Tamesis Issue 227 September 2011
I’d been hoping to have news about the Greenwich exhibition and next year’s
Waltham Abbey date by now, but as they haven’t appeared please keep an eye on the
web site. I hope we’ll be able to send round an email update later.
Both event forms are to be sent to me this time, so please make sure that you write
separate cheques for each one. It was too soon to include train information on the
Christmas form. If there are any planned works on the line I’ll mention it and the
alternative route in the November Tamesis. As usual I’d like to put in a plea for
continuo players (keyboard, cello, gamba, bassoon etc) and oboes for the baroque
day. If you’ve been before you’ll be familiar with the form, which I’ve hardly changed
at all. If not, please read it carefully!
I don’t usually mention concerts in my editorial, but I was delighted to see that the
Little Missenden Festival has three this year which could be of interest to TVEMF
members. Trinity Baroque is a six-person one-to-a-part vocal ensemble which
includes Jennie Cassidy, well-known to many of us not just as a professional singer
but also from the Beauchamp House renaissance course and for her amazing cooking
skills at the EEMF Epiphany party. They will be performing the Victoria Requiem,
subject of the latest TVEMF workshop (reviewed twice in this issue) and motets,
chants and songs by his contemporaries Guerrero, Morales, del Enzina and Penalosa,
on Friday 14th October by candlelight. The following day there is a recorder consort
Consortium5 at 11.30 in the morning. You can then have lunch in one of the two
pubs in the village and explore this beautiful area before the concert by The Division
Lobby in the Evening. Their programme of improvisation based on 17th century
techniques promises to be really exciting and their director Paula Chateauneuf will
explain and demonstrate their approach to improvising during the concert. There will
be an opportunity to ask questions afterwards. Little Missenden is about two miles
from Great Missenden and three from Amersham so you’ll need to get a taxi from the
station if you don’t come by car.
Having just been to Monteconero in May, I had a nasty moment, retrospectively, when
I was renewing my annual travel insurance policy and checked that it covered music
summer schools. I was told it didn’t! I subsequently wrote and explained that a
music summer school is really an activity holiday, with singing or playing instead of
walking or cooking, for example, and they changed their minds and said it was
covered after all. Mine is with Saga, but it might be a good idea to check your own
policy before you go if it’s with them or a different company.
Thanks to all the contributors to this issue. I was hoping for some summer school
reviews, so perhaps next time?
The TVEMF AGM, which is usually quite a short one, will be held immediately after the
Christmas workshop on Sunday 4th December at about 5.15pm. Please send your
ideas or apologies for absence to me as secretarytvemf.org.
I don't imagine that Tomás Luis de Victoria would have expecting anyone to
commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death but it proved a very popular event.
The Requiem is very beautiful and, like the rest of Victoria's music, very singable.
David Allinson was on good form, so of course it was a hugely enjoyable day. Michael
and Mary Reynor's organisation guaranteed smooth running, and Mary's home-made
cake was a delicious bonus.
The fact that we have two events within a fortnight doesn't seem to have deterred
people and I expect about 50 for the workshop with David Hatcher this weekend. I
have accepted late entrants and cancellations but it would be nice if people could try
to make up their minds at least a week before the event, preferably sooner. It's
particularly important when music has to be hired but supplying music by whatever
means requires time. I'm reluctant to impose extra charges for late applications but
don't tempt me!
Lots of good events coming up so get those applications in early.
Victoria Requiem workshop with David Allinson
On August 27th, the TVEMF season got off to a fast start with an oversubscribed
workshop at St Barnabas Church in Ealing. 65 singers worked on and reached
reasonable command of the 6-part Officium Defunctorum, or requiem service by
Tomas Luis de Victoria, advertised as “Requiem for Victoria”, but described in the
literature as being for the deceased empress Maria, not for Victoria himself. The
August 27th date is believed by many to have coincided with the date of Victoria’s,
which made it appropriate enough for us.
Organiser Michael Reynor took pains to balance the forces, even to assuring that
second sopranos, whose line contains the long notes of the chant most of the time,
were switched with firsts for half of the sections. St. Barnabas is a big, high-arched
space, which promised good acoustics, but it took some shifting around of the seating
to get the best out of it. We tried it in the Nave, we tried it in rows, then in blocked
sections, finally in the chancel in mixed-up formation. Opinions were divided as to
which worked best- I liked the mixed formation. And after lunch there was an audible
relaxation of acuity, which director Allinson was prepared for by making us stand up
Director David Allinson delivered his usual energetic and athletic approach to working
with the group, many of whom had been attracted by his presence. He had the good
fortune of all sections being competent, and worked on each part of the music in
detail three voices at a time, then standing, then mixed. This frequent and intense
repetition is one of the hallmarks of Allinson’s technique, which assures familiarity
with the notes, entrances and dynamics for all the parts. He restrained his academic
explanations and revelations to a minimum, giving us just enough to show us how
much more there is around and behind this music, which we were welcome to pursue
on our own. Less talking meant more singing for us, which we appreciated.
I always listen for quality pianissimos as my measure of quality and excellence in a
choral event, performance, or workshop. David Allinson managed to bring us down to
a few of these. His one-liners (see below) kept us amused, as did his attention to
pitch and the importance of pronunciation, two aspects often neglected in one-day
workshops. Only one thing - those of us who looked at him a lot were disappointed
with his habit of ending section “performances”, especially those ending quietly, by
looking down at the score rather than encouragingly at the singers.
A selection of Allinson one-liners:
“The Versa est in Luctum (the last part of the Office) is one of the great utterances of
“Make that line come out like a long succulent bit of linguine, which is appropriate
because Victoria was in Rome at the time.”
“The ending of that bit should leave an impression like a streak in the sky after the jet
plane has passed.”
“You aren’t seeing enough of the horizon in that phrase” (possibly referring to his
observation of all the noses buried in the scores, a scene directors always observe
and try to talk us out of)
“You lower voices should make the music here sound like a swan swimming, with all
the paddling going on below the water line.”
Obsequies in Ealing
Once upon a time, the parishioners of Ealing’s newly developed Brentham Garden
Suburb worshipped in a corrugated iron hut in Pitshanger Lane. Now, the impressive
St Barnabas Church, designed by Ernest Shearman, and consecrated in 1916,
provides a place of worship with its roots in the liberal catholic tradition as it towers
over the modest terraces of the suburb like a Spanish galleon among a crowd of
fishing smacks,. The simile is not so fanciful as it might seem, since one of the most
remarkable features of its design is the “Noah’s Ark” roof; and among the many other
noteworthy features of its design and decoration is a picture of the Holy Trinity
(attributed to Pedro Machuca), in which God the Father is depicted with a triangular
halo; this, according to Gillean Craig, a former member of the clergy, is “an
interesting way of confirming the theology of the Holy Trinity”. Altogether, an
admirable setting for the music that was to be performed.
This event was possibly one of the most over-subscribed in the history of TVEMF
(though your reviewer, a mere newcomer with but 14 years’ membership of TVEMF,
stands to be corrected on this point). Sixty-six singers took part and at least another
thirty applied unsuccessfully. Clearly the combination of Victoria’s beautiful Officium
Defunctorum (composed for the obsequies of the Dowager Empress Maria, widow of
the Emperor Maximilian II, and performed on April 22/23, 1603) and David Allinson’s
inimitable and expert direction provided an opportunity not to be missed. Not only
was the setting highly appropriate but, felicitously, the event took place on August
27th ,the date being, in David’s view of the available evidence, the exact 400th
anniversary of Victoria’s death.
Much praise has been lavished on this work. Bruno Turner, in his introduction to the
Mapa Mundi edition from which we sang, described it as glowing ”with an
extraordinary fervour within a musical atmosphere of serenity and fitness for liturgical
purpose”. Perhaps, as Allan Atlas surmises in Renaissance Music (Norton, 1998), that
liturgical fitness was a manifestation of the effect of the Counter-Reformation and the
decrees of the Council of Trent which “although they seemed on the surface to limit
artistic expression, were intended to bring music and the faithful close to one
another”; and he describes it,, together with two other masterpieces (Lassus’ Lagrime
and Palestrina’s Song of Songs as “among some of the most beautiful and sensual
music ever written”, with special praise for the poignancy of Versa est in luctum, the
structure of which he perceives as progressing from “the hushed, almost mysterious
paired imitation at the opening, through the agony at ‘nihil enim sunt dies mei’ to the
sense of quiet acceptance at the end”.
More generally, in his own exposition of what makes Victoria’s music special, David
drew our attention to the paraphrasing of chant, the breaking out of the modal
structure and the way in which the music progresses not only horizontally along the
line but vertically, in its harmonic structure.
The actual singing involved quite a lot of experimentation with the distribution of
voices. The initial configuration with tenors and basses at the ends with the upper
voices in the middle seemed to cause some difficulty in hearing all the parts, but the
reshuffle after lunch with the lower voices in the middle was, perhaps, not a great
improvement. There was a rather greater amount of scrambled singing than usual,
and many, though not all of us found this more satisfactory as we were singing out
into the body of the church and also, better able to hear the other parts around us.
But whatever difficulties individuals may have encountered, there can be no doubt
that this was a greatly rewarding, if challenging event, directed by David with all the
erudition and good humour that we have come to expect. The warm-ups were less
eccentric and the gastronomic and other similes perhaps more restrained then we
have experienced in the past, though the reaction to the stolen cheesecake and the
hissing of the angry librarian may come to take a permanent place in the warm-up
Mention of cheesecake provides a neat segue into our thanks to Mary Reynor for yet
another coruscating display of the cake-maker’s art, to Michael for organising the
event, and to David for guiding us through one of the finest works of Renaissance
Letter from Leipzig (plus Anhang from Arnstadt!)
I've just spent a couple of days in Arnstadt where I visited the Schlossmuseum.
Besides paintings by a local artist there is a sizeable "Bach in Arnstadt" exhibition, a
Lapidary Museum (statues and monuments, not gemstones), a charming Fire Brigade
Museum with leather buckets and pre-Amish fire-engines , over one thousand pieces
of porcelain (both original Chinese/Japanese vases and local Meissen Chinoiserie - I
presume everyone knows the story of the alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger and the
"invention" of Meissen ), Baroque drinking glasses, tapestries, some rather dark
paintings by unfamiliar or anonymous artists and -the coup de theatre (almost
literally), Princess Augusta Dorothea von Schwarzburg-Arnstadt (1666-1751)'s
collection of eighty doll's houses, with over four hundred figures! The Princess's
seamstresses must have worked overtime to clothe all the figures. One particular
group- a timpanist and two horn-players who resemble Brian-The-Snail from The
Magic Roundabout - are placed rather delightfully in among the serious exhibits in one
of the Bach rooms. Renate and I spent several hours in the Schlossmuseum, only
leaving because of hunger.
Consulting the Internet for the spelling of Böttger I found myself drawn to Glasgow's
Kelvingrove Art Galleries, where I looked at John Petties' chocolate box kitsch "Two
Strings To Her Beau" - one of the beaux is Hamish "Land of the Mountain and the
Flood" McCunn - I then saw details of a new book "The Kelvingrove Organ" (John
Hunter). With accompanying CD it looks like a good Christmas present.
Back in Leipzig I enjoyed visiting the department store Karstadt where the basement
fountain produces a "splosh-et-lumiere" effect every hour, sending a jet 27 metres
high -alas, no Respighi, Szymanowski or Alyabyev (The Fountain of Bakhchisarai - a
staple of the Marinsky Ballet - don’t pretend you didn’t know it), though if any TVEMF
member were to submit a suitable theme...Karstadt appreciates music. (As the tills
close they play Andrea Bocelli/Katherine Jenkins singing "Time to Say Goodbye"- a
rare example of East German kitsch, and so much pleasanter than the Victoria Wood
P.S. Good news for lovers of Bach/Handel - Ryanair plan to introduce Stansted-Halle
flights in November this year.
Opportunities to make music
For its 11th annual season, Isleworth Baroque is staging a semi-staged production of
Handel's 'Solomon' at the end of October this year (performances 26th-28th October.)
Location is Isleworth (Hounslow) in west London. Pitch A440. There will be three
instrumental and several combined rehearsals. If you are interested, please contact
Chris Hobson (0208 948 0791; c.hobsontiscali.co.uk) or see the IB website at
On Saturday 19th November at St Mary Redcliffe church, Bristol there will be a
workshop on Gregorian chant, led by Dr Emma Hornby. The cost of the workshop is
£8/£4. To reserve your place, please send a cheque (payable to Dr Emma Hornby) to
the Department of Music, University of Bristol, Victoria Rooms, Bristol BS8 1SA,
together with your name and contact details. The workshop starts at 1130am and
will be followed at 5.30pm by first vespers for Christ the King, in Latin, performed by
the workshop participants with the University of Bristol Music Department Schola
Cantorum. The service will be led by the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd. Dr. Simon
Taylor; admission free - all welcome. For more information email
For all of you who couldn’t get into the TVEMF Victoria workshop at the end of August,
I’ve been asked by EEMF to let you know that there are still spaces in their Victoria
workshop, also with David Allinson, on 19th November. This workshop will explore a
representative selection of his motets, antiphons and Mass movements, familiar and
lesser-known; the actual repertoire depends upon enrolments received.
On 22nd October they are holding their annual medieval workshop, also in Cambridge,
tutored by Jon Banks. This is an opportunity to dig out that medieval instrument you
don’t get to play very often, but I’m sure singers are welcome as well. Contact for
both of these events is Robert Johnson RobtNJohnsonaol.com (01480 493573).
In case you missed the TVEMF Handel: Israel in Egypt workshop, EEMF are doing it on
24th September at Michael Taylor’s old Baptist Chapel at Elsworth near Cambridge.
There are vacancies for voices and instruments, and the contact for this one is Selene
There is another Victoria workshop with David Allinson in London on 24th September
(see Events list). I believe there are vacancies in all parts, but particularly for tenors
Please call Katharine May (GRSM Hons, ARCM) on 01628 783272 or email
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.
Ceske Tenor Viol including padded bag. “Master” Series 2003. Well played in; good
clean warm tone. Double purfling and rose. One careful lady owner! String length
53cm; overall length 100cm. £1025 ONO
Helen France cornysheyahoo.com
Baroque Bassoon A415 by Leslie Ross, after Scherer. 5 keys, vgc. Played in but
nearly new. £2,600. Contact Paul on apcrosbybtinternet.com or 07535 574528