News of the week of June 30, 2015

Meeting report

We played:


We will continue meeting on Tuesdays at 7:45pm at 233 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Youtube of Recorder Masterclass

Theres a video of some of the Recorder Masterclass on Youtube.

It looks like I didn't remember correctly which motif was the "thousand dollar" one.

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News of the week of June 23, 2015

Meeting report

We played:


We continue to meet weekly on Tuesdays at 7:45pm at 233 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Recorder Masterclass

The Boston Early Music festival usually gets at least one internationally known recorder player to play a concert, and also to teach a masterclass. This year it was Michael Form, who teaches and conducts as well as playing and recording.

Quilisma Consort

The first people to play were the Quilisma Consort (Lisa Gay, Melika Fitzhugh, and Carolyn Jean Smith), a trio of Boston-area recorder players, who normally play Medieval and Renaissance music but this time were performing a "Baroque-inspired" piece, Sicilian-ish, by consort member Milika Fitzhugh. They played it through, and then Michael Form asked the audience what the time signature was. (He had the score; we didn't.)

The gentleman next to me was sure it was either 6/8 or 12/8, because that's what a Siciliana is. Someone farther back in the room did get the right answer -- 5/8. But Michael pointed out that since almost everyone in the room is a musician of some sort, and only a couple of people knew the time signature from the performance, the playing should have gotten this across better. So he worked with them on how to accent the first beat in the measure without destroying the phrasing or other musical aspects of the piece.

He also told the story of Franz Brueggen's parting advice to recorder players: "Blow!" He suggested that all the players would have better tone if they were filling the recorder with air better.

Henia Yacubowicz

Next up was an accomplished amateur recorder player, Henia Yacubowicz, who seemed very nervous to start with, but got better as her piece, Ciaccona from the Sonata in F major, Op. 2 by Benedetto Marcello, went along.

Form's first reaction was, "This is one of the most cheering-up pieces in the recorder literature."

His second reaction was to ask, "Are you nervous?" She responded with a laugh, "Always."

So he said, "Well, let's play it together." So they played it together, and sure enough, she was much less nervous. Then they played it antiphonally, with each person playing four measures, and then the other playing the next four measures. It looked like a lot more fun than some of the things I've done in masterclasses.

Then he wanted to tell a story. He used to be an oboe player, and one of the standard pieces for oboe is the Ricard Strauss oboe concerto. It has a motif very like the one in the Marcello:

[thousand dollars]

Thousand-dollar-like motif from Marcello Ciaccona

And the story is that in 1945, there was a US army officer who was also a professional oboist, and he went to Ricard Straus, who was by then old and feeble, and asked him to write an oboe concerto. There was clearly interest but not sufficient motivation, so the officer said, "If you write me an oboe concerto, I'll give you a thousand dollars." And Ricard Strauss's eyes lit up, and the concerto starts with the orchestra playing a motif with 16th notes in groups of 4. Oboists still think of that motif as having the lyrics "thousand dollar".

So Henia played that section, and Michael Wise shouted "Thousand Dollar" every time the motif came up.

Benjamin Oye

Next up was Benjamin Oye, a high school senior and a student of Emily O'Brien. He played the Fontana Sonata Number 6, accompanied by Miyuki Tsurutani (who also assisted Henia Jacubowicz on no notice). His performance was quite poised and confident.

Michael Wise noted that the Fontana sonatas are marked "come sta", meaning that they should be played as written, and not ornamented to the player's taste (or lack thereof) as was usual for music of that period (he died circa 1630; the sonatas were published posthumously in 1641).

He mostly worked on a section where in his opinion, the continuo should be fairly metronomic, but the soloist should be rhythmically quite free.

My favorite story of the day was about how before recording technology became common in the 1920's, nobody had ever heard themselves play. It was as if the mirror had suddenly been invented when you were 50, and you could see what you looked like.

In any case, the recording engineers, who were technicians and not necessarily musicians at all, kept complaining to the performers that their playing didn't line up, and eventually the performers accepted that standard and now performances almost always line the parts up vertically, but before about a hundred years ago, nobody did that.

He also gave Benjamin a lesson in messa di voce, which involves doing a crescendo and decrescendo on a single pitch. There's a long note in the recorder part of this piece which is the climax of the movement, and the successful messa di voce did indeed make it a more exciting climax.

Kim Wu-Hacohen

(This was a hand-written addition to the printed program, so I apologize if I read the handwriting wrong and don't have the name right.)

Kim is an 11 year old student of Sarah Cantor, and she played the "Optometrist" movement from Pete Rose's I'd rather be in Philadelphia. Michael didn't know the piece, so he asked the audience about the title. Someone volunteered that it was on W.C. Field's tombstone, and Judy Linsenberg, to whom the piece is dedicated, told the story:

She was at her parent's in Philadelphia and leaving for Europe the next day, but Pete, who lives in New Jersey, was in town and wanted to see her. She explained that she'd love to get together, but she also had a lot of errands that had to happen that day, so he went around to her errands with her while they talked, and he immortalized the day in this piece, with movements Optometrist, Shoe Store, and Lunch.

Kim played with obvious enjoyment of the swing style of the piece (marked Jazz inegal). The audience had copies of the version she was playing from, which had phrases marked with stage directions like "Waterslide" and "falling down the stairs". Michael asked her if she had made up those characterizations, and when she said she had, he worked on ways to make some of them even better realizations of her ideas.

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More links to BEMF coverage

If the writers in the more mainstream media aren't as behind in their writing as I am, this may be the last set of links.

There are still posts coming from me.

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News of the week of June 16, 2015

Meeting report

We played:


We will continue meeting on Tuesdays at 7:45pm at 233 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Other events

Movie night

My current Netflix movie is Mr. Turner, a biopic of the life of J.M.W. Turner. Based on the previews and reviews, it's visually quite good, although of course the plot is predictable.

I'll be watching it on Thursday, starting around 8. If people want to come over and watch with me, we'll be organizing a pot luck supper about 7:30. Let me know if you're coming and what you want to bring. I get the giant box of greens from the farm share that day. I don't yet know what's in in, but I'll cook or dress some of it, and that will be my contribution.

Recorder Recital

John Tyson's student recital is this Saturday, June 20, at 5:30pm in the Carr Organ Room at New England Conservatory. If you want to hear lots of recorder playing, this is a good place to do it. I will be playing some of the Lupacchino and Tasso duets from Il Primo Libro a due voci, mostly with John on two recorders, but there will be one on serpent and sackbut.

Pig roast

The homebrew club is having their annual pig roast on Saturday, June 27, starting at 5 pm, with the pig scheduled to be ready at 8 pm. If we want to play anything from printed music, we should plan to do it before dark, but impromptu music without stands and dots on paper is possible at any time. Let me know if you want to come, and I'll sign you up as my guest.

Serpent Publications booth at Amherst Early Music Festival exhibition

On July 11 and 12, Serpent Publications will have a booth at the Amherst Exhibition in New London, Connecticut. The idea is that we'll have lots of music printed, and encourage people to try playing from it. So if you'd like to be a booth babe, let me know. I'll be staying around Saturday evening and going to the concert (not usually a great concert, but a good way to see what early music people are doing these days) and the party (usually pretty good).

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More links to BEMF coverage

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Samuel Scheidt plays keyboard through the 30 Years War

A post about the concert on Wednesday, June 10th at 2:00 PM, Paulist Center Library, by Judith Conrad. Music by Samuel Scheidt (1587 - 1654), played on a clavichord by Andreas Hermert, after Georg Woytzig 1688, with split sharps, triple-fretted, quarter comma meantone tuning.

It occurred to me on my way to this concert that although I often seem like a relative expert on the clavichord even in rooms full of very knowledgeable early music people, I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone but my sister play a clavichord concert.

This is partly because very few people give clavichord concerts. Even in its heyday, it wasn't really a concert instrument. A lot of organists and other keyboard players had them in their home, so they could practice without waking the baby or disturbing their neighbors, or needing to freeze in the cold church and organize a bellows pumper for the organ. And they did use it for their domestic music making. But there really weren't concerts in our sense, and the closest things to them used louder keyboard instruments.

But it does have other advantages over some of the louder instruments. When you're playing complex arrangements, you can bring out the tune by playing it louder. Judith has been doing this for several decades, and she gets better and better at it.

Most of the music on this concert is from a book published in 1624 called Tablatura Nova. Scheidt had studied with Sweelinck, and would probably have been a teacher that people flocked to from all over Northern Europe, except that the Thirty Year's War broke out in 1618, and made travel dangerous. So he did a certain amount of teaching composition by correspondence, and published this book with examples of everything a keyboard player of the time would be expected to do.

This concert included:

  • a chant setting
  • a folk song setting
  • a piece of complicted polyphony on a phrase from a Palestrina madrigal
  • a Magnificat on Tone 9
  • a setting of a Lutheran chorale
  • a set of variations on a folk song
  • a fugue

All this was introduced informally, and followed by refreshments and an invitation to the audience to play the clavichord.

Judith does this kind of concert every Boston Early Music Festival, and occasionally in between, most often in Fall River, Massachusetts, where she lives and is the organist/choir director of the First Congregational Church. So if you missed this one, you can probably have another chance. I recommend you take it.

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The Exhibition

This year, the exhibition is in a different hotel, around the corner from where it's been the last few festivals. Unfortunately, it's still on two floors, so you have to take elevators. But they work better than in the former venue and don't have muzak.

Not everybody brought everything on their website, so there's no alto cornetto to try, and Andrea Breukink only brought the Eagle, and not her Renaissance recorders.

But for most of us, hardware isn't really the point -- it's all about the people you can talk to. So here's a brief summary of what I accomplished in the first three days:

  • Bought a book of recorder exercises I've been playing from xeroxes.
  • Cleaned out all the 16th century madrigals from the AR Editions scratch-and-dent box, for $10 each large and heavy volume.
  • Bought an attractive, lightweight, folding wood music stand at the Early Music Shop.
  • Bought an alto cornet mouthpiece that might help the tenor serpent fulfill its mission of playing the parts that are too low for cornetto and too high for serpent.
  • Discussed the state of early brass education with a couple of people who organize summer workshops.
  • Got an offer to have a table for Serpent Publicaations at the Amherst Early Music Festival instrument fair.
  • And of course saw and talked to lots of people I haven't seen for some time and would like to know what they're doing.

What you accomplish will be different, but if you're at all interested in anything people do at BEMF, you will find ways to see it and talk about it if you go to the exhibition.

So if you're reading this before the exhibition closes at 5pm on Saturday, June 13, get over there.

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A new batch of pointers

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