Classes are going well

I haven’t had time to post — or at least, when I have had
time, I”ve been tired. When there isn’t a class or a meal or
dancing or a dropin session, it feels like time for bed.

But on Wednesday, they take a much-needed break from the
concerts and the evening is pretty free, so I decided to catch you
up on what’s happening.

Cornetto Class with Doug Kirk

We did more playing the first day than we did all week when I
took the class 4 years ago. A lot of the advice I’ve gotten is
goingn to be long-term beneficial rather than making me sound
better instantly, but I feel like this class is a success.

I was initially a little disappointed that I ended up playing
serpent in the ensembles instead of cornetto, but it really does
make for better ensembles to have lots of sizes. The piece we’ll
probably play on the student concert is a six part piece with me
on serpent, two tenor cornettos, one alto cornetto (in F) and two
regular cornettos on top. I was having to work very hard to get
the low F’s centered and in tune, and then today Doug said, “I
wonder if this piece would sound better a step up.” And it did.
Apparently the sixteenth century people were always doing that —
if they were playing an instrument that liked sharps better than
flats, they transposed it.


This year there are nine people in the loud wind section — two
cornettos, 2 sackbuts (alto and tenor), 1 tenor and 2 bass
dulcians, me on serpent, and a guy who switches between tenor
serpent and tenor dulcian. I think it’s going to be fun.

The conductor made parts for the major piece on the program
from the score with partify, and didn’t give the parts other than
the top line the measure numbers, but keeps telling people what
measure number he wants to start on. And I can’t always follow
his beat on mensuration chages. But he picked good music and is
enthusiastic about performing it with a cast of thousands.

Afternoon: Gombert and others with Marilyn Boenau and
Pervernage with Dan Stillman

This year, there weren’t any famous brass players on the
faculty, but there is a famous dulcian player, and the
not-so-famous dulcian players have been recruiting new people
faster than the brass or other reeds have. So although they
didn’t want me in any of the advanced loud wind classes, they have
classes for the less-experienced dulcian players that don’t mind
me playing with them.

I was expecting to mostly play cornetto, since I can play
cornetto a bit higher than anyone plays dulcian. But it turns out
they like the serpent, too.

Marilyn even let me play the tenor serpent on a top line that
would have been low on the cornetto, but was the right kind of
soaring on theh tenor serpent. It turns out I sound pretty good
if I hear good pitches to play with and am warmed up on

Dan has been experimenting. Monday, I played cornetto higher
than the dulcians could play. Then yesterday, he had me play
serpent lower for longer than he’d expect a dulcian to play. It
turned out not to be such a good idea on the serpent, either. But
it was educational.

Today he found a 7 part piece with a top line he’s playing on
alto dulcian, and a bottom line that’s fine for a bass dulcian.
So he has me playing a baritone line. 7 parts in that range is
pretty close harmony, and sometimes sounds pretty wierd, with the
less experienced dulcian players playing notes their fingers or
their reeds don’t know what to do with. But it’s a good class of
people working really hard at something they really want to do.

Dancing with the New London Assembly

I frittered away a lot of the free time I had today on napping
and eating. I did manage a pretty full practice session, where I
played parts to some of the music we’ll be doing in the

And at the reception after the orientation session, I
introduced myself to the collegium director and told him how much
I was looking forward to playing serpent with the group. He turns
out to have spent an afternoon drinking with Christopher Monk, so
he says he’s looking forward to having a serpent. The director of
the collegium loud winds looked right through me and walked away
when I tried to introduce myself, though, so I can’t tell whether
he’s as serpent-hostile as some of the other loud wind coaches.


So the only workshop-specific thing to do was the English
Country Dance after the reception. I was a little dubious about
it, since they billed it as being for experienced
dancers. (They’re having a dance program this year, so there are a
lot of experienced dancers.) And
the demonstration they gave at the orientation certainly did less
teaching and calling than I’m used to.

But I went anyway. The caller certainly did less than at other
dances I’ve been to, but the other dancers are quite good at
filling in if you need it. There was one dance with a
particularly unfamiliar “hey”, where you had to either count
something I didn’t know how to count, or know where you were
supposed to end up by some algorithm I hadn’t absorbed. Luckily,
my partner knew what she was doing. I was starting to get it, and
thinking it must be about time to end since even I had figured it
out, but it went on for two more times.

Unfortunately, my brain isn’t up to learning patterns and
listening to music at the same time. So I can’t tell you how
wonderful the music by Emily O’Brien, Shira Kamen, and Jacqueline
Schwab was, even though they’re all very good and I’m sure it was.


[dorm room]
My dorm room, with pillow raising desk chair to right height for typing.


I decided to come on Saturday, and do the concert and party
from the first week. So I did all the packing and unpacking
yesterday, and today I can relax until the orientation this

An unanticipated side effect was that I didn’t have the help
from the work-study students that the little old ladies who arrive
this afternoon will, so I was actually pretty tired after getting
all my stuff out of the car, up a few steps, and through several
fire doors. No individual item was very heavy, but I kept trying
to carry several at once. I guess when I’ve had more experience
being a little old lady, I’ll stop doing that.


It’s utilitarian. My major problem is that the desk is the
wrong height for typing. I am putting the laptop in the pencil
drawer and adding my pillow to the chair, and it’s almost good
enough, but I should have brought the laptop stand. I should also
have brought an extension cord, as there isn’t a really good
outlet for the window fan, but I’ll manage.

I did manage to practice before supper, and the room is much
more live than what I have at home, so the cornetto sounds

Evening activities

I was too late to hear the afternoon student concert, so after supper, I
went over to the auditorium for the faculty concert and
all-workshop collegium.


They had an a capella singing program the first week,
so the madrigal singing had a large number of unusually competent

For some reason it wasn’t enough to keep an unfamiliar Dowland
in a recognizable key, but most of the other stuff went pretty
well. We started with “Fair Phyllis”. “Never
weather-beaten saile”
must have been from a different source than
the one I transcribed — the alto part had come completely
unfamiliar ornamentation.

Unlike 2010, the person leading it arrived on time and kept
things moving pretty well.

Faculty concert

The major problem was that it was too long. It was over an
hour and a half with no intermission. It’s good to let the
faculty play what they’re excited about doing, but the audience as
a whole got restless, and I got a coughing fit which wouldn’t have
happened if I could have gotten hydrated 10 or 15 minutes

A high point was an arrangement by Danny Johnson of a folk song
from Brittany for two flutes, viol, cello and solo voice.

The “Deploration on the death of Johannes Ockeghem” left me
wanting the version the Cantabile Band
does with the serpent on the Tenor line. In spite of having two
good singers on that line, it was inaudible even to someone who
knows it and was listening to it.


They’re still calling it “The All-workshop Collegium”, but they
have the viol classes at 415 now, so there were almost no viol
students. And they decided the recorders were at 8-foot pitch, so
no recorder students who couldn’t play tenor or lower were
included. I don’t know if there were other loud wind students
first week — the ones that played the concert were all playing
dulcians, including one whom I know mainly as a sackbut
player. Judging from the narrowly avoided train wreck on the
dulcian group piece, this
group, unlike the strings and recorders, did include some less-experienced players.

The music was all by Obrecht. The concluding 6 part “Salve Regina”
was stunningly beautiful. It was written for Compline, which in
monasteries was the last office of the day. So you had the Salve
Regina echoing in your head as you went off to bed.

First post about the Amherst Early Music Festival in 2014


You would think that after what happened last
, I wouldn’t be anxious to go back. I did have a long
conversation with Marilyn before
signing up. It seems that what I want this year is something
they’re probably set up for. I’ve been working hard on the
cornetto, and need a teacher, and one has heard of people who have
learned something about cornetto playing from Doug Kirk,
who will be the cornetto teacher this year. Marilyn thinks the
chorus director will like the idea of a serpent playing with the
chorus, and I think I can probably handle three cornetto classes,
and if not I can sing or dance or something for one of them.


Here’s what I told them on the class selections form:

Early Morning 1st Choice: Cornetto (Kirk)
Early Morning 1 Comment: I’m at the point in my cornetto playing where a
teacher would be helpful, so this class is one of my reasons for coming.
Early Morning 2nd Choice: Shawm & Dulcian (Stillman, Verschuren)
Early Morning 2 Comment: I suppose if you cancelled cornetto, I could borrow
a shawm and make noises come out of it.
Early Morning 3rd Choice: Brass Tacks (Ramsey)
Early Morning 3 Comment: Again, if you cancelled cornetto and wanted to teach
a sackbut beginner, I could borrow an instrument and make noises.
Late Morning 1st Choice: All-Workshop Collegium for Reeds and Brass: Compere
and Beyond Compere (Eisenstein)
Late Morning 1 Comment: I’m expecting to play serpent here.
Late Morning 2nd Choice: All-Workshop Collegium for Reeds and Brass: Compere
and Beyond Compere (Eisenstein)
Late Morning 2 Comment: I could play cornetto if the faculty were
Early Afternoon 1st Choice: Regensburg Manuscript (Kirk, Stillman)
Early Afternoon 1 Comment:
Early Afternoon 2nd Choice: Bassus (Verschuren)
Early Afternoon 2 Comment: This would require Verschuren to be
non-serpent-hostile, and I expect he’d rather have all dulcians.
Early Afternoon 3rd Choice: Mouton adn Gombert (Boenau)
Early Afternoon 3 Comment: This is third choice only because I work with
Marilyn all the time.
Late Afternoon 1st Choice: The Vermeer Project (Verschuren)
Late Afternoon 1 Comment: This is first choice because it’s probably where
the cool kids will be; I’m not really an advanced cornetto player.
Late Afternoon 2nd Choice: Pevernags (Stillman)
Late Afternoon 2 Comment:
Late Afternoon 3rd Choice: New London Assembly: English Country Dance…
Late Afternoon 3 Comment:

Since starting to write this, I’ve had a phone conversation
with Marilyn, and it looks like I’ll have my first choices in the
morning, and work with Marilyn and Dan in the afternoon. Marilyn
claims to be happy to have me play serpent some of the time; Dan
would want cornetto.


I’m leaving tomorrow, and will take the laptop so I should be
able to post from my dorm room the way I did last time. I don’t
know how much time I’ll have for writing, with all the playing and
singing and dancing I’ll be doing, but I’ll certainly let you know
how it works out.