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Thursday, July 23, 2009

England Study Tour 1975 - 5

Tuesday, June 17
To Canterbury -- the ruins of the Abbey of St. Francis--they were extremely interesting, giving a ground plan, as it were, of how a cathedral is built . . . Canterbury Cathedral is absolutely amazing--I could easily have spent much more time there--their exhibit on the restoration of the cathedral both stone and glass are being eaten away by pollutants) was fascinating--I wish I had money to pay for it all.

Concert with the Deller Consort--it's hard to react to this concert--[Alfred] Deller is a legend to me--the renaissance pieces are very individually prhased, with very sudden crescendos to bring out moving parts--I felt like the music suffered, we being as close to them as we were [as I remember, the concert was in a room or building, not too large, off the Cathedral]--it seemed like it would have worked much better in a place like the cathedral--also, the music seems to me to be better listened to at a distance--the music does not seem like 'personalized' music, but music which should happen during worship--nice performance of the Purcell funeral music--Deller, Honor Shepherd, and Maurice Bevan [soprano and baritone who were long associated with Deller and his consort] are all still singing marvelously--I was particularly impressed with Deller: he sounded better to me than he has recently on records--he stilll has a very full, open sound and amazing control--it's nice to know singers can maintain their voices that long (probably only by singing every day, however).

The Machaut [Mass] was very interesting--I'm really going to have to study it seriously when I get back--the performance was exciting--there were times when the rhythmic accentuations seemed wrong (particularly word-acccents in the Gloria and Credo)--I'll have to ask what edition Deller used, and what kind of re-barring he has done--I'll also have to talk some more to Randy McCarty (director of the Western Wynde Consort in Seattle) about that Berkeley group--he says there's an early music group there which performs everything from original notations (individual parts) without barlines--he said it made an incredible difference in the rhythmic freedom of the music--it might be an interesting experiment to try with a a movement of Byrd 4-part Mass when we do it this fall--I could copy out individual parts without bar lines (checking with the original parts) and see if we could even perform it that way--should be interesting--I'll also be interested to hear Halsey's recording session of the Byrd with instruments. [I didn't try the Byrd with individual parts, but later with Palestrina Sicut Cervus--it was OK, but a group of singers would have to spend considerable time working this way, particularly with similar part books and notation as originals, not simply transcriptions of older notation, to make it truly effective]

Wednesday, June 18
Watched a session with [John] Aldiss in the morning with the Chamber Choir of the Guildhall College--unfortunately, most of the men were gone due to exams--it was very disappointing--Aldiss didn't seem interestat at all and unprepared--he didn't know how he wanted Italian double and triple vowels in Monteverdi divided, etc.--seemed to be searching for something to rehearse--didn't get much out of it--I really wish we could see him in a different situation (such as with his professional choir)
[the above was with the group--afternoon and evening were just Nancy and me]
Then to BBC for a live broadcast--guitarist doing some Spanish renaissance pieces and Villa Lobos (beautiful pieces)--and clarinetist and pianists doing Paul [Patterson's] clarinet piece and Brahms' f# minor sonata--Paul's piece very good, very lively--more 'traditional' than I expected--then to the Royal Academy where Paul teaches, he showed us around--very interesting--approximately 800 music students there--about the same at 3 other music schools in London: Royal College, Guildhall, and Trinity (where Roy [Wales] went to school)--We then watched Roy rehearse Webern's Concerto for Nine Instruments, very interesting, extremely difficult--I think I'll have to get the cantatas to study.

In the evening to the Dutch Ballet [contemporary]--I don't really know what to say: the grace, strength, and beauty of the performance was outstanding--I hope we can see some ballet when we get home.
I should note that I wasn't quite 25 when I went on this study tour. However, I founded Seattle Pro Musica (or the group which would become Pro Musica) in 1973, when I was 23. After one season with my chamber choir, I started a group called the Bach Ensemble, which included both singers and instrumentalists. We did a different Bach cantata once a month. At the end of that 2nd season, we combined both groups to do Bach's Mass in B Minor, and incorporated as Seattle Pro Musica the same summer of this tour.

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