- A little tale of victory and woe
- Viola da Gamba Music of the Berlin School
- Visitor to Australia
- 22nd National Easter Viol School
- Consort Days
- CD Review: Star of the Magi
- Johannes and the Nymphs
- Marin Marais: A life's work
- The Viol Bow
- State Reports
- The Score
- AVdGS Greeting Cards
- For sale
22nd National Easter Viol School, April 13 - 16 2001
Held at the C.B. Newling Building, Armidale, NSW, Australia. Tutors: Stewart McCoy (UK), Mike O'Loghlin (Brisbane), Patrice Connelly & Jenny Eriksson (Sydney), Rhona Lever (NZ). Convenor: Patrice Connelly
24 viol players attended the School, from NSW, ACT, QLD and Vic, with most welcome additions from Singapore and New Zealand. The School was held in conjunction with the Grand Musical Gathering, put on by Zana Clarke of Orpheus Music, and for the first time, we were able to combine some classes which gave a new audience the opportunity to hear viols.
There were two beginner streams. The Viol School beginners (taught by Patrice) met each morning to learn the instrument, and it is most pleasing that 100% of the class intends to take up the viol seriously, three-quarters of them forming a nucleus of players in the Canberra region. The fourth player, Kim Wythes, bought a tenor viol at the School, and will pursue lessons in Armidale with Caroline Downer. A second viol beginner class was put on after lunch for the recorder players. Eight students were coached by Caroline, and it appears that at least two of them could pursue the viol.
Other classes taught covered major viol composers, such as Jenkins, Lawes, Gibbons, Byrd and others, plus Jenny's technique group, Stewart's consort songs, Rhona's introductory tablature class and Mike's Introduction to French Music which included several recorder players. Some of the viol players took part in the GMG chamber music classes, and studied obbligato parts to Telemann trio sonatas. A number of the recorder players remarked on their participation with some pleasure.
Two formal concerts - one mainly Renaissance, the other all Baroque - were given during the course, mainly by the tutors, though there was some participation in the first by Zana Clarke's student recorder group Batalla, and in the second by Ben Thorn and Cathy Tabrett. Terry Norman, a local harpsichordist was much in evidence in the second concert. The lineup for the first concert included Stewart, Patrice, and Jenny, plus Robyn Mellor and Owen Watkins. They played pieces by anon, Ortiz, Playford, Morley, van Eyck, Mussi, Couperin and ended with a Telemann Suite which featured Owen's soprano chalumeau. Stewart also performed some lute solos from the Willoughby Lute Book which attracted much praise. Those in the second concert were Jenny, Mike and Cathy, plus Danya Segal, Zana Clarke, Caroline Downer, Ben Thorn and Terry Norman, and they performed works by CPE Bach, Telemann, Handel, Marais, Schaffrath (a first modern performance according to Mike!) and Frescobaldi.
The GMG ended with a student concert, but the majority of viol players elected to continue with classes. Many participants commented on the excellent and congenial atmosphere of the School, and the building, which while old and slightly crumbling, had ambience, high ceilinged classrooms and was surrounded by beautiful gardens. The view of Armidale from the front steps was also very pleasing. Good weather helped too (for which the organiser takes total credit!).
A Beginner's Perspective
It seemed a tall order: back straight, sitting on the edge of your seat; knees bent, left foot slightly forward - watch that bow grip, and above all, RELAX! . . . And so we began to bow our first open strings.
This was Friday morning of the Easter Viol School, in the beginners' class. A small, yet dedicated group, our purpose was to lay the foundations of good technique, and to enjoy making sounds on the viol. Our tutor, Patrice Connelly, combined expert instruction with encouragement, advice on what not to do, and provided a forum in which we could ask questions and discuss any aspects of viol playing, or early music in general, which came to mind.
Our afternoons were spent observing more experienced players, participating in elective groups and being introduced to tablature. Special highlights of the weekend included the two tutors' concerts, which were of an excellent standard and most inspiring for beginner violists, and the overall friendliness and helpfulness of all viol players and tutors.
Our thanks to those who generously loaned the instruments on which we learned.
In all, the school was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it to anyone out there who is interested in having a go.
Kim Wythes - Kootingal (NSW)
At the easter viol school Richard and I were two of about ten people trying viol for the first time, but only four of us enrolled for the full morning sessions, the others being recorder players taking it as an elective for one afternoon session per day, tutored by Caroline Downer. We were therefore very fortunate to be in such a small group, with Patrice expertly guiding us through the basics of holding the instruments, bowing and using our fingers on the frets. Wisely Patrice was keen to get us off to a good start technically before launching us into music, which she delayed until the last couple of sessions. Twelve hours of tuition got us off to a solid start, and left us with lots to practice (when we have our instruments!). Our thanks go to the generous people who carted instruments to the school for others to borrow in class.
The morning Byrd/Gibbons class: Rhona Lever, Andrew Peters, Cathy Tabrett, Rod Byatt, Ted Granlund, Barb Williams with tutor Stewart McCoy. One morning Patrice took us to other rooms to hear a couple of viol consort groups, which was most inspiring, and our only chance to hear them. The Byrd 6 part Fantasy sounded especially wonderful in the magnificent acoustic afforded by the old Teachers College, with its high ceilings, bare walls and floors. Some recorder groups even played on the landing of the rather grand bifurcated staircase, which gave a rivetting cathedral like resonance, stopping all passers-by in their tracks as they revelled in the rich sounds.
In the afternoons we had two elective sessions when Richard and I opted for both Chamber music sessions, one with Robyn Mellor, the other with Danya Segal, and I also managed to fit in an excellent course on recorder articulation given by Robyn. In these sessions we were thrilled to have our very first opportunity of playing recorder and harpsichord with bass viols, and rehearsed 2 very attractive Telemann trio sonatas, one in F major for recorder, bass viol and continuo, and the other a very unusual one for 2 soloists with a tutti group and continuo, thus enabling the whole class to participate.
These sonatas were performed at The Musical Gathering concert on the final afternoon, when all recorder classes were suspended, and each group played a selection of music prepared in class during the previous 3 to 4 days. Unfortunately the viols had continuing classes and apart from the soloists, could not attend, so we beginners were the only ones who had the delight of hearing them.
Two evening concerts were given by the tutors, when we heard inspiring performances on both viols and recorders. Particularly memorable were Robyn Mellor playing van Eyck, Zana and Danya playing Telemann, Michael O'Loughlin playing a rare gamba sonata by Schaffrath, and Jenny Eriksson playing some virtuoso Marin Marais.
Our thanks go to Patrice and Zana for all their work in preparing for such a successful event and we hope for more such mutual beneficial collaboration in the future. Richard and I especially valued the opportunity to participate with varied instruments: I only regretted not fitting in any singing. Meanwhile we look forward to the proposed Canberra viol workshop in October and hope for promotion from the beginner class!
Joan and Richard Milner - Canberra
What a feast of Byrd, Gibbons, Jenkins and Lawes I had at the Easter Viol School at Armidale! This was a great opportunity for me to play the wonderful 5 and 6 part repertoire which is usually out of reach at home. It was very satisfying to be able to work on a particular set of pieces over several days with the same group of players, and all the groups I played in developed and improved over the weekend. Highlights were a Byrd six-part Fantasy which reached inspired heights on the third day after being taken to pieces with the help of Stewart McCoy, and the attempt at playing all of the six-part Lawes on the last afternoon with Jenny Eriksson lending drive and inspiration from the bass. I also appreciated the leadership of Mike O'Loghlin in the Jenkins session. For someone like me, who plays in relative isolation without regular input from other good players, this annual dose of musicianship from professionals, plus the inspiration of their playing, is really important. And of course there's the pleasure of associating again with the wonderfully friendly Australian viol playing fraternity!
I enjoyed presenting tablature to some keen players in the afternoons, and hope that some of them will be able to enjoy this repertoire once they have developed a bit more fluency with the notation.
My congratulations to Patrice and her committee on a very well run school, in a convenient venue. This viol school was another great excuse for a holiday in Australia, and Michael and I did a tour from Brisbane through New England and back up the Coast, very impressed with the scenery, especially in the many National Parks, and also with the climate!
Rhona Lever - Christchurch, NZ
Star of the Magi
Suzie Le Blanc, soprano; Daniel Taylor, countertenor; Les Voix Humaines: Susie Napper & Margaret Little, violas da gamba; Francis Colpron, recorder; Sylvain Bergeron, lute; Rafik Samman, percussion. ATMA Classique, ACD 2 2190. Available in Australia through Sonart
I must say that my usual taste does not run to Christmas music, though admittedly there are some gems in the repertoire. So I wasn't wildly excited when I received this CD to review. I bunged it into the CD player, but didn't take all that much notice the first time through, so it wasn't until I sat down and seriously listened to Star of the Magi that I realised just what a treat this CD presents.
The performers (and the CD label for that matter) are Canadian, and apart from Suzie Le Blanc, most are not well known in Australia, though Les Voix Humaines has recorded several CDs, some of which have percolated here. But we should know them, because they are truly excellent.
This CD features 12 tracks, and lots of variety. It opens with the anonymous carol There is no rose of such virtue, sung unaccompanied, phrased delicately and with a calming effect which is very quickly dispelled by the opening of the second track. This is an instrumental arrangement of Ding dong! Merrily on High, the first of several such arrangements on this CD by Susie Napper. As may be expected by such wonderful performers, the full range of viol technique is exploited with chords, divisions and countermelodies flying in all directions, the recorder and glockenspiel providing contrast.
Another of Susie's arrangements follows: a delicate Joseph est bien marié, sung by Suzie Le Blanc, to the accompaniment of treble and bass viols. Firstly the viols drone, then double the melody, provide florid interludes and sometimes descant the voice, but the effect is unusual and pleasing, sometimes reminiscent of a hurdy gurdy. Next is the Coventry Carol where we hear Daniel Taylor joined by all of the other instruments. The opening with just voice and drum is most distinctive. Both carols are exquisitely sung.
Another surprise follows: the Spanish carol Riu Riu Chiu, which is played on two bass viols, but which sounds like a percussion group with flamenco gamba! The diversity of sounds drawn from the two instruments is both exciting and revelatory. Then Suzie Le Blanc returns to perform a spiritual canzonetta by Tarquinio Merula, to a most interesting and somewhat minimalist repetitive accompaniment which suits the mood of the piece wonderfully. This is a long and touching lullaby where Mary sings her child to sleep in the knowledge that the next day he will be crucified.
Two renditions of Une jeune fillette follow, the first by Eustache du Caurroy, played by recorder and viols, and the second an arrangement of Dandrieu's version, sung by Suzie Le Blanc, accompanied by two bass viols and lute. To magical effect, the transition from this piece to the next is made with bells which start as Suzie finishes the song. As the bells finish, the two bass viols continue the bell theme in Lebègue's Les Cloches, which I found in Lebegue's Troisieme Livre d'Orgue. No arranger is credited for this item.
Another lullaby, this time Byrd's My sweet little baby, is sung by Daniel Taylor accompanied by the two bass viols in a slow and somewhat extended version, arranged by Susie Napper. This song is usually accompanied by a small consort, and Susie's arrangement a2 is very successful, with shades of lyra viol at times, and at others more consort-like sounds.
The CD finishes with a sprightly rendition of a Canzona by Turini which also uses the Une jeune fillette theme and is virtuosically played by recorder, treble and bass viols with lute. It is followed by the whole group in a rousing anonymous mediaeval Nowell: Dieu vous garde.
The CD notes are well presented, though a bit light on information about the music, and also about the instruments. As I was listening many questions arose in my mind, most of which were not answered in the booklet. I would have liked an extra few pages, which would have allowed more on the music and Susie's arrangements, sources for some of the music such as the Lebegue, Turini and Merula, a word or two about the instruments played, and photos of the other performers. What we do get are two pages of index, one page by Susie Napper about carolling, four pages written about the performers and seven pages of text and translations. A photo of the singers and the two viol players is on the back. At just under 55 minutes, the CD is also a little lightweight in terms of the more than 70 minutes available in this format.
That said though, I have no hesitation in recommending this CD. I don't like to call it "early music" as somehow that feels too limiting a term here . This is music performed on early instruments (and voices) with creativity, verve and some theatricality by most accomplished musicians. The theme is Christmas, but you can listen to this at any time of the year and not feel out of place.