- 23rd National Easter Viol School
- Letter from Robert Oliver
- Membership subscriptions
- Merchant Facilities
- For sale
- Tax Deductability Fund
- An Australian Regional Viol Workshop Fund?
- A Few Thoughts about the Origin of Musical Species
- CD Reviews - "Amour Cruel" - "O Sweet Love"
- The Score
- State Reports
- Hauschka Baryton Ensemble
- AVdGS Members' Shop
- For Sale
23rd National Easter Viol School
29th March - 1st April 2002, held at Monte Sant'Angelo Mercy College, North Sydney
I'm pleased to say that this has to have been our most successful viol school, both in record numbers: 47 viols and 1 lutenist, but also financially. This was the first workshop in years that hasn't made a loss (in fact it made a small profit), and all that without the help of any sponsorship or grants.
But we did have a lot of help. Our caterers - Tony Jas and Jenny Peters - created the most delectable gourmet meals: mainly soups, salads and rolls for lunch, and pies and salads for dinners. Fay and Meg found the fruit, with Fay bringing apples fresh from her local Bungendore orchard. Others did a sterling job finding beds for our interstate and overseas visitors: Di Ford putting up four people and Lucy Blomfield three.
We had four people from overseas: Rhona Lever, Anne Lamont-Low and Polly Sussex from New Zealand, and Marc Struemper who was fortunately visiting Australia from Austria. It was also very nice to meet Rhona's daughter Helen who came down from Townsville and who plays treble. Roger Tuffley represented Perth, and we had two of Brooke's students from Hobart, our first Tasmanian participants. The age range spanned 68 years, with 12 year old Eavan Dowse - a Monte student - playing treble viol.
One disappointment was the lack of interest among lutenists and baroque strings. I had a number of string players sounding very upbeat, but none of them actually enrolled. Some of the lutenists were put off by the high standard required, but then without a lute teacher among the tutors it was difficult to do otherwise. The one lutenist who enrolled - John Bertram - was exceptionally popular and had no trouble filling his time. John has also come to a number of the Sydney consort days, and we also welcome him as a member.
The tutors were: Jack Ashworth and Julie Jeffrey from the US (both assisted by getting grants towards their airfares), Brooke Green and Mike O'Loghlin from Hobart and Brisbane (who also assisted with their airfares) and Danny Yeadon and myself from Sydney. It is most fortunate that Danny has now moved to Sydney and was able to help with concert organisation. Rhona Lever also contributed her tablature expertise each afternoon to a large class of beginners and intermediates.
We had lots of fun extras too. I'm learning massage, so I advertised for fellow students to come and give free massages in return for a little paperwork towards our bodylog assignments. Flora and Linda were very popular, and I managed to get one massage in too.
Our official photographer Marjorie Hystek came on Good Friday and discreetly took some black & white photos of which we all got proofs the next day. She does excellent portrait work, and took some orders for enlargements.
There were two talks: Hugh Jones brought a partly finished viol to show, plus a large number of Australian wood samples which he talked about on Easter Saturday. Then on Sunday Ian Watchorn showed up with a new 7 string bass viol, and he gave lots of advice on maintenance and so on. At 5pm he gave a talk on his theories of the origins of the viol which could have gone on for hours, but for the fact that dinner appeared on the table.
Of course Saraband Music was there, and Jack Ashworth launched my second book: a newly published translation of Ganassi's Regola Rubertina. This launch took place in the School Hall before a lovely dance demonstration by Catriona Montgomery (who calligraphed our Easter room signs many years ago) and her partner Ralph Arcomone. They danced to the strains of a live viol consort, then taught a dance to those who wished to stay, while others scuttled back to play some Jenkins.
Saraband wasn't the only shop though. Julie had brought some CDs to sell, and AVdGS has bought up what she had left so that there's an opportunity for other members to hear some of her consort's work. Also the AVdGS Shop, ably watched over by Jennifer Beale and Andrew Peters, sold a lot of CDs and a couple of copies of our last Journal, all of which helps fill our coffers.
Being a Lawes anniversary (Jennifer Beale pointed out that it was also a Henry Lawes year too with Henry dying in 1662), many groups played Lawes, and explored the Royall Consorts for a change, as well as the familiar 5 & 6 part consorts.
I took a pleasing beginner group of three: Alan Milne from Hobart, Helen Worthington from Sydney and Jennifer Beale from Brisbane. Jenni is currently President of the EMSQ. Julie took a large intermediate technique group in the mornings, and Danny the advanced technique group after lunch. There were also some afternoon opportunities for a little baroque chamber music, with Hugh Newton Jones bringing a baroque oboe, and Richard Milner a recorder.
One requirement was that people gave back their name tags, as we reuse them. I got all but one back after Armidale, and only about 5 are still to come back this time!
The concert on Easter Saturday night had a reasonable audience thanks to our large enrolment, but one which could have been a lot bigger. The concert was called 'William Lawes and his times', and it was based around one of Lawes' own handwritten manuscripts: British Library Add. MSS 40657-61. We either took pieces from this, or played pieces by composers represented in it. We started with two pieces from the lovely Lawes F major Sett a6, and continued on with one of the Old Version Royall Consorts, no. 2 in d minor. From there we played works by William White, Coprario (Lawes' teacher) and a Pavan in Bandora Sett by Thomas Ford, then after interval Tommie Andersson and Andrew Byrne, who assisted with the concert, played Lawes' Complete Works for Lute: 3 duets. We went on with Lupo, Marenzio, Monteverdi, and finished with the New Version of no. 4 of the Royall Consorts which uses violins.
The weather wasn't absolutely perfect, but it didn't get in the way of a happy and constructive atmosphere and the sun did shine at times. Monte has to be one of our best locations for these Schools with its central location, peaceful and aesthetically pleasing ambience and nice big classrooms. The Monte staff were very helpful with preparations for the event. The EMA of NSW loaned its music and a tenor viol, while others brought their own music along. Thanks to all who participated, helped and made it the success that it undoubtedly was.
The photos on the AVdGS website are courtesy of John Cunningham, Richard Milner and myself.
Suzie LeBlanc, soprano; Les Voix Humaines, Stephen Stubbs, lute & theorbo. ATMA ACD2 2216. Recorded April 2000, issued 2001
Can I say from the outset that I found this to be a stunningly beautiful recording. If you have a love of French music for gamba, then I don't see how this CD could not be of interest.
Three composers are featured: the Concerts of M. de Sainte Colombe alternate with Airs de cour by Sébastian Le Camus (c.1610 - 1677) and Michel Lambert (c.1610 - 1696). The cover notes explain that in 17th century France, the passions - particularly love - were all the rage, and the refined classes sought to recreate those passions through poetry, conversation and music on a platonic and imaginary level. The writer of the notes, François Filiatrault, mentions particularly the novelist Madeleine de Scudéry and her 10 volume novel Clélie who invented "a kind of amorous topography she called the land of Tendre". In it we find the Peak of Pride, the Lake of Indifference, the rivers Gratitude and Esteem, with places named "Caring", "Sensibility", "Sincerity" and the like. The inside cover of the CD notes is an illustration which presumably comes from this book.
In England of the early 1600s, the lutesong was a vehicle for expressing the sentiments, and the Air de cour was no different, though perhaps a little more passionate, in France during the mid-17th century. The form and expression of the music comes straight from the poetry, which could be spiritual, plaintive, erotic, gallant or expressing other suitable sentiments. Filiatrault quotes Furetière on poets of the time, saying that "they must be set to music to be well esteemed."
The CD begins with an enchanting song by Michel Lambert - Vos mépris chaque jour - which involves all of the performers. This is one of the two tracks devoted to this composer, and I wished for more. Apparently the violin ritornelli in Lambert's Airs are played here on the viols. The effect was magical.
It was at this point as I turned to the back of the CD to read the lyric that I note that there is no English translation of the texts, the first and only minor blemish on this production, as the rest of the notes are translated. But by then I was hearing the first of the Sainte Colombe duos: Les Roulades. I found their choice of these duos particularly pleasing as they play several which are difficult to find recordings of, and good recordings of Sainte Colombe are not thick on the ground.
Two songs by Le Camus follow: Je veux me plaindre, and Laissez durer la nuit. Suzie leBlanc sings these exquisitely, with a sweetness, and sometimes a haunting darkness to her timbre. Stephen Stubbs' accompaniments are sensitive and in perfect balance.
The CD proceeds along these lines, alternating Airs with Concerts, and fittingly, the last track is Sainte-Colombe's Le Tendre. Les Voix Humaines are always at their best performing French music, and this CD is further proof of this. The cover notes are useful and attractive, there are some photos of the performers. I have lots of "favourite" CDs, and this one has joined them right from its first hearing.
O Sweet Love - Byrd and Dowland
Daniel Taylor, counter-tenor; Les Voix Humaines, Stephen Stubbs, lute. ATMA ACD2 2207. Recorded October 1999
Byrd and Dowland have been paired on recordings before, notably by Fretwork with Michael Chance on the Virgin label. I have listened to their renditions with much pleasure for several years now, and I'm pleased to say that this CD from Canada, while being quite different in many ways, can also be listened to with enjoyment.
The mellifluous bass viols of Les Voix Humaines - Margaret Little and Susie Napper - are the only viols on this CD though. The viol consort parts are skilfully arranged and one does not miss the rest of the players. Stephen Stubbs' excellent lute playing is heard in several solos, but in the main the vocal parts are heard either with lute or with viols. In only two tracks - Come again, and Come to me grief for ever - are all of the performers together.
The Canadian counter-tenor Daniel Taylor was a new name and voice to me. His voice has a beautiful warmth and clarity and one can see why he is now performing with many of the world's top ensembles, such as Les Arts Florissants, Collegium vocale de Ghent, Tragicomedia, Metropolitan Opera and many others.
Les Voix Humaines have made many recordings of French music in which they excel, and there is a touch of French style in the viol playing on this CD. When I hear this on some recordings it can worry or annoy me - notably some of Hesperion XX's recordings of Jenkins and other English composers - but on this CD it does not. There is an expressiveness and beauty to the playing which, while quite different from the sound of English groups, does not invalidate the approach. It has long been my opinion that great music will accept many different interpretations and that it is diversity and difference which illuminates and stimulates thought and awareness. Here I can equally enjoy Fretwork and Les Voix Humaines playing the same composers.
There is plenty of variety, with Byrd getting eight tracks and Dowland seven on this CD. Four tracks are lute solos, and four are arrangements for two viols. That leaves seven songs accompanied usually by either lute or viols. In general the songs are less well known, with Byrd's Ye sacred Muses beginning the CD accompanied by the viols. Two Dowland tracks are heard next: A Fancy for solo lute, and Shall I strive with words to move? accompanied by lute. A skilfull arrangement for two viols of Byrd's Fortune follows, and a song Blame I confess for voice with viols. Two Dowland lute solos then frame one of his lutesongs - Say Love, if ever thou didst find. A bracket of four Byrd pieces is next with the whole group playing Come to me grief for ever, and then two viol duo arrangements: The Bells and The Carman's Whistle either side of Ah silly Soul.
Another Dowland lute solo - Lady Hunsdon's Puffe - precedes the ever popular Come again, and the CD ends with Tregian's Ground arranged for two viols.
The CD notes are useful, though I'd have liked more information on the arrangements and the process. There's a short essay on Byrd and Dowland, followed by performer biographies and small photos, though there are photos of Daniel Taylor on the front and back covers. The texts follow, with a translation into French. I found the colours on the back of the CD made the tracks very hard to read, but at least there's a black and white version just inside the notes.
So unless you're utterly offended by arrangements and heartily dislike any French style in the performance of English renaissance music, you should buy this CD.