Another excellent workshop on Saturday with the irrepressible Richard Wilberforce guiding us through some Spanish Renaissance vocal Villancicos. The manuscript from which these delights were taken is the Cancionera di Upsala. Any relief that we didn’t have to sing Swedish was quickly swamped by the realisation that summer holiday Spanish wasn’t a lot of help! However, although Richard spent some time going over rough pronounciation (more to get some sense of style and some consistency), he was much more concerned with bringing out the beauty of the music.
The Villancicos are a mixed lot; some sweetly longing for the lover who never turns up, much praise of the Virgin Mary, and in one case a stern warning against becoming a cuckold! All share a definite sense of the strong tune (usually from a popular song) and often a chorus with a strong beat crying out for a backing group of percussion and plucked strings. We were encouraged to sing keeping in mind “the sun beating on the back of our necks and the colour of red tomato that you only get in a very hot climate”.
Looking forward; Heironymus Praetorius in Loughborough (June) and French music for the Baroque band in Warwick (July).
A sad day at the AGM as we bade farewell to our retiring Chairman Mike Ashley, who has stepped down after 3 years in the Chair preceded by 9 years as Treasurer. Heather Holt will take on the role as Acting Chair. David Yates also retired from the role of Secretary after several years. Two new Committee members were elected. Details will be in the minutes which will be circulated to members as usual.
You’ve guessed it: sing Medieval music. A good turnout of around 50 singers enjoyed a fantastic workshop with Andrew Kirkman, bringing to life the delights of Josquin des Prez, Ockeghem, Dufay and Lionel Power.
This is tricky stuff: not written for our standard SATB choirs at all, and containing harmonies and rhythms that we don’t come across in the more familiar territory of later centuries. Andrew Kirkman’s approach was that we still needed to think of it as any other music and bring out the beauty of the lines rather than worrying too much about e.g. where the text underlay was “meant” to go.
The result was a day of fierce concentration and, in those heady moments when it all came together, heavenly music. Andrew expressed his appreciation for the high standard of MEMF sight-reading, although many of us were battling against some very non-standard ranges! It’s all a matter of having a go. Sight-reading/singing is the same as most musical skills in that it needs practising and a bit of risk-taking.
So if you fancy having a go at some more lesser-known repertoire, the next MEMF workshop is Monteverdi, The Sacred Dramatist. See the Events Diary for details.
The most observant visitors to the MEMF site may have already noticed that there is a new page under “Events”. We are hoping to start posting more photos of events, an old tradition which should be easier to uphold in these days of digital everything. To have a peep at some pictures of the Messiah workshop follow this link.
If you have your own photos of workshops and would like to contribute, Facebook users are very welcome to upload on the MEMF Facebook page. Or you can email them to one of the Committee.
A good turnout for the (slightly experimental) Messiah workshop with Steve Davis on 5th December. We had quite a well balanced chorus and band, complete with 2 trumpets and 2 oboes plus our Chairman on the theorbo adding colour. A longer review will appear in the next Newsletter.
Although this is a familiar work to most, there are still a few of us who rarely get the chance to sing it. Steve Davis took us through the most popular choruses but also a selection of the lesser known items for variety. It’s just such lovely, well-crafted music to sing and play, so descriptive. Steve was an energetic and encouraging conductor.
The festive energy was enhanced by a break for mulled fruit punch and mince pies before a final run through.
I’m sure the attendees will agree this was a great start to the Christmas season. If you have suggestions for future, similar events, do let the committee know!
The leaflet and booking form are now available for downloading for this exciting workshop with William (Bill) Hunt. Well-known for his work in London Baroque, Fretwork and the Dunedin Consort, he has also taught at various conservatoires and run workshops and residential courses across Europe. He founded Fretwork Publishing and now devotes much of his time to this enterprise, and to researching the Verse Anthem.
This musical form arose from the principles of the Reformation, which demanded clarity of the text in sacred music. Many of the greatest names in English music before the Civil War composed in this form and the workshop will be concentrating on Tomkins but also touching on Gibbons and/or Byrd.
Put 27th September in your diary now and don’t forget to book, all you singers, violists and recorder players!
At the heart of Christian worship is the Sacrament of the Eucharist. C16 composers wrote music of superlative quality to honour this sacrament. We will sing a selection of this music- including Motets by Tallis, Guerrero, Willaert, Byrd, Gabrieli and Josquin.
Where else would you have the opportunity to sing such a wonderful selection of music in one day!
Our Tutor, David Allinson, is well known to many of us, and alwaysavery popular tutor…. we have been waiting eagerly for his return to lead another workshop.
David has directed numerous workshops and summer schools in UK and abroad.
He has conducted the Renaissance Singers and has his own ensemble, Cantores.
He is currently Director of Music at Canterbury Christchurch University, and prior to that was a Teaching Fellow at Bristol University.
David studied music at St Peter’s College, Oxford and University College, Durham and completed his PhD at Exeter University. The history and performance of Renaissance Choral Music has always been his specialism, so he is a perfect tutor for this workshop which is being held in Harborne.
Click for the downloadable Leaflet and booking form 5th July 2014
Edwin Griggs, Chairman
We are sad to announce the untimely death of our Chairman, Edwin Griggs. Edwin was elected as Chairman following the retirement of Jim Rowley in 2010 and had been busy carrying out the role very successfully until his health deteriorated. So many pieces unplayed, so many songs yet to sing. We will miss him.
Edwin Griggs Obituary
We are delighted to welcome back Graham O’Reilly to run the next MEMF workshop.
Graham O’Reilly, founder of the “Ensemble William Byrd”, has lived in France for more than 30 years. Originally from Australia, he studied at University of Sydney before coming to England to work as a Singer and Music Director. Graham continues to Direct “Ensemble William Byrd”, with whom he has made many highly acclaimed recordings. He also works throughout Europe as a Choral Conductor and Vocal Trainer, and is in great demand to lead masterclasses and workshops. Graham has run two previous workshops for MEMF, which were very successful and enjoyable:- Carissimi’s “Jeptha, and more recently, a wonderful Portugese Polychoral workshop..
The music we will be studying on 22nd February is Polychoral music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704), which was very much influenced by the years he spent studying in Italy with Carissimi. We hope to include Extremum dei judicium (H.24) for double Chorus and Baritone solo; and Salve Regina (H.24) for 3 Choirs.
We need plenty more singers for the 2 and 3 choir pieces, but we already have enough instrumentalists (unless there is a keen keyboard player who would like to help out with reading figured bass on the second keyboard part!).
Bookings please by February 8th.
For a sneak preview, go to Amazon where Graham’s recording of Charpentier choral music is available as an mp3 download.
Here is a chance to hear a version of Cantata 150 together with a rolling score. http://youtu.be/LzT4APqCqRY
Next workshop to look forward to is on 2nd March. Here’s an opportunity to work on some less familiar pieces by two great masters of English renaissance music, Thomas Tallis (1505-85) and William Mundy (1529-1591). Tallis is much the better-known of these two, having composed some of the best-loved and most-performed music of its period; his music has in the last decade been recorded in its entirety and his celebrated forty-part motet Spem in Alium has become almost a pop classic. Mundy, a generation or so later than Tallis, is a more obscure figure, less of whose music has been performed and recorded, undeservedly so, since he was a fine composer. A final selection of pieces has not yet been made, but we hope to look at one or two large-scale works by these composers, or at any rate by Tallis. Possibilities include the motets Suscipe Quaeso, Videte Miraculum, Forgive me Lord my Sin, Gaude Gloriosa (we could easily spend a whole workshop on this piece alone), and Magnificat (Anglican Latin setting) all by Tallis, and Mundy’s Adolescentulus Sum Ego, In te Domine Speravi, and Nunc Dimittis to Mr Parsons. Some of these are pieces which, perhaps because of their difficulty and sheer length (Suscipe and Videte last about ten minutes, Gaude fifteen or more, and the middle sections of Gaude are reduced voices) get less of an airing than they should.
Our tutor for this event is Alistair Dixon, founder and director of the vocal ensemble Chapelle du Roi and an experienced conductor and workshop director. Alistair and Chapelle have together recorded all of Tallis’s music on ten CDs, a monumental achievement, so his expertise and authority in this repertoire is unquestionable. Alistair has directed a number of successful workshops for MEMF over the years but none recently, so it is good to welcome him back now.
Singers will be required in all voice parts. Scores will be provided. Booking form is available to print off from the Events Diary.