EASTERN EARLY MUSIC FORUM
Lalande day with Jeffrey Skidmore
Ex Cathedra's founder and director comes to
for his first EEMF workshop
varied collection of players and singers assembled for a day exploring some of the music of Michel-Richard de Lalande. Within the first hour we'd had a crash course in French baroque style and ornamentation - not to mention Latin pronunciation suitable to the period. It was a lot to take in, and most of us found it impossible to remember everything! But Jeffrey Skidmore combined real knowledge and enthusiasm with illuminating turns of phrase to help us: "every note has a shape"; "think jazz or swing - nothing is played exactly as it is written"; "there's nothing solid about French baroque music". Entertaining anecdotes (Simon Rattle introducing the Boston SO to the French style?) were an added bonus.
THE music itself was a revelation - the booking form promised "lavish grandeur", which was exactly right. Jeffrey's coaching helped us with the word-painting both in the large scale (in all senses) Dixit Dominus and in the darker De profundis. Lots of interesting harmonies, too, and the stylistic range was fascinating - everything from scrunchy Purcellian duets (great to sing - but could one of our more expert members please advise whether Purcell learnt from the French or the other way round?) to an Implebit ruinas setting in the style of a missa di battaglia. The music itself was quite a challenge for both singers and players. Some of the fast passages really made the string players work hard - especially the bass viols playing bass violin parts. The vocal parts had some pretty complex ornamentation. Haute-contre parts set the usual challenge for the altos. The solo sections weren't that easy either - but all rose to the challenge!
A tutor for a one day workshop always has to strike a difficult balance between reading through lots of music and studying a small amount of music in depth. Jeffrey adopted an interesting compromise; reading through enough of both Dixit Dominus and De Profundis to give us the flavour of each work, and then focusing in more depth on specific movements or passages. I found this rather more satisfying than skating over lots of pieces, but less frustrating than spending a whole day working on one or two short items. We still ran out of time, though, and were very conscious that we had only just scratched the surface of this splendid music, which really deserved a whole weekend (or several!)
MARY Earl's organisation was of course
well up to the usual standard, as were the biscuits. And
the venue (the Auditorium at
Extracted from EEMF Newsletter 59, July 2005