The Russian Baroque experience on 28th September

It was an absolute privilege to be part of the group of singers assembled at St Nicholas Church in Warwick to be led by such an inspiring tutor. He knew exactly how to structure the day, beginning with simple yet heavenly music so that we could experience singing in Russian, then each new piece set new challenges, the previous ones having laid down the essentials of singing in this unfamiliar language. There was just the right amount of singing interspersed with interesting stories of life in the Russia of Catherine the Great. There was just the right amount of sitting and standing and the music he selected for us was just unbelievably sublime, a good mix of homophonic and contrapuntal textures.

I am so very glad that I attended. That workshop and Peter’s CD have opened up a whole new world of music for me that I had previously not experienced. Let’s hope he comes again to inspire us.

Susan Francis

Peter Leech was masterly. He handed out a wealth of music, assured us that singing in Russian wasn’t all that difficult and managed to sing tenor, conduct and play the piano simultaneously! His enthusiasm was infectious and his praise generous. I found the pieces themselves very interesting, musically and historically. We were treated to humorous anecdotes and relevant developmental facts from someone manifestly an expert in his field. The final rendition of the pieces we had been studying was quite stirring. I heard a few murmurings that the attendance was low (about 30, I think), but I don’t think the workshop suffered from that. I certainly enjoyed it and am considering attending the Handel and Purcell workshop in Birmingham on November 16th.
Chris Prior.

Summer Revels 2012

taborAs we assembled to start the afternoon workshop with Jeffrey Skidmore, the heavens opened once again, proving that moving the Revels to midsummer is no guarantee of better weather!   Of course, as soon as we started exploring the South American Baroque repertoire we could feel a hint of virtual sunshine even if the actual temperature stayed chilly for the time of year and we thought wistfully of the roaring fires that Middleton Hall staff kindly provide for Winter Revels.

The South American Baroque selection that Jeffrey had chosen allowed us to sample a variety of moods and languages from an area of music that he has studied extensively and continues to research for his group Ex Cathedra. With a balanced group of singers and instrumental group we tackled a lively celebration piece, a sweet invocation of the Virgin Mary, a solemn processional enlivened by discreet percussion, and others. Jeffrey Skidmore is not afraid to test out different combinations to enrich what are sometimes simple pieces, clearly written for local singers/congregation and band to learn by heart and no doubt play repeatedly during services, much as happens in some churches today.

After a satisfying workshop, the MEMF AGM took place. Welcome to two new Committee members, Meg Forgan and Jonathan Spencer. Farewell and heartfelt thanks to Jim Rowley (former Chairman) and Kate King-Smith  – both long-standing members who have made a huge contribution to MEMF. Minutes will be sent round as usual.

figures dancingThe traditional evening entertainment allowed MEMF members to share some of their favourite party pieces, and take part in madrigal singing and Playford dances. What a treat to leave at the end of the evening in almost daylight!

A full review will appear in the next Newsletter as usual.

Midlands Early Music Forum events in Winter 2011-12

Early musical instruments PraetoriusThe first outing for the Renaissance BIG Band on 26 November brought together a splendid selection of earlier instruments, a few singers and even a couple of drums. Kathleen Berg steered us rapidly through a programme of Susato dances, and the “In Dulci Jubilo” arrangements by Hieronymus and Michael Praetorius. This was also the first outing for MEMF’s new Roland electronic harpsichord/organ/fortepiano, purchased with the assistance of a generous gift from a benefactor. It is intended that the keyboard will be available both for use at workshops and also for loan to groups and individual MEMF members. More details on how this will work later.

The next Winter workshop is a treat for lovers of the earlier repertoire. David Hatcher will concentrate on Josquin and Lassus renditions of Praeter Rerum Seriem. This workshop on 21 January 2012 is for singers and renaissance-type instruments (A=440).

Our workshops are open to members of MEMF, members of other early music forums, and also to non-members and you don’t have to be a regular member of any choir or music group to come along (you do need to be able to sight-read to some extent).

We are also very happy to see members come along just to listen in to workshops in which they have an interest but can’t actively take part in – for example singers observing an instrumental workshop. Since we are often lucky enough to be working on music not readily accessible elsewhere, this can be a way to get to know some unusual repertoire even if it won’t be too polished! Members are only charged a fee for observing for certain events such as the forthcoming Master Classes with Philip Thorby.

See the Diary for events coming up. You can print off a booking form before each event to send in to the workshop coordinator.