:: English Music Festival


Anglo-German Adventures

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

 

I first visited Germany on my way to Istanbul, hitch-hiking between school and university. My friend Nick, who was bolder than I, blagged us a lift from the car deck on the ferry and we were dropped somewhere in Germany. Off the Autobahn we found ourselves apparently lost in the countryside, but were soon picked up by a lorry from a nearby brewery. The driver was politely amused by our schoolboy German (I’d just scraped an O level) and reached behind to pass us a bottle each. The three of us happily slurped away until he dropped us off at an inn for lunch. That’s the kind of welcome a teenager doesn’t forget. A few weeks later we were in what was then Yugoslavia and were picked up by German shirt smuggler (if I understood him correctly) and he took us most of the way to Turkey, stopping near the border at a mountain spring where he treated us to fresh yogurt and gherkins. I’d never had either before and can still taste them.

I’ve been enjoying German hospitality ever since, one way or another. I got to know towns I’d never heard of through concerts with the Hilliard Ensemble. The group could have survived handsomely just on the German gigs alone (and, of course, we had a famous German record company). The hypothecated church tax meant that most churches had more money than they knew what to do with, and concert promotion was a great way to spend it.  The group’s success meant that when we started our summer school series we had many applications from some amazing German singers. Singer Pur and Amarcord, for example, went on to become world famous; some students returned each year with different ensembles and are still firm friends. The person we most have to thank is Werner Schüßler, who not only introduced us to scores of wonderful German musicians but rescued the summer school and was responsible for bringing it to Schloss Engers on the Rhine.   Werner is an educator extraordinaire (as his recently published book on singing comprehensively demonstrates) and has coached hundreds of young singers over the years (and I’ve been delighted to join him on numerous occasions). He has a particular affinity with Northern England (he speaks fluent Geordie) and is a frequent visitor to this part of the world. At 3.30 on Tuesday 29th May he will be presenting two of his student ensembles in York Minster’s Chapter House. If you can get there, come and support these young singers (I’ve coached them myself too, and can guarantee you’ll have a great time). It’s a wonderful programme including music by Hildegard von Bingen, Mendelssohn, Rheinberger and Whitacre among others, which should sound stunning in the Chapter House acoustic.   If you miss them, on the 31st they can be heard in a lunchtime concert at St Andrew’s Corbridge (12.30) followed by evensong at Hexham Abbey at 6.30.

 

English Music Festival

The previous weekend (Saturday 26th at 2.15) Jacob Heringman and I will be opening the latest edition of our Book of Lost Lute Songs at Sutton Courtenay church (where George Orwell is buried).  The first half of the programme is a sort of Paston tribute, with movements from all three Byrd masses and motets (sung and played) by Tallis, Byrd, Dowland and Anon. The second half is an all-Heringman intabulationfest of music by Warlock, Butterworth, Moeran, Stephen Wilkinson, Peter Pope and Tony Banks. Quite a lot of this we’ll be doing in versions we haven’t tried before; it will be our third recital in England this year – a record for me. Jacob can also be heard with Ariel Abramovich in the Swaledale Festival on June 7th (sold out but you might get returns). The three of us will be joining Anna Maria Friman for Alternative History gigs in Poland, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the Canary Islands later in the year.

 

 

 

Life after Josquin…

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

A luxury of lutenists

 

Jacob Heringman  &  Ariel Abramovich

(with John Paul Jones, centre)

 

I don’t know what the collective noun for lutenists is, but I’m very fortunate to work with two amazing players, Ariel Abramovich and Jacob HeringQman (John Paul’s preferred instrument after the bass guitar is the mandolin…). Together, they are the creative engine room of the Alternative History project which has produced the ground-breaking Amores Pasados and Secret History albums for ECM. The Alternative History diary for this year includes concerts in Krakow, Cork, York, London, Gothenburg, Seville, Cadiz and the Canaries, and the three of us also have plans for a programme that combines the calm subtlety of renaissance lute duets with the virtuosic mayhem of the jazz-like ‘division repertoire’ of the early 17th century. Ariel and Jake can be heard as a duo in the Swaledale Festival on June 7th, but book soon as they are likely to sell out.

escaping to Ecuador with Ariel Abramovich

[photo Guy Carpenter]

In addition to our quartet with Anna Maria Friman, I do separate programmes with Ariel  and Jacob. Ariel and I are celebrating ten years of concerts together, most recently in the Canary Islands and Ecuador, and we will be returning to Spain (our more familiar stamping ground) later in the year. Our repertoire has focused heavily on English lute songs, notably Dowland and Campion, and our current programme In This Trembling Shadow, combines this with intabulations of Byrd and Victoria.  Our performance of the Byrd 3 voice mass in Quito at around 3000 metres above sea level may be the highest Byrd has flown (I was actually offered oxygen before our first gig…).

[photo Guy Carpenter]

Jacob and I first worked together so long ago that neither of us can remember when, and Jake’s concern for our carbon footprint has serendipitously led to our doing more concerts in the UK. Our most recent work has evolved under the title ‘Life After Josquin’ and taps into both Jacob’s well-known work on Josquin intabulations and the ‘Alternative History’ way of doing things.  The title refers to the renaissance practice of re-inventing choral music as lute-based chamber music with (or without) voice(s) which often continued to be performed long after the composers were dead.  Jake has become adept at tabbing not only Josquin and his contemporaries but also twentieth & twenty-first century choral music and songs. Especially those called Peter (as in Warlock, Pope and Erskine).

April 22: Life After Josquin in York

The intabulation repertoire was created for informal performances at home, and it was probably the way most people heard renaissance polyphony (the choral interpretations beloved of the early music movement were relatively rare). Having said that, modern performances (whatever the Besetzung) invariably happen in a concert environment that is not remotely domestic, and although you can finesse the repertoire itself you can’t really avoid ‘Performing’ it. On April 22 Jacob Heringman and I will have a unique opportunity to explore this repertoire in something like a renaissance environment, courtesy of  Thomas and Jo Green who occasionally put on concerts in their house in York.  The plan at the moment is to repeat most of the Life After Josquin programme that we did in Newcastle in February, but in keeping with the informal nature of the event we will probably make it up as we go along (taking requests might be a bit tricky but not out of the question). It should be the perfect acoustic environment for the lute, but it will present interesting challenges for me as a singer: even my ‘early-music-lite’ way of singing would be a bit in yer face in a roomful of 20 people, so I’ll be experimenting with an even more speech-like delivery than usual. God knows what it’ll sound like, but it’ll certainly be the closest I’m likely to get to what we used to call an authentic performance.

May 26: The Book of Lost Lute Songs at the English Music Festival

Jake and I will be appearing next at the English Music Festival on May 26th at All Saints church Sutton Courtenay Oxfordshire (2.15 start). This programme takes the intabulation principle into more recent music. The first half will be all Tallis, Dowland and Byrd (excerpts from all three masses); the second half will consist of Jake’s intabulations of Warlock, Butterworth and Moeran, and of more recent pieces by Peter Pope, Stephen Wilkinson and Tony Banks. The festival was a little wary of including the latter (it’ll be Follow thy fair Sun from Amores Pasados) but I hope they’ll be reassured after the success of Tony’s orchestral album 5. 

 

Peter Erskine writes for Alternative History

We’re thrilled that American jazz legend Peter Erskine has written a new piece for us (with words by Anne Hills and intabulation by Jake).  Ash and Snow will be premiered in Krakow in August and we’ll also do it at Triskel in Cork (now re-scheduled for September after the snow beat us last time) .