:: Praetorius


Praetorius!

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Back in the nineties I spent an eventful year commuting to Bremen as a Dozent at the Akademie für alte Musik (the AKA as we all knew it). I lived close to Stansted airport, then not much more than a shed in a field, and once a month or so I’d fly out on Air Bremen after breakfast, teach in the afternoon, stay the night, teach a bit more and fly home the next day in time for dinner. The plane was a lovely whispering turbo-prop with leather seats. Quite often I was its only passenger and towards the end of the year Air Bremen went out of business. I then had to resort to Lufthansa (my favourite airline) and Heathrow (my least favourite airport) and the whole business took an extra day or more. At about the same time the AKA converted from a privately run academy to a full-blown Hochschule (it’s now part of the Hochschule für Künste Bremen) and I was asked to become a proper prof. It was one of those moments which (in theory at least) might have altered the flow of the ocean currents (as Luciano Berio might have put it). They didn’t want a teacher that would only appear whenever there was a break in their performing schedule, and to do the job properly I’d have to either move to Bremen or get used to regular circuits of the M25. So I forwent the chance of a German pension (and haven’t taught singing since) and a few years later York beckoned and the ocean currents found their proper course.

The AKA was an amazing place, pioneering early music performance and bursting with musicians from all over Europe. One of my colleagues was the conductor and musicologist Manfred Cordes, whose substantial discography with his ensemble Weser Renaissance includes landmark recordings, especially of the early German baroque. In 1996 my Hilliard colleague Rogers Covey-Crump and I joined the group for a recording of the complete  Cantiones Sacrae of Heinrich Schütz . Now, twenty-five years later, I’m just off to the Gothenburg Organ Festival for two concerts celebrating the Praetorius anniversary, and Manfred Cordes will conduct. My fellow singers will include Trio Mediaeval, with whom I sang a programme of Machaut and Cypriot polyphony just before the virus appeared. Post-virus musical blood is beginning to flow through my veins again at last.

One of my first post-Covid gigs was celebrating Josquin as Jacob Heringman’s secret chanter, and I’m very glad that the next one takes in the other (and sadly, less celebrated) anniversary. I’m double vaccinated, have booked a return test and upgraded my travel insurance, attempted to fill in the Passenger Locator Form, printed out and practised the dots, booked flights and trains…anything else? It’s been so long since I’ve been to the mainland I can hardly remember how to do it.