- Minutes of the Annual General Meeting
- New Committee Members
- Chelys Australis 2002
- Consortium 2001
- Letter from John Dornenburg
- 23rd National Easter Viol School
- State Reports
- The Score
- Historical Information on Viol Bridges
- Voices and Viols
- For sale
- CD Review: Schenck
- AVdGS Members' Shop
How do you measure success? Is it by numbers of students? Dollars taken? The weather? The food? The music, or the whole experience? Well we didn't get the numbers I had hoped for - in fact we ended up with 10 students - but it certainly was one of the happiest and most productive workshops. Tutors were Caroline Downer and myself. Unfortunately Miriam Morris was unable to attend for family reasons, and we missed her.
Due to the low numbers, the venue was shifted from Canberra Girls Grammar School to the house of Richard and Joan Milner in Bywong, near Bungendore. They moved there in June, and the newish house was perfect. The architect must have had music workshops in mind, as there was the lovely large area with polished floorboards off the slightly lower carpeted lounge. Three bedrooms up one end were great for practice and small groups, and the scenes from the windows were straight out of a McCubbin painting. Joan and Richard were perfect hosts, always generous and gracious. They decided to pay for the catering (great food!!!), so in return they received some music, including a copy of Simpson's Division Viol, and the Pill to Purge Melancholy CD.
The weather was mixed, but that didn't matter. We had some sunshine and some rain, and it was fairly cold at nights, but we had the warmth of the fireplaces and friendships and music. Things began informally on Friday afternoon with some consorts and private lessons (all part of the deal). Following a delicious 3 course meal, an informal concert beginning with the tutors, then Richard and Joan on recorder and harpsichord, and ending with Sue King on her 11 string hybrid guitar-lute (fantastic sound).
This workshop differed from most others by virtue of most players being around intermediate standard. In the mornings I demonstrated various bowing articulations to give more colour to one's playing, while Caroline took Sue King, the one beginner who enrolled. As Sue made quick progress, she was integrated into other groups fairly quickly. Two consort groups played works by White and Praetorius. After a pizza lunch, and the AGM, Caroline took consort songs, with the addition of singer Fay D'Elmaine, who also billetted three of us. Then a stunning gourmet dinner was held at Fay's place in Bungendore, with another impromptu concert afterwards. Fay's four alpacas were a talking point!
Sunday morning saw more technique, a fret-tying lesson for all with a rope over a chairback, and then consorts. One consort was unusual in that four people decided to swap to viol sizes they did not normally play. All managed to get nicely through the Coventry Carol and ask lots of interesting questions. After lunch Caroline took a big group session through a modern piece, and one by Gussago, then the Hentschell Canzon for 8 bass instruments before we all packed up and left.
But that wasn't all. Before the last session, Patrice persuaded Fay to try a viol, having previously encountered considerable resistance. While we played the big pieces, Fay was seen with her nose buried in Richard's copy of Play the Viol, and during afternoon tea, she was observed diving (gently) on a treble viol. Within a short time she had asked to become a member, been given a loan of a treble viol and was off to give it a go. Our objective of a Canberra (and surrounding area) consort is well on the way!
So who went? In addition to the Milners, we had John Cunningham, Helen Aladjadjian, Meg Corlette, Andrew Peters, Sue King, Chris Evans and Rosaleen Love. Ian Georgeson came down for Saturday only. John brought his library which supplemented the music the tutors brought. It was a really happy and musical workshop, so don't miss next time.
I tried the viola da gamba with Caroline Downer giving me my beginner's lesson. It was my first time on a bowed instrument, having spent my life playing guitars, lute and harp and I found using a bow rather challenging to say the least! But I did enjoy trying to make those long bow sounds and occasionally they were even good sounds which has encouraged me to carry on. So the hunt for a tenor viol is on! Having played continuo in early music ensembles I found that the thing I enjoyed about playing viol was that I was an equal part in the melody/harmony lines, which was a nice change.
The atmosphere at the workshop was one of support and encouragement and although there was a range of age groups and abilities everyone was made to feel an integral member of the group. Richard and Joan were marvellous hosts, generously opening their house for us and providing hearty soups and tea during the breaks from playing. My husband Don was an observer, and he enjoyed the consort sounds. I look forward to the next workshop!
Sue King - Canberra
First and foremost, thanks to Patrice for her devoted commitment to the AVDGS and her excellent organisational skills, without which the weekend would not have been. Also immense thanks to Richard, Joan and Fay for their stupendous hospitality and delectable cooking.
I have been playing basse de viole (courtesy of Ruth Wilkinson) for around six months. I am enjoying it immensely but, as many beginners may understand, the learning process is fraught with periods of fast and furious improvement followed by far lengthier plateaus, upon which you trod in seemingly slow-motion. I had reached such a position in the month or two prior to the weekend. There were weeks where I was only practicing two or three hours in total (that's including about 1/2hr of tuning). I only put in some decent playing in the week just prior to the workshop, purely to avoid looking like I'd never actually picked up a viol. Then I went to the workshop.
In short we played a shed-full of music, ate great food, drank great wine, met great people and bought a lot of goods from Saraband Music, via Patrice, after she pulled out her cattle prod. I was very inspired. Since I've been back I would have averaged a good two-three hours playing each day. It was just what I needed. I'll see you all at Easter.
Chris Evans - Melbourne
Johann Schenck. Scherzi Musicali, op. VI
Bettina Hoffmann, viola da gamba, with Modo Antiquo. Dynamic, CDS226. Distributed in Australia through Mainly Opera.
I've always associated the term "stylus fantasticus" with some of Buxtehude's works, but now I see that these "fantastic and bizarre caprices with sudden and contrasting changes of tempo and character, often rhythmically free and never constrained by the instrument's technical limits" (from Bettina Hoffmann's introductory notes) apply to Schenck too. This first recording of part of Schenck's opus 6 (14 suites in total) is welcome, as most viol players usually discover only the Echo of the Danube and the Nymphs of the Rhine. The three suites on this recording (in d minor, G major and a minor) are performed by Bettina Hoffmann and her ensemble Modo Antiquo (four Italian gentlemen) provide the continuo.
None of Schenck's music is for the faint-hearted. The Amsterdam-born composer (1660 - 17??) was a true original, and he obviously had a formidable command of the bass viol if the technical demands of his music are anything to go by. Fugues, finger-crunching chords and an exploitation of the full register of the instrument are some of his compositional footprints and Ms Hoffmann is certainly equal to the challenge. In reviewing this CD, I feel a little at a disadvantage without the music being available, as it would be useful to at least read Schenck's tempo and performance directions and comment accordingly.
The Ouverture which begins the CD is impressive and dramatic to say the least, with large chords and double-dotted rhythms, and the ensemble of five (soloist plus keyboard, bass viol, violone and theorbo) sounds more like a small orchestra. In contrast, the Tempo di Sarabande (track 3) is played unaccompanied, a trifle slowly for my taste, but the adagio marking for this track in the booklet may explain that. The Gigue which follows is short and lively, and sounds a little Spanish with the use of baroque guitar among the continuo group. This suite ends with a Fuga (Prestissimo) and its fierce chords reminded me of Forqueray.
The Suite in G major is a welcome change in tonality, and Ms Hoffmann begins with a Capriccio, followed by a Preludium, an Allemande, Courant and quite a long Chaconne. The Suite in a minor has nine movements, mostly short dances, ending with a passacaglia which has an impressive wall of viol chords near the end. One of the things I like about this recording and another of Ms Hoffmann's which will be reviewed later (Ortiz and Ganassi) is that she constantly changes her continuo for each movement to suit the emotional character and texture of the piece. Some pieces are full on, while others may be with one or more instruments. She uses both harpsichord and organ, theorbo and baroque guitar, bass viol and violone in different combinations, and I notice some small percussive effects in track 18 which I presume is one of the player hitting an instrument. However it was made, it did suit the mood of the Bourée.
This is an impressive CD. At 63 minutes, 34 seconds, it is a little below what can be fitted onto this format, but it represents value nonetheless. The booklet is in four languages, featuring a short essay on Schenck and a note on Ms Hoffmann, but does not have any pictures of the performers which would have enhanced it. The booklet cover features a portrait of Schenck, painted from an engraving, with the composer wearing a most enigmatic expression, and his viol showing a very odd pegbox. At times I feel Ms Hoffmann's viol tone is a little more harsh than I'd like, but this is merely a personal preference and others may find it entirely suitable. The fact that the CD introduces us to relatively unfamiliar repertoire by a major composer for viol is laudable, and makes it worth buying for that fact alone.