- 24th National Easter Viol School
- Special General Meeting at Easter 2003
- Consortium 2003
- The Joys of the Long Distance Gambist
- Meeting the Gamba and its Maker
- Letter from Julie Jeffery
- State Reports
- The Viol in Winter
- RSCM Tudor Church Music Workshop
- English Viols
- AVdGS Members' Shop
- The Score
24th National Easter Viol School
Padua College, Kedron, 18 - 21 April 2003
Another successful viol school is behind us now, with very happy memories for those who attended. There were only 23 enrolments, which in some ways was disappointing, but it made for a more intimate workshop. Holding it in Brisbane had the purpose of revitalising the viol scene there, and I think time will show that it achieved its aim. We were incredibly pleased to see two players: Aziza Dromey and Roger Stevens whom we last saw in 1989 and 1992 respectively. They'd hardly played since then, and are keen to get consorting with the locals and the new people they met.
Our tutors were John Dornenburg, back from California, plus Paul Scott from Newcastle, David Irving, a young baroque violinist from Brisbane who taught afternoon chamber music, and myself. Brooke Green had come to Brisbane to have lessons with John, and she graciously volunteered to take some lower intermediate groups for several sessions, which was incredibly helpful, both to the players and the other tutors. Our Perth-based Viol Doctor - Arthur Robinson - was a most willing and knowledgeable repairer and advisor to most of the participants, and not only does he want to come back again, but left muttering about making himself a tenor viol to learn on. His talk on the setup of viols was terrific, and he has some good stories too. We had two overseas students: Polly Sussex from Auckland, and Masatoshi Ichikawa, a Japanese player living in Singapore. Both are excellent players who really added to the school.
Our venue, Padua College - a boys Catholic primary school - turned out to be absolutely delightful. The Vice-Rector was most co-operative, and we used the Staff Room as our meeting room. Paul held most of his classes in the school hall, but as it was carpeted, we requested and got the use of the Church Hall opposite. It was discovered that this had a most convenient kitchen for our two caterers: Jennifer Beale and Margaret Watts, who produced great soups, salads and dinners for us. The school is small and modern, but with plantings outside the classroom windows and a playing field below the classrooms, it was airy and comfortable. The one minor hitch was the address; it turns out that all of the several schools and the church in the street go under number 80! There were a few confused people on day one.
The concert was terrific. The church hall had a parquet floor, and as usual we forsook the stage for a side position. John, Paul and David were joined by Brisbane harpsichordist Rebecca Smith. I kidnapped Rebecca on the first day to join the beginners, as we only had one other beginner enrolment, another harpsichordist Ayako Otomo. Rebecca looks like she.ll keep playing viol, and she was a huge help in lending us her harpsichord Wally (it's a walnut .), which came complete with trolley made by her husband Simon. It lived in the "Wally Room" for the course until it was moved to the hall for the Sunday night concert.
The program began with the Marais G major Suite for 2 basses from Book 1, with David on harpsichord. John then played 5 of the better solo pieces from the Sainte-Colombe solo MS, which were most impressive and then the Forqueray 3rd Suite got a fabulous airing, with Paul and Rebecca on continuo. David then rejoined the group on violin to play the Leclair D major trio. If you weren.t there, you missed a treat. Due to some excellent publicity beforehand, and a 4MBS interview with Paul and John on the Saturday morning, we had a good audience in addition to the viol school participants.
No lutenists enrolled, which was disappointing, but we did have Fay, Annie and for 2 days, Kathy Teakle (a local) singing in consort songs. The chamber groups tackled a variety of trio sonatas with Rebecca or Joan Milner on harpsichord. My beginner class also included some more experienced players who were catching up on a bit of viol pedagogy: Annie Ryan and Anne Bowyer, a new bass player (also a professional cellist) from Caloundra. Anne has another friend there with a borrowed tenor, so expect a Sunshine Coast group to get going soon.
Financially the AVdGS will probably make a small loss when the dust settles, but the bank balance was healthy to begin with, and that will be balanced by future more profitable schools. I believe our job is to get out and get things going, and if an occasional small loss happens, that's no tragedy.
Thanks go to all involved - students, tutors, cooks, helpers, billets (mine was great and had a cat included!), UQ and the Con for lending viols, Arthur for paying his own airfare, Tony Watts the music co-ordinator, Ian Georgeson for running the AVdGS shop and doing admin tasks, Brooke for teaching for nothing, the school, Rebecca (who also threw a post-school party at her place) and the weather. Above all, Jennifer Beale was the best local co-ordinator one could have, and in the last weeks was very ably assisted by Margaret Watts. No thanks to Arts Queensland who refused our grant, but gave $2000 to two clowns to give street performances.
I thought the viol school was great. I loved it all but my favourite was the consort song sessions. The sound was wonderful and I was playing a bass part in bass clef with support from Polly. She rarely lost her place and on the few occasions that she did I hadn.t ... made me feel very good! When our consort is a little firmer I think we should try and talk Kathy Teakle into singing for us sometimes.
The tutors were fantastic. Paul gave me some good technique things to practice and John was truly amazing. Finally, there were the participants. Great to make new friends and catch up with old ones. I.m sorry that Ted Granlund couldn.t make it.
I did enjoy Arthur's talk. He is such an interesting guy. Pity he lives in Perth!! I.m feeling more confident that we might stay in this house for longer than our usual 18 months so I.m building a little workshop in the garage. I might start making again as well as playing. Now there is a pleasant thought. If this happens I.ll start trying to get to know the .local. makers, if Perth could ever be called local!
Thanks Patrice for all you did to make this happen ... first class job all round.
What a wonderful, inspiring weekend!! It was necessary for me to act like a sponge, as there was so much information to retain.
Patrice Connelly is an excellent teacher and our viol tutors, John Dornenburg and Paul Scott made the weekend so exciting with their immense amount of knowledge and musicianship to impart to us all. The Sunday evening performance by John and Paul on gambas, David Irving on baroque violin and Rebecca Smith on harpsichord, was first class. Our viol doctor (all the way from Perth) Arthur Robinson, completed the weekend for me with his expert attention to our instruments as well as his interesting talk.
Thankyou and congratulations to Jennifer Beale and Margaret Watts for the scrumptious food. I met so many wonderful people and am looking forward to next year's viol school in Melbourne.
Meeting the gamba - and its Maker
Some three years or so ago I ordered a new viola da gamba from German luthier Reinhard Ossenbrünner on the recommendation of my former teacher, cellist and gambist Jaap ter Linden. I.ve had new instruments made before, but this was by far the most expensive gamba I'd ordered, and entailed the longest wait! In February I headed over to Europe to pick it up. Over my time away I kept a diary of my thoughts, feelings and reactions. What follows is an edited version of when I met my gamba - and its Maker.
I leave Sydney airport at 5.00pm travelling with my bow in hand and with the expectation of a very long trip ahead. As I walk through security I set off the metal detector. It takes a little while to convince the authorities that the screw in my bow can not be used as a weapon and that I am certainly not a terrorist.
6.00am. I arrive at Frankfurt Airport. There is not a soul in sight and no one to ask me if my bow is indeed a weapon so I walk straight into the country unchallenged.
7.00am. From the airport at Frankfurt I catch the new fast 'ICE' train to Cologne which takes only an hour. Public transport that actually works: that's Europe for you. I manage to find the wonderfully named "Good Sleep" Hotel which I have booked on the Internet from Australia. Although it isn.t the Hilton it is very central, being 2 minutes from the station, and 5 minutes from the main concert hall. I can see the famous Cologne Cathedral from my window. It is, the locals say, permanently under repair and surrounded by scaffolding. I am amazed at the size and presence of this enormous, ancient building. My only complaint about the Hotel is the cigarette smoke. I rename it the .Lung Cancer . Hotel and think how lucky we are with anti-smoking laws in Australia.
9.30am. It's time to ring Reinhard. I am very nervous and tiredness does not help. I have waited 3 years for this moment. I call. His wife answers the phone, says something in German and passes the phone on. I can tell Reinhard has been waiting for my call. He arranges to collect me from the hotel straight away.
10.00am. I meet my Maker. He is a very gentle, sensitive man and very, very nervous at this point. I find out later that although he is quiet he is also out going. He smiles all the time and enjoys wine. (Fortunately I have bought a good red from Australia to give to him). Above all, he has a great love for his art. Reinhard shows me to his rather old car and has trouble finding his keys. He fishes them out from somewhere and we are on the way. His workshop itself is a work of art. There are instruments everywhere - but there is also a great sense of order - Germans do this really well. I walk past the workshop into the show room where I see my gamba leaning on a stool, alone, just waiting. Reinhard writes to me later that this is an absolutely breathtaking moment for him, when a musician touches his or her instrument for the first time. He tells me he normally leaves the room immediately after delivery, as the tension is too much to bear. Reinhard leaves me in the room.
The gamba is very new as it was only finished at 2.00am that morning. It is a beautiful looking. The wood on the back is very unusual to look at and the bridge very elegant. I sit down and draw my bow across the strings. From the first note I am taken. The sound is big, but especially resonant; I can hear many, many overtones. As I turn the pegs they move with complete ease. I play on the top D string and no longer hit my knee or the side of the gamba with my bow - a fault with my old instrument. Not only does this gamba sound beautiful, it works like a perfect piece of machinery.
I play and play and gradually the sound begins to build and grow. I lose all sense of time and place; I am totally engaged with the instrument. It is far better than I had dared hope for. Time escapes me and it is hours before I open the door to greet Reinhard with a smile of approval. We have lunch together and then it is time to work on the bridge. The A string is a little difficult to play so the D sting is lowered. It is much better. Then I play a little more and the C string is lowered. I am too tired to think any more. I have not slept for 48 hours. Reinhard will keep the gamba for two days to work on it a little more and to varnish the bridge. I leave exhausted but very, very happy and find my own way back to the hotel.
I meet Reinhard at his workshop. We have coffee together and I learn more about what he does. He restores and makes violins, cellos and gambas. He has been making instrument for 30 years and has a real passion for his work. As he says, .I love what I do.. Speaking of love, today I love my instrument even more. That evening I have dinner with Reinhard and his wife, Mechthid, who works restoring instruments in his workshop. It is very much a celebration with champagne followed by a beautiful meal and more wine. I am the first Australian they had ever met.
When I think about it, you can liken the whole thing to an arranged marriage. I had made a commitment to buy a gamba having never met the maker and knowing very little about him. The maker had made a commitment to deliver a concert standard instrument knowing even less about me. Fortunately the marriage has had a good beginning and I can only see it maturing over the years.
The gamba arrives home safely. The case and the instrument survive having being banished to the cargo hold for the trip. I had problems with my ears descending in to Singapore and stayed an extra night to recover on doctor's orders, but apart from that, I too am in good shape.
Since then, people have been asking me what it cost. Well, its about the price of a new car - but to me it is priceless.
Purchasing a new instrument at this stage of my career has caused me to reflect again on the relationship between the instrument - a musician's tool of trade - and the performer. We are so reliant on our tools to express ourselves, and to express the thoughts and feelings of composers whose works we bring to life. It's a mysterious relationship to develop with what is, after all, just a piece or two of wood, a smattering of glue and a few lengths of gut. This delicately shaped thing ultimately becomes an extension of who we are and how we relate to the world around us. It's a thought worth pondering on.
The gamba will be christened at the 7th Marais Project Concert, 3.00pm June 1. Ryde Anglican Church, St Annes Church site, cnr of Victoria Rd and Church St, Top Ryde, Sydney.
I hope that we stay together for many years.