Christmas event is filling up nicely but I would
particularly welcome some more altos, tenors and basses.
At the age of 88 my very good friend Don Gill has finally hung up his curtal, though he
continues to play in the recorder group that he and I were in when it started in 1969.
Can anyone beat 46 years for an ongoing early music group? Long may it continue. Don
was a founder member of TVEMF and on the committee for many years, dealing with the
Charities Commissioners' interminable forms amongst other duties. He is a fine
craftsman and made many early instruments such as curtals and crumhorns as well as
tutoring a course at West Dean College on making portative organs. Sadly he no longer
drives and doesn't feel up to a TVEMF workshop these days but I thought those who
remember him from the early days of TVEMF would be glad to hear he is still pretty fit
These days I'm only working a couple of days a week so have time for some recreational
computer programming (yes really) with a musical slant to it. Some of you will have
come across the fruits of my electronic cut-and-paste program that makes instrumental
parts from full scores by reassembling the stave lines in a different way (a bit
reminiscent of Eric Morecambe's “all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right
order”). I'm a big believer in not losing any of the hard work that has gone into
producing modern editions of early music but there are a number of cases where the
typesetting sources may not survive. In other cases such as the PMS system that ran on
the Acorn Archimedes computer, the source files may not be readily usable, though
Philip Hazel has ported his system to Linux. Other typesetting systems may simply
cease to be supported, so I am working on a program which will translate at least
straightforward examples in a number of formats into MusicXML, which ought to be
readable well into the future.
I'm looking forward to the traditional TVEMF Christmas event on the 6th of December,
directed by the inimitable Philip Thorby. I gather it has a pastoral theme this year – I'm
guessing shepherds rather than Mouton. That reminds me that I enjoyed our workshop
studying the music of John Sheppard with Justin Doyle and also the Venetian workshop
with Emma Murphy.
You’ll find your membership renewal form with this Tamesis. If you don’t already do so,
please consider paying by standing order.
Member r ejoining
Nan Scott Argyll, Kingsway Mews, Farnham Common, Slough, Bucks SL2 3UR (01753
642749) Email nanatargyllgmail.com I rb Cello bar c cla c
Meeting the Monster
The TVEMF event on 26 September at the Wesley Memorial Church Hall, Oxford, was
devoted entirely to the music of John Sheppard. This was our third visit in the last two
years to the venue and, as with David Allinson’s day of Marian motets in September
2013 and James Weeks’ Rosenmüller day the following April, we were regaled with a
highly interesting programme, on this occasion experiencing the sharply focused and
invigorating direction of Justin Doyle.
For your reviewer, there are two particularly pleasurable features of TVEMF singing days.
One is the opportunity to become acquainted with relatively little-known (or even totally
obscure) composers. Sheppard has certainly attracted less attention than his better-known
contemporaries, John Taverner, Robert White and Christopher Tye. Of the forty
volumes of Early English Church Music (Stainer & Bell), which include the entirely
undistinguished Sir William Leighton’s ‘Tears or Lamentations of a Sorrowful Soul”, five
are devoted to Taverner, and three to each of White and Tye, but only two to Sheppard.
The other is that so many of our distinguished and erudite directors wear their learning
lightly, so that the events are enjoyably informative. To this tradition, Justin was no
exception, interpolating his commentary on the early Tudor musical landscape and the
Sarum rite with (to borrow a phrase from Ernest Bramah) ‘weird antics of a gravity-removing
nature’, some of which we were required to emulate during the warm-up.
Those of us who had been exposed to David Allinson’s brain-scrambling Z YZY XYZYX
usque ad insaniam warm-up exercise may have thought that there were no further
worlds of lingual dexterity to conquer, but were rapidly disillusioned by the introduction
of four flying fishes and five fat fireflies (both ascending and descending the scale) into
As with Gombert and Rosenmüller, Sheppard’s personal life has attracted adverse
comment, but in his case (as the New Grove puts it) ‘his character has regularly been
blackened as a result of misreading of, and scribal inaccuracy in, the college records’,
the actual malefactor being, apparently, one Richard Shepper who was briefly (ca. 1548)
a contemporary of Sheppard at Magdalen College, Oxford.
Sheppard’s dates of birth and death have not been firmly established, but he was born
ca 1515, so his childhood years must have coincided with the last years of the lives of
William Cornysh the younger, John Browne and Robert Fayrfax, all of whom were
contributors to the Eton Choirbook; Sheppard’s six-part Magnificat is in a style which,
according to the New Grove, seems to belong to the tradition developed by the Eton
Choirbook composers and continued by John Taverner. His life spanned a period of
religious turmoil, with Henry VIII’s break with Rome and Thomas More’s execution after
refusing to subscribe to the first Act of Supremacy (1534) near its halfway point. It
appears that much of that which has survived was composed during the reign of Mary;
there is comparatively little extant of the English music composed during the reign of
The programme began with a four-part respond for Compline, for use between
Quadragesima and Passion Sunday, In pace, in idipsum dormiam et requiescam. Justin
took us through this in detail, with a considerable amount of re-editing of the plainchant.
The gently melismatic section following the plainchant paints a picture of the eyes
yielding to dreams and the eyelids to slumber; and after repetition of these two sections,
the vigorous setting of the Gloria provides a sharp contrast. The numerous repetitions
made this a work of quite substantial length, and in order to leave an adequate amount
of time for the Monster, we spent only a short period on the seven-part Libera Nos, one
of Sheppard’s two settings of this antiphon for Matins during Trinity.
All references which your reviewer has found that relate to the main item of the event,
the six-part antiphon Media vita in morte sumus, which incorporates a plain chant Nunc
dimittis, emphasise its scale, and one cannot dissent from Justin’s appellation of it as
“The Monster”. The New Grove does not comment specifically on it, though the part of
the article relating to his Office music is replete with references to its richness, sonority
and vigour. Peter Phillips has said of it that it is ‘a unique achievement in its length,
expressive power and liturgical function’. The programme booklet of the Stile Antico
recording (under the Harmonia mundi label), which also includes the Te Deum and the
responsory Gaude, gaude gaude Maria, states that ‘the colossal antiphon Media vita
ranks among the largest-scale pieces of the entire century, and is certainly among the
most powerful in terms of its cumulative emotive effect’, and that its scale seems to
point to a purpose beyond its liturgical function as Lenten Nunc dimittis antiphon at
Compline. Rival theories are that it was composed in memory of Nicholas Ludford (ca
1485-ca 1557) (whose eleven complete and three incomplete Masses make him the
most prolific English composer of Masses) and that the influenza epidemic of 1557-59
provided the impetus for it.
Under Justin’s direction we negotiated the 71-bar first verse (media vita…juste irasceris)
followed by the respond Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors salvator (a
further 76 bars) after which we tackled the plain-chant nunc dimittis and the verse which
followed it, non proiicias… ne derelinquas nos Domine (35 bars), at the end of which is
the direction ‘repeat from A that is, the sancte fortis’ which follows each verse) to the
end. It would be fair to say that we enjoyed a highly interesting and vigorous grapple
with The Monster, but lack of time prevented us from going the full distance, so the
entreaties contained in the final two verses, noli claudere aures tuus and qui cognoscis
occulta cordis, parce peccata nostris, remained unsung.
It remains only to record our sincere thanks to Justin for directing such an excellent
event, to Nicola Wilson-Smith for organising it and for all those who ensured that
refreshments were available during the day.
A Venetian Day 10th October 1015
We had a hard-working and musically rewarding day on 10th October when Emma
Murphy made a very welcome debut as a conductor at the invitation of organizer Hugh
Rosenbaum at St. Andrew’s church in Ealing. Emma has been a recorder and choral tutor
on the Ascot Early Music courses for several years, always giving fresh insights into the
well-known repertoire of consort and poly-choral works, and challenging us with new
finds. So she did not disappoint at the event in Ealing, working with a large contingent of
63 singers and instrumentalists on works by three roughly contemporary Renaissance
composers, in glorious large-scale works.
Billed as “ A Venetian Day” meaning in the early 17th century, she gave short
informative talks about the context of each one – and there were three, instead of the
two original announced. We started with Monteverdi’s intricate Dixit Dominus from Selva
Morale et Spirituale in 9 parts, two choirs with instruments and voices on all lines. Small
sections were rehearsed with the emphasis on 'singing' and phrasing by the instruments
to match the word sense. We all improved our time keeping and tone when we obeyed
Emma's instruction to breathe (for singers with the mouth shape of the vowel to be
followed), well in advance of the phrase starting, and clearing a phrase ending to allow
new entries from other choirs to come through. There was some very florid writing for
both equal choirs which I thought came across best from the cornetti, played by David
Fletcher and Wayne Plummer, and we were able to put everything together well after
understanding the challenges of each section.
We next turned to the extra piece, Hassler's Exulatate, justi, in Domino, for 4 choirs,
where rhythmic complexities needed quite a lot of work. Counting rests in this work as
well as the others was challenging with frequent shifts between duple and triple time.
The day ended with Giovanni Gabrielli’s Magnificat ‘Anima Mea’ for 3 choirs of 4 voices,
which was the least complex of the works. To some extent I felt we might have gained
more confidence by starting the day with this, as had been originally planned. It was a
better work to allow a sight reading run through to give a feel overall before working on
the individual sections.
As always at these events we were able to field a large range of instruments, including
recorders, violins and viols, a theorbo, sackbuts, cornetts. curtails and a kortholt (a
double reed enclosed within the cap like a crumhorn) which I had not heard before. The
three works required rearranging parts and seating and so took some time to organise.
Emma also had to contend with two different editions of the Monteverdi, with different
bar lengths and note values, and some instrumental parts without the text.
The venue was comfortable but it would have been wonderful to be in a more resonant
acoustic the way it was (is!) in St Mark’s in Venice, with the possibility of greater
separation of the choirs for the true polyphonic effect.. And, adds organizer Hugh, we
probably would have benefitted more from working more on the original two pieces than
adding the third, although the Hassler was well worth doing.
Emma managed to keep us on board throughout with good humour and certainly left me
wanting more. I do hope she will make further appearances at our workshops.
A Venetian Day with Emma Murphy
I wonder how many people who have watched the video (ASIN "B000084HAJ") of Eliot
Gardiner's performance of Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers from San Marco in Venice at the
end of the Eighties spotted that our tutor for the Venetian Day event was one of the
(very) young trebles who took part?! This must surely be one of Emma Murphy's earliest
of many credentials making her the ideal choice of tutor for this workshop.
We started the morning with Monteverdi's rather substantial Dixit Dominus secondo a10.
As sometimes happens in such events we ended up with some instrumental parts with
different bar numbering to the vocal score... I was very impressed with Emma's ability to
juggle both sets of numbers when rehearsing specific sections of the work; in fact, I
thought Emma handled the large ensemble of voices and choirs masterfully... actually
getting real results on improving everyone's word-stress (something I have seen other
directors try and fail with). Getting everyone to speak their line on a number of
occasions was most helpful in this respect.
This work was quite substantial with many sections with different feels... some very
virtuosic indeed... Emma worked us through most of these and the sometimes tricky
joins before our lunch break (saving the most virtuosic section for the beginning of the
afternoon). I was repeatedly struck by her unflagging enthusiasm and energy
throughout this, despite having to map bar numbers back and forth in her head
whenever we stopped... a most enjoyable morning indeed.
After lunch we worked on the trickiest passages in the Monteverdi piece and had a final
run-through performance. I thought we all did pretty well considering. The second piece
we worked on was Hassler's Exultate, justi, in Domino... this is one of those pieces I am
convinced would have been much easier to play from a bar-line-free edition! The editor
had done a sterling job switching between two- and three-minim bars to try and get the
bar-lines to help with the emphasis... but I am afraid to say that the final effect was just
a bit confusing. There were many players and singers looking significantly confused for
quite a while after we started working on this and entries often seemed to come in the
wrong place (...or perhaps it was simply the postprandial slump kicking?) We finally got
to a stage where a run-through was a possibility by about 4:15pm in the afternoon and
it was alright but not as impressive as the first piece.
The third and final piece of the day was Giovanni Gabrieli's Magnificat "Anima mea" a 12.
I am a great fan of the "Big G" as fellow brass players like to call the composer in
question and I had not previously come across this particular piece. I really wish we had
had more time to work on it. It was an interesting looking piece with three 4-voice
choirs, the top high (SSAT), the middle a more normal SATB and the bottom a very low
ATBarB, but the bottom bass line went many ledger lines below the bass clef into
territory few men are equipped to venture. Emma did manage to get some of this piece
into reasonable shape, but time was against us all and by the time of our final run-through
I think we had only had our appetites whetted.
In summary, a most successful first TVEMF workshop from a new musical director. I do
hope that we see Emma tutoring a TVEMF workshop again soon. I would certainly like to
have her enthusiasm, energy and crystal-clear beat conferred upon us again.
Hope Amidst Turmoil in Tudor England: Trogir
In September, a small number of TVEMF members participated in a Lacock Course held
in the delightful historic town of Trogir in Croatia. Three centuries of Venetian rule has
left its distinctive mark on the town, and its cobbled alleyways and squares are very
reminiscent of a miniature Venice without canals. For those with a desire for yet more
history, Split, with the Roman Diocletian’s Palace, was just a bus or boat ride away.
The atmosphere of the course was inclusive and friendly and most participants ate
together every night at some of the town’s many restaurants. Being a coastal town, the
fish was excellent and fresh and the platefuls of meat could be described as generous.
The Croatians cannot ever be accused of not loving their meat!
The subject of the course was ‘Hope amidst turmoil in Tudor England’, and comprised a
selection of music from the early years of Henry VIII’s reign to that of Charles I, written
under the period’s ever-changing religious and political constraints. The course was
devised and directed by Patrick Craig, who, as well as impressing us with his love and
knowledge of the music (not to mention his unflagging enthusiasm and good humour),
provided us with illuminating accounts of the dangerous political and religious
background that composers had to survive and work under. We started with the pre-Reformation
Omnes Gentes Plaudite by Tye, moving on to music by Sheppard, Taverner
and the three Thomases, Morley, Weelkes and Tomkins, composed through the turbulent
periods when the established religion moved between Catholic and Protestant, with
severe penalties for those who did not conform. Our programme ended with four pieces
from Byrd’s great Gradualia ac Cantiones Sacrae, a collection of pieces for the Catholic
liturgy, composed and printed at a time when there were strict penalties against Catholic
worship and it was illegal to use the music for its intended purpose.
Our rehearsing was interspersed with fascinating short talks on the background to each
composition and on the eventful, and sometimes colourful, lives of the composers. With
Thomas Morley’s Laboravi in Gemitu, we learnt that although authorship was claimed by
Morley, this may have been plagiarised from an earlier work by Phillipe Rogier, a Franco-Flemish
composer working at the Spanish court. With Thomas Tomkins’s Almighty God,
Fountain of All Wisdom, we learnt of his many misfortunes, which included being
stripped of his recent appointment as Composer of the King’s Music, when the son of the
previous incumbent successfully claimed that he had been promised the position after
his father’s death. Returning to his post as organist of Worcester Cathedral, Tomkins
later witnessed the desecration of the Cathedral by Parliamentary soldiers including
serious damage to his organ, followed by a direct cannon ball hit to his house and then
by the disbanding of the choir and closure of the cathedral. With Thomas Weelkes’
Laboravi in Gemitu, we heard that he was a troublesome employee and that the Dean
and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral dismissed him for being drunk at the organ and
using bad language during divine service. He was reinstated, but did not reform, even
reputedly urinating on the Dean from the organ loft – not normally considered a good
Byrd in contrast was an austere and virtuous man, whose only “sin” in those times was
in being a committed Catholic. He is notable for commanding such great respect that he
managed to escape the severest penalties for recusancy, in spite of making no secret of
his Catholicism and being taken to court on many occasions. However, in his early life at
Lincoln, Byrd managed to incur the displeasure of the puritanical cathedral chapter who
suspended his salary for eight months because of his refusal to desist from elaborate
organ playing. He was eventually instructed to play the organ only for the guidance of
the choir before the main canticles and, for the singing of the anthem, he was to leave
the organ bench and join the choir, which would have limited his playing to the
The musical standard of the week was very good and the selection of music varied and
satisfying, although we suffered from the perennial problem of too few tenors. The week
culminated in an excellent and well-attended concert in the town’s small Cathedral.
Cambridge Choral Liturgy weekend
For the third year in succession, this event was held in St Catharine’s College. The
thirty-one singers who took part, many of whom are TVEMF members, are becoming
veterans of this event, and once again we were very happy that our friends from
Denmark, Finland and Holland were able to participate. We did not, as in the previous
two years, have the benefit of Edward Wickham’s direction, as he was taking a
sabbatical, but we were as delighted that David Allinson agreed to direct the event as he
expressed himself to be in the foreword to the music which he kindly provided.
David’s programmes are always interesting, varied and a joy to perform. The centre
piece was Victoria’s Missa Ascendens Christus  for five voices, except in the Agnus
Dei where the tenors as well as the sopranos are divided. The Mass is based on
Victoria’s own motet, composed twenty years earlier. David said in his foreword that it
seemed to him ‘an almost perfect High Renaissance Mass’ and went on to describe it as
‘teeming with melodic invention, perfectly cantilevered phrases and shimmering with
textural variety’. To these descriptions were added, during the course of rehearsal, a
number of the gastronomic similes without which no Allinson workshop is complete, and
your reviewer is pleased to perpetuate the newly-minted concept of marinading the
music, the novel requirement to assume the facial expression of one who has gone to
the refrigerator and found his cheesecake missing, and the direction that the K in Kyrie
should be a Special K, which leaves him unable to escape the conclusion that purists and
Puritans alike would stigmatize our erudite and entertaining Director as a cereal
offender. Readers will no doubt welcome the assurance that there will be no
gastronomic wordplay related to any further items of the programme, despite the
opportunities provided by the next item discussed.
That item is the introit, Ave Maria, gemma virginum by Jean Mouton, which we sang
from a score edited by David himself. It is a quadruple canon at the octave, with SSAA
imitating TTBB. In David’s words, here we reach back to the more abstract Franco-Flemish
idiom of the early sixteenth century, but no less infused with emotional warmth;
and elsewhere if has been described as being dense, sombre, and urgent, and as
seemingly representing a multitude of troubled souls crying out to the Virgin.
The remaining item in the programme was the Communion motet, Accepit ergo Jesus
panes, by Manuel Cardoso, which depicts the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.
Cardoso is, perhaps, not so well known to us as Victoria or Mouton. According to the
New Grove, he was baptised in 1566, and if that is correct, he was eighty-four years of
age when he died in Lisbon in 1650. His musical career began at the age of nine, when
he was enrolled as a chorister in the choir school maintained by the cathedral at Evora.
In 1588 he joined the Carmelite order, which by then had a long-established tradition of
the propagation of learning, including the study of music. In his lengthy musical career
thereafter, one of his most important patrons was the future King John IV of Portugal,
and the parody masses in his second book of masses were all based on motets by John
IV. The New Grove says of his musical style that he was the first Peninsular composer
after Victoria to master the finer elements of Palestrina’s technique, specifically
mentioning word-painting. We saw that in the motet, particularly where the sustained
lines depicting Jesus giving thanks are followed by the more rapidly moving portrayal of
the distribution of bread, while the eventual satiation of those who have consumed the
loaves and fishes is beautifully rendered in the setting of the concluding words, quantum
volebant. We, too, may truly say that our appetites for Renaissance sacred music were
amply satisfied by the programme which David devised and directed.
Finally, our sincere thanks go to Edward Wickham for making St Catharine’s available to
us, to Neil for organising the event, enlisting David to direct it, and producing the music
(including the additional booklet of the Credo, which we ran through quickly on the
Saturday afternoon), and to David, whose excellent direction enhanced the pleasure of
participating in the event.
The Re-opening of Gesualdo’s Castle on 12th September 2015
Don Carlo Gesualdo's newly-restored castle with its pale local limestone gleamed in the
autumn sun and we seemed in another world from that of the allegedly crazed
composer whose home it had been. The occasion was a grand reopening of the building
which dominates the modest town of Gesualdo, set amongst the rolling hills, olive groves
and vineyards of Campania, about an hour's drive north of Naples.
Guest of honour was Marie Stravinsky whose grandfather had done so much to put
Gesualdo's music before the public. Also present and speaking at the event were the
English musicologist Joseph Knowles, composer Emmanuele Torrente and the directors
of the three existing Gesualdo Consorts: Harry van der Kamp from Amsterdam, Marco
Berrini from Milan and myself from London. Performing the madrigals, courtesy of the
Danish embassy, were Bo Holten and his remarkable ensemble Music Ficta.
Happily the state of the building is now very much at odds with the sadly neglected
building Igor Stravinsky described so atmospherically back in the 1950s, and
transformed from the virtual ruin that Werner Herzog portrayed in his film Death for Five
Voices. To be fair, by the time Herzog arrived, the major earthquake of 1980 in the
region had severely damaged not only the castle, but the whole town much of which has
also been faithfully restored. Those buildings left as they were after the earthquake give
a very clear idea of the scale of the disaster, and the surviving radio recording of the
one-and-a-quarter minute tremor is chilling indeed.
But this was a time for celebration and a none-too-dour image of Gesualdo dressed in
the kit of the local football team even appeared on the sugar sachets in the town bars.
The famous picture including his portrait almost has pride of place behind the altar at his
church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, but Italian taste has upstaged it with a twice-life-size
model of Padre Pio who studied in Gesualdo and embraced more conventional Catholic
Work on the castle is still in progress and the main rooms above the courtyard at the
back of the building were tantalizingly closed up when we were there. The rest of the
interior is notable for highly-decorated walls and ceilings, and though I was unable to
ascertain the date of these, they looked to be 18th century rather than contemporary
with Gesualdo himself. What was very clear was the modest scale of the whole place.
The performances at the opening had to take place in the courtyard against the famous
portico engraved with the composer's name - and many, many titles (Prince of Venosa,
Count of Conza, Duke of Caggiano &c). There did not appear to be any rooms that would
accommodate more than a handful of performers and a minimal audience, if any. The
same is true of the church already mentioned where the Responsories would have been
performed. The size of the building suggests single voices and perhaps the Versus and
Tutti sections merely reflected the convention of the form.
Most fascinating is the fact that the room where Gesualdo installed his own printing
press has been identified. Entry is from the ramp up to the castle: definitely a
tradesman's entrance. He set up his own press to supervise the accurate publishing of
his complicated and unexpected scores and, indeed, his madrigals were the first vocal
music to be printed in score as well as parts - an innovation at the time. One can
imagine the printers standing to attention there awaiting the Prince's inspection of the
latest galley-proof! The new edition of Books V & VI of the madrigals has been printed in
Gesualdo continuing the tradition but not as yet in the very room.
Giuseppe Mastrominico, who has overseen the whole project and is an expert on the
history of both town and composer, was keen to dispel some of the myths about
Gesualdo. It seems he had installed an ingenious drainage system and conduits to
enable the water-source in the castle to be shared with the whole town, and several
attractive fountains remain. He also had the environs of the castle rebuilt in a concentric
circular plan to ensure everyone in the town benefitted from an equal amount of
sunlight. Giuseppe was also keen to point out the Spanish influence in the area at the
time. Gesualdo's murdering of both his adulterous wife and her lover seems extreme and
shocking to us, and music-history has made much of it, but in fact this was the Spanish
custom - they both had to go. Likewise his status as a prince meant he had no choice
but to honour the family name and see justice was done.
So the celebrations definitely accentuated the positive. It was an event for politicians,
dignitaries, scholars and the townspeople themselves, and the musical entertainment
reflected this. Speeches varied in brevity, suitability and their languages. A room was
dedicated to Stravinsky in what is to become a study centre and the courtyard rang to
the sound of various local musicians. But the most revealing moment was the sound of
Gesualdo's late madrigals expertly performed in the twilight surrounded by the
terracotta-coloured walls of the palace courtyard and know that these very notes would
have been heard here some four hundred years ago.
You can see Gerald’s photos of the castle and the speech he made at the celebrations on
The Flying R ecorder
I'm not really an enthusiastic concert-goer, preferring to play or sing rather than listen,
but I was tempted to go to hear Piers Adams and Howard Moody because of their
reputation. I was certainly not disappointed – Piers Adams is a superb showman and the
concert really fizzed with energy. He plays more notes per second than any other
musician I've heard but Howard Moody was undaunted and heroic in his accompaniment.
For example in Cafe 1930 by Piazzolla for 11 saxophones (!) he stood in for 10 of them
whilst Adams played the lead.
October 4th 2015 at The Hawth, Crawley
The programme included a number of familiar pieces from the 14th to 18th centuries as
well as music from later periods, the playing of which on a recorder is probably illegal in
several countries. In the hands of these two it all seemed perfectly plausible, if
occasionally reminding one of a 33 rpm record played at 45 rpm.
Being an afternoon concert, a number of parents had come with children who had been
invited to bring recorders. They were allowed to play a series of chords to accompany a
couple of pieces but I reckon they have rather a way to go to catch up with the
performer on the stage. For another piece Howard Moody handed out a large number of
chime bars to be played in alternating chords under his direction, which made a very
pleasant effect, and the audience clearly enjoyed the experience.
Piers Adams appears with his usual group Red Priest at the Greenwich Early Music
Exhibition on Saturday 14th November in the beautiful chapel of the Old Navel College.
For non-purists it will be brilliant.
"The fortepiano's loud clangour excites us to arms..."
On 15 October Renate and I found ourselves, almost by chance, at a concert (part of the
Geelvinck Fortepiano Festival) in the Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, Amsterdam. We had no
idea of the programme, but were soon captivated by Trio Belfontis (fortepiano, violin and
cello) and special guest Guy Sonnen in Bernard Vigourie's Bataille de Maringo. (We had
spent the morning in the Rijksmuseum looking at the outsize painting of Waterloo.) A
later piece, Die Schlacht von Waterloo, by Johann Wilhelm Wilms, was for fortepiano
alone and narrator (an occasional "Charge!" or "Fire!"). If you have heard Richard
Burnett perform Mozart's Turkish Rondo at Finchcocks you will know to expect the
unexpected in the way of "stops". Haydn and Hummel were to be expected, but there
was so much gunfire in the Napoleonic pieces that they could best be described as
Saloon Music. (And truth to tell, there was a certain amount of Kitsch - which I love.)
The final item of the evening was Schumann's Die Beiden Grenadiere, where Guy
Sennen brought out the savage irony - "Morts pour la Patrie."
The publisher of Musica Repartita (Dr J.H. van Krevelen - email
musica.repartitatele2.nl) was present, and Renate could not prevent me from buying
the Vigourie and Wims, plus another piece - La Bataille de Waterloo, by C.F.Ruppe - in
inexpensive facsimile. Going through the catalogue at leisure I noticed Three
Divertimenti per il Testudo Tedesco by Earl Christy - I thought this to be the sort of thing
that the late David Johnson would unearth in The East Neuk of Fife, but Earl Christy
turns out to be a young American Lutenist! There were two volumes, Lautenwerke, and
Kammermusik mit Laute, (Bernhard Joachim Hagen) and Le Manuscrit de Foix (Bass viol
- discovered by Coen Engelhard) - plus some thirty pieces that I did not know. (As I
always say - there are pieces that we do not know that we do not know...) I was able to
resist the CD of (mainly Carulli) duos for guitar and fortepiano. Some day I will do some
Free course on reading early music manuscripts
TVEMF member Jan Elson has sent me some information about an interesting course by
the University of Basel. It’s title is 'From Ink to Sound: Decoding Musical Manuscripts'.
It’s a free online course on FutureLearn lasting seven weeks starting on 2nd November.
That date will have passed by the time you read this but it’s possible to catch up.
There is a lot more about the course on the web site, but to summarise they say that it
will enable you to understand the theoretical and practical principles of reading musical
notation from the Middle Ages until the Early Modern Period which, now that I’ve read
the first week’s course material, means the 16th century. The course includes recordings
of early music provided by musicians of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.
I did the first week’s work yesterday and it didn’t take very long, being just a general
overview. The rest of the course will include early neumes and square notation, early
13th century modal notation, notation of the Ars Antiqua and Ars Nova, mensural
notation of the 14th and 15th centuries, ending with keyboard and lute tablature of the
16th century. This is all predicted to be covered in three hours work a week!
You probably won’t want to type in this extremely long link but I’m sure you’ll find it if
you type the name of the course into a search engine.
Opportunities to make music
TVEMF member Norma Herdson is organising another of her baroque orchestra
workshops at Bourne end on Sunday 29th November. The programme includes
Christmas concertos by Manfredini, Pez and Torelli, conducted by Michael Sanderson.
She is particularly looking for some more string players. You can phone her on 01628
621367 or email nherdsonbtinternet.com.
The Easter Early Music Course, 3-9 April 2016 at St George's School, Ascot
is open to experienced players of ANY period instruments. Why not form a group of
Renaissance wind instruments, recorders or viols, and come along together for a week's
worth of great music-making? Or apply by yourself and make new musical friends?
Tutors are Philip Thorby, Marion Scott, Emma Murphy, Asako Morikawa, Alison Kinder,
David Hatcher and Tom Beets.
The 2016 theme is MISERERE, exploring 16th and 17th century settings of Psalm 51
which was an inspiration for many Renaissance composers.
Bookings are OPEN. Please find all details and booking information at the course's new
Is this the end of instrument making in London?
The remaining instrument courses at London Metropolitan University are now under
notice of closure - the Commercial Road building is being sold, and small courses are
being cut. Many of our best-known early instrument makers were trained there or at its
earlier incarnation, the London College of Furniture and it would be very sad if the future
of instrument making in this country was threatened by this closure. If you feel strongly
about it you might like to sign the online petition at this address:
Marna Gowan, the Secretary of BMEMF, has asked me to give you the sad news that
Hannah Davies died in October. She was at different times Chairman and Secretary of
BMEMF and the driving force behind so much of what they have done, and she had many
friends in the other forums including ours.
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
I teach in Carshalton, Surrey, by the Suzuki method for all ages from 3 and a half,
to produce excellence in tone from the start.
Please contact me on 07557 958823 or alysonellimanaol.com
www.handelhouse.org/whats-on To book tickets please call the booking line on
020 7399 1953. November concerts were in the September Tamesis.
Thursday 3 December, 6.30-7.30pm Arranged by Block4
BLOCK4 present a programme of arrangements for recorder quartet, ranging from the
medieval period to the present day, by composers such as Handel and Caccini.
Sunday 6 December, 2-3pm A Christmas Celebration
Flautotonic return to Handel House for an engaging and interactive family concert. Start
your seasonal celebrations with a delightful programme of Christmas music from around
the world. Explore and create the musical sounds of a winter landscape and then warm
up with some toe-tapping Christmas party music!
Tuesday 8 December, 6.30-7.30pm BHS: A Masterly Wildness
‘A Masterly Wildness’ – so said Charles Burney in reference to Joseph Kelway’s playing.
This programme performed by Julian Perkins celebrates the daredevil hand-crossings,
unpredictable figurations and plunges into exotic harmonies and rhythmic dances to
create music that is both theatrical and virtuosic.
Thursday 10 December, 6.30-8pm Handel House Festive Showcase
Handel House invites you to St. George’s Hanover Square W1S 1FX to celebrate the
success of the new Handel House Talent Scheme and our Composer-in-Residence
Apprentice. There will be solo and ensemble baroque music and a world premiere of the
Composer-in-Residence commission for Handel House, plus festive carols and ditties for
all of the audience to sing along to.
Sunday 13 December, 2-3pm The Amadè Christmas
The Amadè Players present an evening of seasonal music featuring soprano Rebecca
Ramsey and violinist George Clifford. German arias by Handel plus arias from Christmas
cantatas by Bach and Scarlatti.
Thursday 17 December, 6.30-7.30pm Handel’s Winter
Ballo Baroque offer selections from some of Handel’s works that had January premieres
in London: Poro (1731), Ottone (1723), and Partenope (1731). Other winter works by
Antonio Lotti are explored. Randall Scotting (counter-tenor), Magdalena Loth-Hill
(violin), Yu-Wei Hu (flute), Lucia Capellaro (cello) and Nathaniel Mander (harpsichord).
Thursday 31 December, 4-5pm Harpsichord Firecrackers
Celebrate the New Year with this festive harpsichord recital by Nathaniel Mander. A new
arrangement of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks is framed by two of the 18th
century’s most flamboyant and dazzling harpsichord suites.
Handel: A Life With Friends Wednesday 1 July 2015 – Sunday 10 January 2016
What was it like to live next to the great composer Handel? Who would call at his house?
Who did he visit? In this exhibition, Handel scholar Ellen Harris explores the composer’s
domestic life at 25 Brook Street and the many friends and neighbours who visited him at
the new, fashionable residential district called ‘May Fair’. With important loans from
national, local and private collections, the exhibition will offer a rare glimpse into the
public and private lives of some of Handel’s closest friends.
Exhibition Talks at 3pm are delivered by volunteers and are suitable for all levels of
knowledge. They last between 15-20 minutes and will take place on the last Saturday of
each month: 19 December.
During the CiR Series (19-29 November), an installation created by Edwin Hillier will be
on display in Handel’s Bedroom. Taking as its starting point three different composers
(Handel, Bach and Scarlatti), the work will explore the interaction of three distinct and
ever changing strands of music. Making use of multiple sound sources, visitors can move
freely around the room, continually shifting their perspective.
Due to building work taking place at the museum the public entrance is now at the front
of the house at No.25 Brook Street. There is currently no lift access or toilets within the
building, but visitors will have the opportunity to use Handel’s original staircase.
Opening hours Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm (8pm on Thursday), Sunday 12pm-6pm.
Last admission 30 minutes before closing. Closed on Mondays and Bank Holidays