CCAE Renaissance Ensemble concert on May 25, 2005

The calendar listing is on the
BRS calendar.

The report on the last concert is on
my blog.
It now points to the audio recording by Dennis Ehn.

This program is a bit more ambitious than the last one, and should
be fun if we avoid disasters. There’s lots of good May music.
There’s a Loyset Compère hymn to the Virgin Mary that takes advantage
of the wonderful acoustic of the CCAE exercise studio. The serpent is
getting good at doing bass on dance music. There are two settings of
“Petite Camusette”, and 3 of “Suzanne un Jour”. And the program ends
with everyone bursting into song on “Sumer is icumen in”.

On a serious note, the Cambridge
Center
is probably going to cancel both this class and the Baroque
Ensemble class. If you’ve been to the concerts, or enjoyed listening
to the recordings of them, you might want to write Jim Smith, the
director, and tell him you think that decision should be reconsidered.

Report on the Walk for Hunger Performance

It was challenging. The weather prediction was that the rain would
end overnight and things would clear up by the time we had to start.
This looked like it was happening when I walked the dog at 6:30.

But at 10:30 when we were scheduled to start, it was raining quite
hard. I played “Singing in the Rain” and “It ain’t gonna rain no more
no more” in between the Playford and Van Eyck I had planned for my
solo set. People walking by cheered and clapped. It may have been
the sympathy vote — you always get more voters to talk
to at an election when you’re holding a sign and it’s pouring rain.

Eventually the other people arrived. Ishmael couldn’t play fiddle,
so he got out the pipe and tabor. I tried providing a bass line with
the plastic bass recorder, but it wasn’t really in tune with the tabor
pipe.

Bonnie and I set up for our Morley set. By now the rain had
lightened up, and she got out her wood recorders. I played the
Soprano and Alto parts on plastic, but decided it wasn’t worth dealing
with the Yamaha stretch and played the tenor parts on my wooden
instrument.

Quilisma showed up on time and set up without needing assistance.
They were playing “Rufty Tufty” when Peter Barnes, of the “Barnes Book
of English Country Dance” walked by. We were struck by how well they
carried, even playing bass.

Unfortunately, this didn’t mean that the plastic bass carried well
enough to be heard by the singers, and in the Cantabile first set,
there were some train wrecks that I wasn’t expecting. There were
indeed a few pieces that were underrehearsed, but some of the train
wrecks were on pieces we’ve been playing for years, and have performed
successfully on numerous occasions.

So we spend the half hour of the Quilisma second set standing in a
tight circle (away from the Quilisma consort) and going over (vocally) the
things that had had problems. This was actually some of the best
singing we did all day.

For the second set, there wasn’t really very much rain, and Ishmael
got out his fiddle, but Bonnie still wasn’t comfortable getting out
the viol. I moved to serpent on a couple of things, but wasn’t able
to do as much of that as I would have liked to, because nobody but me
had rehearsed the alto part. But there were no major disasters, and
we felt good about the performance. John Maloney came by as we
rounded off the day with some of the rounds that had fallen off the
program due to time constraints, and complimented us on our clear
diction.

We went to our usual post-walk Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse rendezvous,
and after a good meal we left and the sun was shining brightly.
Ishmael said, “What a beautiful day! Let’s go play music in the
park.” But it was a joke. I don’t think any of us felt like playing
another note of that music for at least 24 hours.

There are pictures at the
serpent.laymusic.org gallery.
Ishmael Stefanov-Wagner took the
Quilisma Consort one, and John Maloney took the one of the Cantabile
Consort. More may be coming later.

[performing] Report on the March 30 Dan Laurin Masterclass

As far as my own performance went, I wasn’t embarrassed. I don’t
think it got as relaxed as the best of what I did in my own apartment,
but it was a good audience and I was fairly comfortable making
eye-contact, and I played at the level I’m capable of this month.

Setting

Karen Kruskal and Sheera Strick have a beautiful house, which they
enjoy opening up for musical events. Along with John Tyson, they
organized a party spread for afterwards, and plentiful water for
drinking during the class. While the seating area was a little on the
crowded side (when they’re expecting larger crowds they remove the
coffee table, or even one of the sofas), it was much friendlier, more
relaxed, and more intimate than the Marion Verbruggen class at Longy
in January.

Performers

Two young professional recorder players, one professional oboe
player who plays recorder very well, and 3 amateur recorder players.

The oboe player, Wai Kit Leung, has informed me that he’s an amateur,
not a professional.

  • I got drafted to start, and played Van Eyck’s “En Fin l’Amour”.
    See the
    laymusic.org blog
    for a discussion of the edition I did to prepare
    for this performance. Dan said that musically it was very well
    prepared, and worked on articulation (mostly), fingers, and breathing.
  • Wai Kit Leung, an oboe player from Hong Kong, played a Vivaldi
    concerto movement, with Dan playing the bass line on an alto
    recorder. Dan worked with him on vibrato and adding ornamentation.
  • Emily O’Brien played the first two movements of the Bach Cello
    Suite in G major. She had played this at the BRS concert in January,
    when I thought she was better. The first movement especially seems to
    me particularly unidiomatic for recorder. It sounds better when she
    plays it than it would if I played it, and Dan played it better still,
    but it still isn’t a piece I’d pick to work on. He discussed how you
    decide where to breath, and worked on getting her to be more relaxed
    about taking time where she decides to breath.
  • Brian Warnock did two movements of a Loiellet sonata, with Miyuki
    Tsurutani sightreading the harpsichord part. Dan first suggested that
    the Largo should be larger, and then worked with him on the
    ornamentation, which was quite impressive. I’m always surprised when
    people like him play the fast movements at the same speed as the slow
    movements. For a lot of people it’s obviously because their fingers
    aren’t up to playing the fast movements, but there was nothing wrong
    with Brian’s speed in the Allegro; he just doesn’t hear the Largo as
    slow as I do. Part of the problem was communicating with an
    accompanist he hadn’t rehearsed with — they took several measures to
    settle in on a speed when Dan asked for a slower one, and it wasn’t
    clear that is was really the speed either of them would have picked.
    One good point Dan made about Baroque ornamentation was that we
    should think of Baroque painting, with stars and angels and
    elaborately dressed people and lions and snakes.
  • Anya (I should check her last name) played Malle Simon by Van
    Eyck. She hadn’t really learned it very well, but therefore improved
    markedly on Dan’s suggestions. He was very helpful in discussing
    varying the repeats by shifting the emphasis.
  • Mary Briggs played a movement from a Bach cello suite. It was
    labeled a Sarabande, but doesn’t sound anything like a typical
    Sarabande with the da daa de da daaa rhythm. He discussed why this
    piece might be called a Sarabande for several minutes, without as far
    as I remember coming to any conclusion. This one works better on
    recorder than the ones Emily played. Dan made a good point about why
    to play Bach — he said you have to think about phrasing
    because heaven knows Bach didn’t.

Spring performing schedule

It’s gotten busy. No sooner did I finish the
CCAE March concert
, when several other things sprung up. So
here’s where you can hear me this spring:

Update, March 28: I had forgotten to add the
West Gallery events, so I’ve put them in now.

Report on the March 16 concert

There were about 10 people in the audience, and I think we held them
pretty well.

The pictures are in the
gallery.


Update: the recording is in the serpent.laymusic.org
audio repository
. It’s from the recording by Dennis Ehn, not the
one I describe below. Thanks, Dennis.

John Maloney will be doing the digital mastering, but the recording
came out pretty well. I had forgotten my microphone, but Dennis had
an extra so I borrowed that. It’s probably a cheaper one than mine,
because I don’t think it reproduces the bass viol as well as mine
does, but it doesn’t magnify the serpent sound as much, so the
recording is probably on the whole better.

On the whole I thought the singing and recorder playing were quite
good, and the serpent playing was better than previously. I was
disappointed that the good cornetto solo wasn’t as good in performance
as it had been in the dress rehearsal, but the Stingo playing is what
I can do these days.

CCAE Renaissance Ensemble March concert

Original article posted Thursday, March 10, after the final class
before the concert.

It’s close to the same group as the December
concert
, except that we also have Heather Fearn, who is a good
recorder player.

The rate of re-enlistment was high partly because that was an unusually
good concert. I’m not sure people are quite as interested in the music
on this one, but the general level of playing will probably be even
better.

The big reason for this is the tenor viol problem. The regulars
in the group for several years had included Barney Frazier, who plays
recorders, bass dulcian, and tenor viol. Hope Ehn, the director,
plays bass viol. So after Bonnie Rogers
joined the group bringing her treble viol, there was almost a viol
consort of treble, tenor, and bass viols, so it was pretty easy to
program viol consort music and fill in the rest of the parts with
recorders and serpent.

Unfortunately, Barney has some health problems, and isn’t in the
group any more. So for the last couple of terms, Hope’s been trying
to use the tenor serpent and the cornetto to take its place, and it
hasn’t really worked. I don’t think we should give up on the tenor
serpent forever (see Irish
tenor serpent
), but it’s really more of a baritone serpent the way
I play it at the moment, and in any case, it needs vocal lines to
sound good, and a viol doesn’t.

This term, she’s using her bass viol, and to a lesser extent a
tenor crumhorn and low recorders to do the tenor viol parts. The two
cornetto pieces are quite suitable for a beginning cornetto player,
and will sound pretty good, and the serpent parts are all normal bass
serpent parts, and will also sound good.

Because it’s a really good vocal and recorder ensemble, there’s a
lot less solo singing and recorder playing, which means I haven’t
really been practicing that stuff as intensely as in other terms. But
I’m expecting it to be a pretty good program that people will enjoy
listening to.

I have been practicing:

  • Both cornetto pieces. Stingo is just a little fast, and has a Bb
    I have to be careful about. The Altenberg cantus firmus is just
    gorgeous, and is a great segue in my practicing between doing long
    tones and playing pieces. I’m working on dynamics and shaping
    phrases.
  • The Scheidt galliard, which has dueling top lines with written out
    ornamentation which at anything like a galliard speed is fast for any
    of the recorder players in the class. I’ve been pushing for playing
    it at something like galliard speed and leaving out notes, which I
    have figured out how to do. I’d also be perfectly happy to play it at
    the speed we can play all the notes and call it something instead of a
    Galliard — it sounds like a perfectly good formal, stately intrada
    that way. But this suggestion has fallen on deaf ears.

This week I should practice:

  • The Stingo vocal. I still stumble on the words occasionally.
    Then if I get them by heart, I could practice singing it standing in
    front of a mirror and doing barmaid gestures.
  • The Monteverdi recorder part. I should work on doing some
    cadential ornaments in time.
  • The Ferrabosco Four Notes Pavan. The serpent part isn’t hard, but
    playing it soft enough to hear the top line is at the edge of what my
    lip can manage. And there are some tricky rhythms that could use a
    workout with a metronome.

The things on the program I’m really looking forward to are:

  • The opening piece, Nun fanget an.
  • Niña y viña, a 16th century Spanish thing that pretty much sings
    itself.
  • Rossi, Adon Olam, where the serpent gets to sing with a good bass
    singer for almost the first time outside of the West Gallery Quire.
  • Billings “Wake Every Breath”, where the whole room suddenly bursts
    into song.