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.
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.
Close on 60 people spent a glorious day singing and playing Bach Cantatas on Saturday 27th April under the expert direction of Paul Spicer. Cantatas 77 and 150 were chosen not only for their lusciousness, but also because they have a lot for the chorus to sing – not that we minded listening to some excellent soloists. What heaven!
We now look forward to the Dowland weekend in June – come and listen in on Philip Thorby’s Masterclass on the Saturday or take part in small singing and playing groups on the Sunday. See the Events Diary for details.
Here is a chance to hear a version of Cantata 150 together with a rolling score. http://youtu.be/LzT4APqCqRY
The next workshop on 27th April is with Paul Spicer who is well known as an outstanding choral conductor, composer and musicologist. This will be a rare and exciting opportunity to sing or play Cantata BWV 150 with baroque orchestra and another to be decided. The venue is Warley Woods Methodist church and details and booking form can be found in ” Events Diary”
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.
Some time ago I set up a “bulletin board” as an experiment, to allow MEMF members to get in touch with each other online and discuss eg what the last workshop was like, perhaps arrange to meet up for some music-making outside workshops, etc etc.
Since this has had little use, but spammy fake sign-ups are cluttering up my inbox, I have removed the facility.
However your committee would still be very happy to have your feedback, which you can send either by using the contact form on the site, or by leaving comments on the News items.
If you wish to get in touch with other MEMF members and interested parties online, then the MEMF Facebook page is the place to go. “Like” MEMF on Facebook and join in!
Caroline Hogarth – Web Tzarina
Hopefully you have already booked your place on the December 1st Vocal Workshop with Steven Rice in Harborne. Steven will be taking us through works by Clemens (non Papa) and Mouton and if it lives up to previous vocal workshops he has tutored for us, we will enjoy some lovely music spiced up with interesting background information. 2012 is believed to be Clemens’ 500th anniversary (though this is disputed) so he’s an appropriate choice.
Note for your diaries for something to provide a soothing antidote to the rigours of January sales; on 26th January, John Hancorn is our tutor for a workshop covering Scarlatti’s Stabat Mater at Selly Oak Methodist Church. This event is for singers and continuo, booking forms available soon. As ever, we urge you to book early and in this case it will be particularly important as the particular score to be used is not too easily available and arrangements will have to be made.
Please do remember that we’d love to hear your feedback on workshops. You can either leave comments here on the News page, or if you use Facebook, why not “Like” the MEMF page and leave comments on our wall. Yes, MEMF goes wildly techy!
The booking form and leaflet are now available for the next MEMF workshop “The Different Faces of William Byrd” – tutor Will Dawes – on 29th September 2012. We haven’t had a Byrd workshop for quite a while now, so if you’ve been pining, it’s time to book up. This versatile and long-lived composer created works for both small, private performances and large-scale, public events. The eventual selection of music for this workshop will depend on the balance of singers who book up.
For this reason, and for the reasons outlined in the recent Newsletter article by our Workshop coordinator, Gillian Grason-Smith, it is essential that you book early. Last-minute bookings are causing all sorts of logistical problems and have led to near and actual cancellations of workshops.
At present, if you book but are unable to attend on the day for some reason, you will get a full refund if you let us know. So there is no risk in booking up early!
NB this is at a new venue for us (St Paul’s Church in Warwick) so we are awaiting more details on the best places to park for this event.
As 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.
The 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.
The 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.