- Easter Viol School 2007
- Annual General Meeting 2007
- Consort Days in Sydney and Canberra
- EVS and Consortium 2008;
- Workshops in other Places
- Viols on the Web
- The Score
- Technical Tip
- Chelys Australis volume 6, 2007
- Voices and viols;
- The Marais Project
- News from New Zealand
- Profit and Loss Statement
- Advertisements - Orpheus Music and Watchorn Strings and Historical Instruments
Report on the Easter Viol School from the Organisers
In 2007 the annual Easter Viol School returned to Canterbury Girls' Secondary College, Melbourne. This year the school was jointly presented by the Australian Viola da Gamba Society and the Early Music Association of Victoria, so an organizing committee was assembled with representatives from both associations. I would like to thank every one who was involved one way or another: organisers, tutors, players and supporters of every sort. We had a very successful Viol School. twenty-five people participated and we made a small loss of $400 that was shared equally between the AVDGS and the EMSV. The wonderful thing about annual viol schools is meeting old friends. We were very fortunate to welcome participants from Queensland, NSW, the ACT and even from New Zealand. Sadly a few regulars couldn't make it and they were greatly missed, however we did enjoy some new faces from Melbourne and a new player from NZ!
As Musical Director Ruth Wilkinson planned a varied program described below. We all benefited from Ruth's quiet professionalism and insightful teaching. Some new activities Ruth introduced included a quiz and a vote for the top 10 viol composers of all time! The results are included at the end.
Asako Morikawa was new to Easter viol schools. Asako was born in Japan, studied in The Hague and now lives in London. She plays with several ensembles including Phantasm, and more recently, Fretwork. Asako was a wonderful tutor and we enjoyed her inspiring teaching & impressive playing. She was a delight to work with and an inspiration to all.
Laura Vaughan and myself were the other full-time tutors and we were joined by Miriam Morris for a few afternoon sessions and Vivien Hamilton, who took an afternoon session of 'viols and voices' bringing with her some members of Early Voices - the early music vocal ensemble at the University of Melbourne. John Weretka also took an afternoon session.
Each day started with a technique session, followed by a consorts. Participants remained in the same groups in the morning but were mixed around as much as possible in the afternoon. After lunch there was a presentation of a series of short talks. Ruth began on Friday with an introduction to the Violone. This included a demo and an opportunity to have a go during the final session on Monday. On the second day Asako enlightened us with the latest info on strings from Europe and then tidied up a few stray frets. Unfortunately Harold Love was unable to attend the Viol School and present his talk, so Miriam Morris stepped in on Sunday to fill the gap with a talk on her journey of discovering the viol and the development of viol playing in Australia. You can read her article in the latest Chelys Australis.
After the talks, there was a general consort session where there was as much mixing of groups and participants as possible. This was followed by a session of pre-selected 'choices'. These were; a workshop for solo repertoire with Asako, how to tackle the bottom line with Laura, reading from facsimile with John, tablature with Miriam, viols and voices with Vivien and an opportunity to play multi choir works with Ruth. On the afternoon of the final day we enjoyed a short concert by students in the 'performer' group. It was wonderful to hear each person present a short solo that they had worked on during the morning sessions and then join together for a 5 part Jenkins.
The tutors' concert was on Saturday evening. For me the highlights were Gibbons Fantasy for the Great Dooble Bass where Polly Sussex joined us to make 6 parts and Ruth played the violone, Asako and Laura giving a very exciting and polished performance of the Divisions for two bass viols in G by Christopher Simpson and the premier performance of a new work, For the Tomb of Herrick, for soprano and 4 part viol consort by Calvin Bowman. Calvin masterfully set texts by Robert Herrick and Philip Martin in a series of seven movements where the soprano joins with a different combination of instruments for each movement. In 2006 the AVDGS began a project to annually commission a new Australian work for the viol to be performed at the Viol School. This year the AVDGS and Consort Eclectus jointly commissioned this new work from Calvin. I look forward to hearing the results of this exciting ongoing project in 2008!
And finally a Viol School is never complete without a good deal of eating and drinking! A huge thanks to Meredith Sherlock, her able assistant John Rechter, and the team of soup and biscuit makers who supplied a feast of yummy food for us to consume every day.
now we are all back at home and into our daily routine and Easter seems like it was months ago! I hope you remember a couple of the moments you particularly enjoyed and you are already looking forward catching up with everyone again in 2008 - reinvigorated and ready to play more Jenkins!
Report on the Easter Viol School 2007 by Polly Sussex
This year's Easter Viola da Gamba School was as great a weekend as it always is for me. Since I started coming, I have missed only one Easter get-together and the others have all been rewarding in different ways. It must be hard to cater for everyone's level of playing and different desires but I applaud Richard in his ability to put us all into some kind of structure.
Perhaps fewer than usual attended but that meant all the more for those who did and, of course, the highlight was the tuition and playing of Asako Morikawa of "Fretwork". Generous in her personal attention to the various needs of different players and charming in her genuine interest in us all, Asako was, despite jetlag and a cold-coming-on, the perfect tutor. Her playing of the Simpson duet with Laura Vaughan in the final concert proved that her expertise is not limited to consort playing. [They BOTH played wonderfully].
The lectures given after lunch each day were another highlight, enlightening us all on the secrets of the violone [Ruth Wilkinson] and the modern history of viol playing in Australia [Miriam Morris]. We still found time to tie frets in more than one way and to duck into rooms for yet more consort playing with some of those we hadn't yet played with.
I always wonder at the trust with which viol players lend their instruments at viol schools. As someone who can bring only one, I do appreciate that generosity. It is also a very helpful way to give one an insight into how other people's viols sound and feel.
Lunches were deliciously balanced by the kitchen staff, Meredith and Peter, who kept us all going, with not only a nourishing diet, but also the odd Easter egg.
We all went away with a copy of the new Chelys Australis, ably assembled again by John Weretka, having, yet again, had a marvelous time playing together and reacquainting ourselves with those whom we meet so infrequently but with whom we share this obsession for the esotericisms of the Viola da Gamba.
Thank you to Richard Milner from us all.
Report on the Easter Viol School 2007 by Ann Kaanan
Melbourne, hosts for the 2007 Easter Viol School, did us proud. For some of us it is a long way to travel but people were met at airports and billeted with friendly viol players which made the process considerably easier, more welcoming and definitely cheaper. The venue was good - plenty of rooms for separate groups and including a hall where the tutor's and student's concerts were held. The food was a special delight and didn't we most heartily appreciate the hardwork of Meredith and John, and the soup makers and the biscuit bakers (not to mention the Eeaster eggs) - all homemade and all delicious?
I think what I most appreciated was the friendliness of the course. It is true the numbers were small (where were the others?) and therefore the same faces would often be playing together. However, when I was with better players (far better in some instances) people were surprisingly tolerant of my lack of expertise.
Back home in Sydney my head reels with all the very good technique advice I was given. What I have come to realise however is that I am told the same thing by different people many times over; relax the arm (doesn't that sound the simplest thing?), keep the bow straight (another simple task), keep all fingers down but sitting upright and elbow tucked in and wrist loose, increase the pressure with second finger, release with third, ease the thumb, close the hand and open it - up bows, down bows, fast bows, slow bows, nearer the bridge and further away, remember your posture and your tuning, and count and listen - above all listen - all of it hugely useful not to say imperative but I absorb only what I am ready for - the remainder waits for my experience to develop. "Ripeness is all" said Hamlet who learned this philosophy very late in his career indeed only moments before he recognised that, "The rest is silence". And that of course is something else we budding viol players are supposed to remember. I look forward to putting it all (well all that I can recall) into practise at next year's EVS.
At the recent viol school much discussion turned to tuning and replacing frets and some practical advice was offered as follows:
The first step is to see if your frets need changing. Loose frets can be stopped in the short term with a matchstick but can slip and give poor tuning results. Frets that are worn under the string also need to be changed although in the short term can be slipped a little further around the string. These however are only meant to be very short-term solutions and it was clear that many viols at the Easter Viol weekend would have benefited from a new set of frets.
Frets that are not worn and frayed under the strings also need changing to give clarity to the basic sound.
Tying new frets just takes practice. Old strings can be useful for retying frets but a good investment is to buy a graded pack of fret gut. You can buy such a set over the Internet from Gamut strings. (www.gamutstrings.com). The same site at Gamut has a very helpful set of instructions for tying frets with a useful diagram that is reproduced below. Remember to tie the frets a little lower on the neck than its final position.
(Many of us will remember Geoff Wills teaching us all to tie frets with a broom stick and a piece of rope: never to be forgotten larger than life demonstration.)
Dan Larson of gamut strings makes the following suggestions when changing frets
"The usual custom for gauging frets is to have the thickest fret to be the first fret, the one nearest the nut, and then have each subsequent fret to decrease by.05mm"
- Place the instrument securely on a table or other flat surface so that the neck extends toward your left.
- Remove the old fret by clipping the knot with some fingernail clippers.
- Tie the new fret down the fingerboard, (toward the nut). The fret will be pulled up into position when it is finished. This will help to hold the fret tightly on the neck.
- Loop the fret material and slip it under the strings as in figure A. We will call this loop 2. The two ends should be sticking out from the strings toward you. We will call these strand 1 and strand 3. Loop 2 passes around the back of the neck and also faces you.
- Make another loop in strand 1. We will call this loop 4.
- Pass loop 4 through loop 2 as in figure B.
- Now, pass strand 3 through loop 4 as in figure C. Pull the knot tight. Don't worry about getting it too tight. Just pull the gut and settle it so that there is no slack in the fret.
- Now, make a simple over hand knot with strands 1 and 3 as in figure d. Pull this knot tight.
- Clip the ends of the strands about 1/8 inch from the knot. Use a small flame or soldering iron to burn the ends up to the knot. Be careful not to burn the knot or the instrument!!
- If you need to, rotate the fret on the neck so that the knot is more or less at the joint of the fingerboard and neck.
- Pull the fret up the neck into position.
Here is some good advice found on the VdGSA site on tying the first fret that can be difficult to get really tight by Ken Perlow.
To get the knot good and tight, grip both ends with needle-nose pliers and pull hard.
You have considerable latitude to tighten frets by moving them up the neck--all but the first one. Most of your frets will be made from old, broken or otherwise worn strings. To get a tight first fret, sacrifice an unused string of the right thickness. If you've got one that's a year or more old, and it hasn't been used yet, chances are it won't play true anyway; gut doesn't age well. Stretch it as tight as it will go, either on your viol or using any useful winch mechanism (like the screw on a bench vise). You'll know it's at its limit when you crank it just a little more but the pitch doesn't change. Leave it like that for a day or two. Then take it off and tie the fret immediately. The string will shrink back a bit, leaving you with a tight fret.
Now for tuning the frets. Some viols will have a fret gauge which are very useful especially if there are marks for several temperaments. Revisit newsletter, issue 5 of the AVDGS for John Cunningham.s article How to make a fret gauge for further advice.
For the inexperienced the general consensus is to get a new best friend: a multi-temperament tuner with a clip-on bridge pick-up lead. This is a great investment especially when tuning a consort of viols and leaves no room for argument and saves a considerable amount of time. First chose an agreed temperament: fretted instruments work well in equal temperament but the thirds of chords will sound a little harsh. Veloti or quarter comma 6 mean tone is a little more tempered and the thirds in chords are very pleasing to the ear. There are many choices of temperament but these work well on fretted instruments.
Tune each string and then the next step is to tune the frets.
Working on your in tune top string carefully and patiently tune each fret semitone by semitone up the string with your tuner. Now straighten the frets across the neck so that the frets are parallel.
If the tuning across the strings seems unreliable it is time for a spring clean of strings as well as frets. Just how long ago were the frets and strings changed? It is a good investment in your playing and enjoyment of the music you are performing to put a completely new set of strings on your instrument.
With new strings, freshly tied frets, good tuning and a bow re-hair while you are at it you and your consort will be playing in tune.
Figures and explanation courtesy of Dan Larson Historical Instruments