EASTERN EARLY MUSIC FORUM
Epiphany Party 2006
Music of the 16th and 17th centuries
Saturday 7th January
The Methodist and UR Church, Beccles
Tutored by Philip Thorby
casual observer might find it hard to believe that a few pieces of
paper covered with various scribbles would merit the attention of serious
musicians. However, 45 or so enthusiastic singers and players of recorders, curtals, sackbuts, violin, viols, cornetts,
violone, and two keyboards, met to do just that, led
by that redoubtable conductor of early music groups, Philip Thorby,
who managed to conjure up some wonderfully inspiring music today at the annual
Epiphany Party. Encouraging witticisms, almost too numerous to mention, fell
from Philip's lips. He was obviously in a good mood! Correct pronunciation of
the Latin text was high on the agenda. Stray East Anglian or
AFTER a warming and refreshing introductory coffee we tackled Hans Leo Hassler's Angelus ad Pastores Ait a 9 in two choirs of mixed forces, and achieved a modest success. We had to work harder with Giovanni Gabrieli's Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) a 12 where we were re-dispersed into two choirs with soprano voices on the outside of each group, and the basses of both choirs next to each other in the middle.
WE were then allowed to relax with a bring and share lunch containing a variety of pies and salads, etc, which might have been on offer in the 16th century, including several delicious desserts.
AFTER lunch came the hard part. Jubilate Deo a 12 by Hieronymus Praetorius, a setting of Psalm 66: vv 1-3, had been transcribed by John Allen, and we were divided into three choirs; a high choir of soprano voices and instruments, an a capella group of tenor voices and instruments, and a third choir of low-pitched instruments and basses. The first section wasn't too bad, but the middle section was beset with bewildering time changes. Modern ballroom dancers might be forgiven for considering the calypso and tango, for example, to be of recent origin, but the 16th century rhythms tapped out on the floor by Philip bore an uncanny resemblance. (We did wonder if he'd taken up tap-dancing!) What's more, we were required to use these rhythms in our playing, giving it a richness and added depth. Philip's reputation for utilising all the triplets in 4/2 music was enhanced today by his use of 6/4 and even 5/4 timings. Those stuffy 'old' composers had a sense of humour after all, and were not ashamed of showing it in their compositions. Harmonies, too, the use of which would have been forbidden to modern students not so long ago, found their place here. We built up the chords, and enjoyed the 'crunches'. Philip took us carefully through the complex rhythms, breaking them down into manageable chunks which we practised until we were - reasonably - sure of them. Then he put them all together. The result was fantastic. The music was brought alive, and all the ingenuity of the composer became apparent.
AFTER tea, we played an anonymous transcription of Quem Vidistis, Pastores? by Andrea Gabrieli, another fine piece. All in all, a very satisfying day.
Extracted from EEMF Newsletter 61, February 2006