- Sydney Consort Day & Annual General Meeting
- Committee News
- Chelys Australis
- Stolen viol
- Swiss News
- Review: Jonathan DeLoach, Joyeux Noël
- State Reports
- AVdGS Members' Shop
- Bow Care
- The Score
- National Easter Viol School
12 French Christmas Carols for 2 bass viols, arranged by Jonathan DeLoach. DeLoach Editions DE 2, Atlanta, 2002
Unlike any other arrangements for viol, this set of duets is a delight when you realise what the arranger, Jonathan DeLoach, has done. To be honest, it had me fooled at first. Inside is what looks to be a conflation of movements taken from sonatas by Loeillet and duos by Chédeville, grouped together by key into two new suites. But each carries the title of a French Christmas carol, and the surprise is to find the corresponding carol melodies appearing in the music.
DeLoach is more than an arranger: he has recomposed the pieces, cleverly working the carol tunes into each while keeping their original character. It is great fun to discovering the carols he quotes and how cleverly he weaves them into the original pieces.
Eight of the twelve pieces are taken from Jean Baptiste Loeillet's Six sonatas of two parts, fitted and contriv'd for two flutes (London, 1730), and four from Esprit Phillipe Chédeville's Duos galants pour deux musettes, vielles et autres instruments (Paris, "by 1742"). DeLoach chooses carols that are consistent with the character of these pieces and introduces them skilfully and seamlessly into the texture, without any element of burlesque or parody. The carol tunes appear about midway through each piece, in one gamba or shared between the two, surrounded by matching countermelody.
Easy carols to identify are Les anges dans nos capagnes (Angels we have heard on high), incorporated into Loeillet's Sonata I (allegro), and Ding dong! merrily on high in his Sonata II (allegro). DeLoach notes in his preface that the latter carol appears as Branle de l'Official in Arbeau's Orchésographie (1588). Another older carol is Masters in this Hall, quoted in Loeillet's Sonata III (giga), which DeLoach notes has a history dating back at least to a French dance manual, by Raoul-Auger Feuillet, of 1706. Texts and translations of the first stanzas of each carol are provided at the back of the edition.
The dozen pieces are all delightful. Chédeville's easy, cheerful, chirpy style, with its predominance of parallel third movement, clearly shows his background as a leading musette player of the time (along with his brother, Nicolas Chédeville). One of the choicest items is his gently lilting, pastoral-like Duo II (gaiment), which quotes the carol Berger, secoue ton sommeil profond! (Shepherd, shake off your drowsy sleep). By comparison, the Loeillet movements are more varied in part writing, wider in range and slightly more technically demanding for the player, but no less intrinsically tuneful.
The order of movements is logical and consistent with suite plan of the period: the first is lentement-rigaudon-allegro-adagio-gavotta-giga, the second largo-vivace-gaiment-adagio-allegro-gigue. Players, however, may be more inclined to pick out individual items or small groups of items at a time, since all but one (Il est né, le divin Enfant) share the same ternary form and are rather alike in character.
They work so comfortably on gamba that it comes as a surprise to learn that DeLoach first issued these arrangements for alto recorder (DeLoach Editions DE 1). He takes the ranges down and selects keys, D/d and G/g, that are ideal for ease of play. The two essentially equal parts, working in close imitation, come out sufficiently clearly in bass viol's lower tessitura. The only reminder that a transposition has taken plce is an unusually low-sitting first inversion that concludes Il est né in Loeillet's Sonata IV (largo).
Even so, one might want to try the pieces on two treble viols, transposing up the octave, because the resulting higher tessitura then equates with the nominated instrumentation of the Loeillet and Chédeville prints.
Clearly set out, with good size staff notation and open binding that allows it to lie flat on the music stand, the edition is admirably easy to read. It provides the makings of an ideal Christmas concert program.
DeLoach Editions is distributed in Australia by Saraband Music.
There are a few very common bow repairs that I do for viol and violin players. A lot of them could be easily avoided with some occasional care & observation of the bow. Let's look at the different bits that make up the bow and some basic care ideas for each.
The bow hair is the part that is constantly in contact with the string. Bowing is a controlled form of repetitive plucking of the string which creates the illusion of a constant sound. It is achieved by applying rosin to the surface of the hair, thereby making it repeatedly grip and release the string. When you have a rehair done, it is good to make sure that the person rehairing is familiar with early bows. A modern cello bow, for example, has anything up to 200+ hairs in the hairband, whereas a viol bow may have 70 - 120 hairs depending on the width of the hairband. Serious damage can be done by overhairing a bow, and it is good to be aware of this when rehairing. If you are recreational player you may find that your bow needs rehairing fairly infrequently (every 1-2 years), whereas professionals may have 2-3 rehairs per year. Often it is enough to have the hair cleaned with alcohol and re-rosined to get a good sound. The hairs can clog with over-rosining and this is often the case when sound deteriorates. Horsehair is a natural animal fibre and thus, hygroscopic and prone to stretching & shrinkage according to fluctuations in humidity as well as deterioration due to exposure to light, insects and humidity. Rehairing is indicated if hairs begin to break more frequently, especially while tightening the bow, or if the hairband no longer covers the width of the hair channel at the frog. If you are unsure, or unhappy with the sound or performance of the hair, ask a repairer about the option of cleaning rather than just assuming that a rehair is necessary.
Occasionally, the stick of the bow may warp or lose camber, and occasional checks of the stick while under tension help to alert you to the onset of such changes. If this begins to happen it is good to ask the repairer's opinion of the bend at the next rehair, as that is the ideal time to make any corrections. It is also good to periodically examine the area round the head and mortise, the butt of the bow near the frog and the sides of the frog and guide to see if any hairline cracks are apparent. These may indicate coming troubles developing at the points of potential stress, which can be relatively easily headed off at the pass early in the piece. Another point for owners of long viol bows. You may be prone to the same kind of problem as faces lute players who acquire their first theorbo, and immediately knock the head off walking through a doorway without ducking. Be aware of the extra length to avoid chipping or breaking the tip, or inadvertently impaling your neighbour in the ensemble.
It is good to occasionally remove the screw from its housing in the butt of the bow and check that it is running smoothly and is properly adjusted so that the frog sits flush on its bed on the underside of the stick. You can lubricate a sticky screw with pencil lead and a tiny amount of beeswax. Do not use oils of any kind as they can be corrosive on hardwoods and penetrate the grain, making any future repair of cracks very difficult or impossible. Also, be aware that the most common damage done to a screw on early bows is that it is over-tightened when hair stretches to such an extent that the eyelet in the underside of the frog locks against the back end of the mortise in the stick. The symptom observed is normally that the hair won't tighten sufficiently and the screw becomes very hard to turn. Once this happens it is important to immediately have the hair shortened. If you keep on twisting the screw, you will damage or destroy the button, requiring major repairs. As a rule of thumb, if your screw mechanism becomes unusually tight or loose, examine it and if unsure, show it to a repairer.
For those brave and noble souls who like the traditional clip-in frog system (long may they live!), the most important thing to bear in mind is that, when "loading" the frog into it's bed to tension the hair, you need to spring the stick a little, so as to avoid forcing the frog in to position under tension. This avoids two problems. Firstly, you won't have to worry about the wedge that holds the hair in the stick coming loose under pressure. Secondly, you won't wear out the contact point between the pointed leading edge of the frog and its recessed bed in the stick. This is the most common repair needed on clip-in bows. To spring the stick, just place the frog in position on the stick under the hairband so that the hair is sitting properly in the hair channel of the frog, just taut enough to hold the frog partly in and partly out of its bed. Then, lay the stick across your knee with the tip end resting on the thigh. Cradle the butt end of the stick in the cleft between thumb & first finger. Hold the sides of the frog with the thumb and first finger of this hand, and push gently down on the centre of the stick with the other hand until the hair slackens slightly. Then slide the frog gently into position and slowly release the pressure on the stick so that the frog takes up the tension. The hair of a clip-in bow can always be fine-tuned with small pieces of paper or cardboard packing up the hair in the channel of the frog. Many players also have 2 frogs, one lower, for dry weather and the other higher to take up slack in moister conditions.