A special video invitation to Safe Haven from Maryem Tollar.
Click on the image above to watch the video.
A Message from Alison Mackay
The worlds of baroque music and of present-day Canada are rich with amazing stories of resilience and innovation bringing transformation to communities offering a safe haven to newcomers.
The most important publisher of baroque music, Estienne Roger, whose work introduced the music of Vivaldi to J.S.Bach, was a refugee who fled from Louis XIV’s France to Amsterdam and became a successful printer and music exporter. His international network of refugee booksellers helped to consolidate the baroque style which lies at the heart of Tafelmusik’s repertoire.
In the Nova Scotia town of Antigonish, the Assam Hadhad family, who lost their Damascus chocolate factory in the Syrian civil war and fled to Canada less than two years ago are now employing twenty local people in the amazing community which helped them build a new chocolate factory. Boxes containing the signature maple-leaf-shaped “Peace by Chocolate” are being sold across the country and exported around the world. You can read their story here.
In Safe Haven we’ll be weaving stories like this into a tapestry of music, words and images together with our wonderful guest artists Maryem Tollar, Naghmeh Farahmand, and Diely-Mori Tounkara. We are so excited to be embarking on this adventure with them and we’d be thrilled if you would join us on the journey!
Double Bassist & Show Creator
Don’t miss this extraordinary show, January 18-21 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre and January 23 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Click here for tickets.
Safe Haven is an exploration in music, words, and images of the influence of refugee populations on the culture of their adopted countries. From the beginning of human history, war, persecution, poverty, and climate crises have caused people to abandon their homes and seek asylum beyond their borders. The British poet Warsan Shire, who was born of Somali parents in Kenya, has captured the anguish of making the decision to leave one’s own country in her poem called Home:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
you have to understand
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
Religious persecution in early modern Europe caused several waves of migration which profoundly influenced the commerce and culture of host communities. The largest diasporas resulted from the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain in the late fifteenth century and the outlawing of Protestantism in late seventeenth-century France.
For almost a century, the 1598 Edict of Nantes had provided protection for Huguenots, the French protestant followers of the sixteenth-century reformer Jean Calvin. In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the edict, ordering that Protestant churches be destroyed, schools be closed, clergy be deported, and lay people be forced to convert and remain in France. Protestant men caught leaving the country would be sent to the galleys, women would be imprisoned, and children would be confiscated.
In response to these threats, hundreds of thousands of farmers, scholars, bankers, lawyers, artists, and musicians left France in secret, and because they were said to be seeking “refuge,” people began to refer to them as “refugiés,” inspiring the first use of the English term “refugee.” France’s loss of human and economic capital became the gain of Europe’s cities — by 1700, a fifth of the population of Berlin and a quarter of the population of Amsterdam were French asylum seekers. The industries manufacturing Irish linen, Swiss clocks, South African wines, and Dutch paper were founded by refugee entrepreneurs bringing their technical expertise to their new communities.
The magnificence of Louis XIV’s Versailles had already had a strong influence on Northern European taste, and the arrival of French artists and musicians in London, Amsterdam, and Berlin helped to disseminate and solidify the liking for French goods and design. In October of 1685, Frederick William of Brandenburg and Prussia issued the Edict of Potsdam — an invitation to French refugees to make their homes in Germany. Prussian diplomats in Amsterdam arranged for sea transport to Hamburg, where the exiles were met by government representatives and escorted up the Elbe River to their chosen destinations. The newcomers were granted abandoned land and given building materials with which to erect new houses or repair old ones; the original landowners were fully compensated.
At the music-loving court of Celle, refugee actors and musicians were especially welcomed by the Duke’s French wife, Éléonore Desmier D’Obreuse, herself an ardent Huguenot. The Duke and Duchess kept a French orchestra mentioned by C.P.E. Bach in his account of his father’s life and musical influences:
[In 1700, when he was fifteen] Johann Sebastian went to St. Michael’s School in Lüneburg. Here he had the opportunity to listen to a famous orchestra kept by the Duke of Celle, consisting for the most part of Frenchmen: thus he received a thorough grounding in the French taste, which in those regions was at that time something quite new.
Many of the wind players in Lully’s orchestra had been Protestants, and in exile they helped to introduce the oboe, a new French instrument, to Germany. J.S. Bach was the most important composer of baroque music featuring the oboe (his cantatas feature more solos for oboe than for any other instrument), and it is likely that he was introduced to the instrument by the French oboists at the court of the Duke and Duchess of Celle.
French refugees also played a vital part in the dissemination of the music of Louis XIV’s official court composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully. The Huguenot theatre impressario Jean-Jacques Quesnot, who had been imprisoned in Grenoble on the charge of encouraging fellow Protestants to leave France, fled to the Netherlands and recognized a potential market in the new Francophone public in the Hague and Amsterdam. He organized performances of Lully’s Armide, Thesée, and Atys, and may have been the one to send a troupe of players to perform in a highly influential first full production of a Lully opera in London, Cadmus et Hermione.
Even more influential were the French music printers who set up shop in Amsterdam and began to publish the orchestral movements from Lully’s staged works in editions which were sold all over Europe. The most prominent of the Huguenot publishers was Éstienne Roger, who left Normandy as a young man in 1685, immediately after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He apprenticed in the printing trade and began to publish grammars and dictionaries. He produced his first beautifully engraved music books in 1696, and by the time of his death in 1722 had published over 500 editions of works by Europe’s most famous composers.
The contract between Arcangelo Corelli and Roger concerning the publication of Corelli’s twelve concerti grossi, Opus 6, one of the most influential publications of the eighteenth century, was discovered in the Amsterdam city archives in the 1990s and reveals fascinating information about the relationship between composers and publishers.
The contract, written in French, indicates that Corelli and Roger had exchanged a number of letters about the publication and that Corelli had already sent one batch of concertos to Amsterdam. The others would follow and the entire set of twelve would be engraved and published together entirely at Roger’s expense. No money was exchanged, but it was arranged that Corelli would receive 150 free copies of the partbooks, to be sent over land and delivered to his doorstep. Roger would undertake to print an extra 150 copies to be deposited with Corelli’s Amsterdam agent until the first 150 arrived safely in Rome. Then Roger and Corelli would both be free to offer their 150 copies for sale.
Less than a year after the contract was concluded, Corelli died and the publication was gradually received by his heir, the violinist Matteo Fornari. It was possible at the time for an engraver to create four to six pages on copper plates in a week. There are 202 pages of engraved music divided among seven partbooks in the publication, which would have taken almost a year to produce. The music was sent to Rome in small batches to lessen the danger of accident or theft — probably seven bundles, each containing 150 copies of one part as it was finished. The music is so beautifully engraved that we still use copies of Roger’s editions in Tafelmusik performances today. Safe Haven ends with a joyful Allegro from the fourth concerto of the set, featuring two virtuosic solo violin parts in dialogue.
After Roger’s death, his business was taken over by his daughter Jeanne, and after her death by her sister’s husband, Michel-Charles Le Cène, who published Antonio Vivaldi’s most famous work, The Four Seasons, in 1725. Our concert about the cultural influence of Huguenot entrepreneurs, landing as it does in the January cold, is an appropriate setting for Elisa Citterio’s performance of “Winter,” part of the Four Seasons cycle which runs through our 2017/18 season.
Huguenots were not the only exiles who influenced the commerce and culture of seventeenth-century Holland. In January of 1492, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile had conquered Granada, ending an era of Muslim rule in the south of Spain which had lasted for seven centuries. Emboldened to the cause of Christianizing the entire peninsula, Ferdinand and Isabella issued a royal decree that ended a Jewish presence in Spain dating back to Roman times. All Jews had to convert to Christianity or leave Spain by August 2 of that year. Many submitted to an outward conversion to Christianity, and many fled to Portugal hoping for greater freedom of worship. After a few years, Portugal also turned on its Jewish population, and in 1536 the Portuguese Inquisition began to torment descendants of Jewish refugees. “Marranos,” converts who continued to practise Judaism in secret, came under increasing pressure and began to look for new homes in Italy, England, and Holland. After 1600, they were particularly welcomed in the port city of Amsterdam, where they established trading networks which greatly contributed to the prosperity of the city.
The poet João Pinto Delgado (1580–1653), who was of Spanish descent, was born in the south of Portugal and educated in Lisbon. In middle age he fled through France to Amsterdam, where he became a governor of the Talmud Torah Seminary. His autobiographical poetry, published in 1627, describes the experience of leaving Lisbon and arriving in a safe haven where Passover could be openly observed. We have set the Spanish verses from this poetry to music by the seventeenth-century Spanish composer Juan Hidalgo, who in 1633 became the official harp player to the royal chapel in Madrid.
In England, it was steadfast Catholics who were forced into exile by religious persecution. After Elizabeth I succeeded her Catholic half-sister Mary as queen of England, legislation was passed declaring the practice of Catholicism to be high treason, punishable by death. Though Catholic musicians were sometimes tolerated, the brilliant composer and keyboard virtuoso Peter Phillips felt his situation to be dangerous enough to warrant escape to the Continent. For three years he worked for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in Rome, where he was also engaged as organist at the English Jesuit College. In 1590 he settled in Belgium and began to exert a strong influence on the school of north-European keyboard music. The Amsterdam organist Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, whom Phillips visited in 1593, composed a set of variations on a famous pavan by Phillips; both the Phillips model and variations by Sweelinck are featured in the second half of our program.
Between the union of Poland and Lithuania in 1569 and the takeover of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by Russia in 1768, Poland was known as a place of relative religious toleration. The Warsaw Confederation Act of 1573 was the first piece of European legislation to guarantee freedom of worship, and by 1600 about three-quarters of the world’s Jewish population lived in Poland. Catholics from Scotland and Roma families fleeing persecution in the Hapsburg Empire also found new homes there. The Roma became closely associated with musical life in Poland, performing at the royal court, at weddings, and in country inns. Georg Philipp Telemann, who for three years was in the employ of Count Erdmann II at his Polish estates, wrote about having been influenced by the music that he heard at these country inns, and while he was in Poland he notated a number of melodies which he later incorporated into orchestral compositions. The work called “Mezzetin en turc” from his “Burlesque” Suite began life as one of these tunes, called “Polish Dances” in a manuscript in Telemann’s handwriting now found in Rostock.
The development of European musical instruments is closely bound up with the cross-fertilization brought about by the movement of peoples through trade and migration. The design of the early violin in the northern Italian cities of Brescia and Cremona was influenced by Sephardic Jewish luthiers who fled to the north of Italy in the late fifteenth century. A military census from 1520 in Cremona shows Andrea Amati as an apprentice in the household of one of these instrument builders. The European lute was an offspring of the Arabic oud, which had flourished in Muslim Spain for centuries.
Today in Canada the musical scene is enriched by the presence of many players of instruments which flourished around the world during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, providing us with exciting opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue. One of these instruments is the west African kora, a plucked instrument made from a calabash covered in hide, with a neck bearing 21 strings. The kora was played by members of distinguished bardic families in Mali, where improvised music accompanied epic narratives which were passed down from generation to generation. Our guest artist, Diely Mori Tounkara, is the member of such a family from Mali and now lives in Montreal. He and our other guests, Maryem Tollar and Naghmeh Farahmand, are enriching Canadian musical life through their performing and teaching, passing down ancient traditions to a new generation of Canadian musicians. We are honoured to share our stage with these guests.
The final section of our concert explores some of the rich cultural traditions of West Africa and Mali in particular, traditions which were unknown to the Europeans who profited from the Atlantic slave trade, believing Africans to be somehow less than fully human. By 1700, ancient trade routes had connected the communities around the Niger River with the Mediterranean for a thousand years. Caravans conveying gold and ivory used in exquisite art works in Benin and Ghana travelled north across the Sahara to the coast, and returned with tablets of salt and reams of paper for the great centres of scholarship and manuscript production in the cities of Djenée and Timbuktu. In the eighteenth century, the favoured paper for the manuscripts of Mali came from Venice and was made in the same paper mills which supplied paper to Vivaldi. These fragile sheets of paper have survived the dangers of conflict and climate to bear witness to the common humanity of all who need safety and security to fully express our shared desire for knowledge and beauty.
The long-term effects of the slave trade still play a part in the complex story of human displacement today, for the great waves of refugee migration which occurred in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are tragically not a thing of the past. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees states that in 2017 there are 65 million people worldwide who have been forced from their homes, including 22 million official refugees who have fled from their countries. In 2016, only 189,000 refugees were resettled worldwide, 46,700 in Canada.
The stories of refugees who arrived here a generation ago reveal the tremendous contributions that they have made to the economy and culture of their new country. Thirty years ago, 155 Tamil refugees came to Canada in dire circumstances. They had been forced into lifeboats in the North Atlantic and were rescued by Newfoundland fisherman Gus Dalton. One of the boats was recently discovered by Canadian filmmaker Cyrus Sundar-Singh (photo left) and we are grateful to him for helping to tell the story with his own images and words: “The boat, which was once a reminder of fear and shame, has become a powerful symbol of hope for a better life in a new land.”
“you have to understand, no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
That line, full of anguish, is from the poem “Home” by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, who became London’s first Young Poet Laureate. The full poem (copied below) is used in Tafelmusik’s upcoming concert Safe Haven, an exploration in music, words, and images of the influence of refugee populations on the culture of their adopted countries.
“From the beginning of human history, war, persecution, poverty, and climate crises have caused people to abandon their homes and seek asylum beyond their borders.” says show creator Alison Mackay in the concert program notes. For modern-day Canada, “The stories of refugees who arrived here a generation ago reveal the tremendous contributions that they have made to the economy and culture of their new country.”
In 1685, 50,000 asylum seekers who escaped to England by boat from Louis XIVth’s France breathed new life into the English economy. Here are two beautiful works of art made in London by members of French refugee families – a watch by Charles Cabrier (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Collection of Giovanni P. Morosini):
and a piece of silk woven by Huguenot weavers in the London district of Spitalfields. (image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1979):
T-What? The Tafelmusik Winter Institute, affectionately called TWI (pronounced Tee-Wee, rhymes with kiwi), is a week-long intensive study program for experienced period musicians. This year we will be focussing on music performed in France during the baroque era.
10 Tafelmusik mentors
27.5 hours of orchestra rehearsal
3 baroque dance classes
1 amazing admin team
Musicians come from all over the world TWI typically hosts young professional musicians from Canada and our neighbours in the US, but has also included students from France, South America, and even Australia! These musicians are attracted by the international reputation Tafelmusik has gained for their expertise in Historically Informed Performance* and their dynamic performances.
*Historically Informed Performance (HIP) Historically Informed Performance is a practice and an approach to music that involves studying the manner and style of the era in which a work was originally conceived.
HIP can be compared to making an old bread recipe written in the seventeenth century. You research what ingredients and tools were used and do your best to find or reproduce them. You read historical books on bread-making, trying to uncover tips and tricks. This helps you interpret the scripted recipe. Finally you try it out. At TWI we have the opportunity to learn from people who have devoted their careers to the musical equivalent of historical bread-making. They not only share their expertise, but help guide us in our own research and explorations.
Because this is a French TWI, we have the luxury of countless treatises – the French loved to write these musical equivalents of cookbooks. Some treatises even include a legend to the markings in their scores; a literal guide on how to play their music.
We also have a chance to look at the early editions and manuscript copies of the scores of the music we are playing, and to discuss how to use these sources to create performing editions. The editions we are using at TWI were prepared by Tafelmusik librarian and keyboardist, Charlotte Nediger.
Tafelmusik Mentors Jeanne Lamon directs the orchestra from her violin in many hours of orchestral rehearsal, but also holds an expectation of leadership from the concertmaster and other section leaders in the orchestra. Tafelmusik mentors from each section of the orchestra spend time coaching sectionals, teaching masterclasses, offering fellowship, and a listening ear to any curious questions participants may have.
TWI-Tip: (I have learned) most questions are best received and answered when accompanied with a beverage …
Music now, questions later Over the six days before the concert, we have 27.5 hours devoted to orchestral rehearsal. In rehearsal breaks we commune over cups of tea and snacks in the Tafelmusik office. The time between rehearsals is short, but gives us time to bond with fellow participants and to practise. The TWI schedule also includes an open discussion about careers and performing, pub nights, and a seminar focussed on French performance practice (*HIP in baroque France).
Bring your dancing shoes! During the week we will be (re-)introduced to the world of baroque dance by Jeannette Lajeunesse-Zingg, Co-Artistic Director and Choreographer of Opera Atelier. Participants: expect to be humbled, and/or amazed by your colleagues’ ability (or lack thereof) to remember dance steps and gracefully accomplish the minuet.
What happens in masterclass Masterclasses offer participants the opportunity for individual performance and teaching. Each instrument has its own classes, and each participant has chosen a French solo sonata or suite to play for their colleagues, and to work on in detail with their class teacher. I am preparing a suite from Les goûts-réunis by François Couperin. I am especially glad to play another suite written for two oboes by Pierre Danican Philidor, oboist & great-great-nephew of the Philidor who designed the baroque oboe with Hotteterre.
The Dream Team TWI is largely managed by the dream team: Charlotte Nediger, Caitlin Cross, and Mara Brown. These three have put countless hours into planning and thinking through logistics of this annual event, and that reflects in the many participants (like me, third time’s the charm!) who return or (I would highly) recommend the program to their colleagues.
As a lucky member of the Tafelmusik staff team, I cannot express what it means to me to be a member of the Tafel-family. My experience as a young artist and new Torontonian has been shaped by the attitude, mentoring, and example of the individuals in the orchestra, choir, and staff. These amazing people live and work for others, and sometimes short of a miracle, that teamwork (and some stubbornness) has been the cause of many enriching and successful events. I am particularly grateful knowing they will be the ones working behind the scenes to make TWI 2018 another one of those successes.
Lully, Rebel, Campra, Rameau, and more! All the hard work and preparation finally culminates in a Pay-What-You-Can public performance on Wednesday January 10, 2018 at 7:30PM in Jeanne Lamon Hall. Including operatic music by Louis XIV’s composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, the king of French opera (doomed to die by his own baton); Lully’s student Jean-Féry Rebel; André Campra, who followed Lully’s footsteps writing tragédies en musique and opéra-ballets; and lastly the dramatic composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. This is the real test: come and taste what we’ve been cooking!
In our ongoing series of featuring long-term supporters, “My Tafelmusik” invites donors to share their story in a Tafelmusik house program, and various digital platforms.
Individual support is integral to Tafelmusik. It funds live concerts in Toronto and across the world, education programs for young people, innovative new multi-media and recording projects … in addition to bringing renowned guest artists to our stage.
By May Webster
Tafelmusik has been part of my musical life for many years. I sang in a church choir, and the music director, who was a subscriber, would tell us about what he had heard at the concerts. I was intrigued, especially by the concept of hearing music played as it was originally intended to be played. So I went to a concert, and became a subscriber myself, and then a member.
Tafelmusik has educated me. I have learned to appreciate choral music sung in original languages — from a choir whose words are so clear I could almost hear the words as if they were in English! I have learned from the pre-concert chats many details about the works I then would hear. Or about the composers and their world. I have learned from the Membership Academies about the baroque world itself, about baroque performance practices, and a little about how the baroque instruments differ from the modern ones. (And I am somewhat saddened that the Academies are no longer available to members at the lower ranges of contribution, although I appreciate that their popularity may have made this necessary.) I have learned to appreciate the works of composers I once thought obtuse or complicated — Bach, for instance, as against Haydn, Handel, or Mozart. So many thanks to all the musicians and other experts who have presented those lectures over the years.
I look forward to each new season, for what I shall hear and enjoy, from the Orchestra and from the Chamber Choir, and for what I might learn. I also look forward to sharing my Tafelmusik experiences with friends, and perhaps introducing them to music that I find life-enhancing.
Membership makes a difference! Membership donations allow Tafelmusik to continue inspiring the love of baroque and classical music. Give today!
Joining us in this season’s Handel Messiah is a stellar line-up of soloists: soprano Joanne Lunn, countertenor James Laing, tenor Rufus Müller, and baritone Brett Polegato. We sat down with our four soloists to find out a bit more about them. Enjoy!
How did you come to decide to sing?
Joanne Lunn, soprano: I have always loved singing: I believe I used to drive my brother crazy when we were children by constantly singing. I joined the church choir as soon as they would have me. I can vividly remember that I would stand up and sing my heart out in the final hymn on a Sunday when the choir processed by, hoping someone would hear and say I could join!
James Laing, countertenor: I had always enjoyed classical music and ended up singing in the bass section in my school choir. There was a time when lots of the trebles voices broke and suddenly the bass row was overflowing. However, there was a space beckoning amongst the ladies on the alto row …
Rufus Müller, tenor: Apparently I sang before I could talk. But when it came to deciding if I could sing professionally, when I sang as a student in the Tallis Scholars, I asked a couple of my professional colleagues in the ensemble if I had a chance of making a living in London. Countertenor Michael Chance simply laughed and said, “Don’t be ridiculous!” I took that to be a “Yes.”
Brett Polegato, baritone: In school, I was somewhat of a math geek. I was also involved in many in-school instrumental ensembles (I played oboe and tenor saxophone) and after-school choirs. I was offered a full scholarship to Waterloo for Computer Science and to the University of Toronto for Vocal Performance. I chose music with the thought that, if it didn’t work out, I could always go back to math. Thirty years later, I’m still singing!
What was your first music gig?
Joanne: I won a competition that the BBC ran when I was young called “Choirgirl of the Year.” That year-long experience of concerts, radio broadcasts, and recording sessions really made me decide that I might just be able to give singing a go.
James: My first solo gig was performing “Come ye sons of art” by Purcell at a small church in … errr … Buckinghamshire? There is a wonderful countertenor duet within the piece, “Sound the trumpet,” and my partner on this occasion was one of my heroes, James Bowman. Talk about pressure: the grandfather of countertenors and the upstart whippersnapper!
Rufus: My first paid gig was while I was at university, singing the baritone (yes, baritone!) solos in Duruflé’s Requiem for a local choral society. I think I got £20.
Brett: My first professional gig was singing Figaro for Opera Atelier in their production of The Marriage of Figaro. Conductor Marc Minkowski was making his North America debut, and Tafelmusik was in the pit. In fact, I left an opera diploma program to accept this gig. Not a bad way for a 24-year-old to start!
What is your “guilty pleasure” music to listen to?
Joanne: I listen to a wide variety of music ranging from medieval right up to music from the charts, courtesy of my children!
James: Oooh, tough one but you can’t go wrong with a bit of Dolly Parton.
Rufus: The Carpenters! Karen Carpenter’s voice was one of the most creamy, sensuous voices in the pop world — ever. And her fight to the death with anorexia gives a plangent edge to everything she sang.
Brett: Broadway recordings. I can’t get enough showtunes!
What is your favourite thing to do on a day off?
Joanne: Walking along the white cliffs in Kent on a sunny day near where we holiday regularly, with a hearty meal at the pub halfway of course!
James: Spend time with my family — my wife certainly appreciates being able to offload our four children on me!
Rufus: In the summer, going to the beach. In the winter, daydreaming about being on the beach.
Brett: Read. I’m an avid reader and a collector of first-edition, signed books.
What is the most challenging aspect of singing Messiah for you?
Joanne: I love singing Messiah! It is my challenge after having sung it so many times to keep it fresh, as if it were the first time I had ever sung it: for myself, for the audience, and most importantly for the sake of the message it tells.
James: The challenge for me is trying to get an audience to not just “listen”’ to the piece, but to really engage with it. A difficult thing to do with such a well-known work.
Rufus: Remembering my words in the alto-tenor duet near the end: “Oh death”? or “Oh grave”? On one occasion I sang: “The sin of death is Sting.” Oh, no! Now I’m going to be nervous about it in Toronto — why did I agree to answer these questions!!
Brett: Each bass aria requires a different weight, colour, and articulation. I work hard at trying to fulfil the impossible demands of each while balancing the set as a whole. It’s fortunate for me as a baritone that the tessitura gets progressively higher as the evening goes on, so I can “warm up” into them. At the final aria, “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” when many basses are ready to call it a night, I’m ready to raise the roof!
What Messiah part do you especially look forward to?
James: Funnily enough, my favourite part is non-vocal: the Pifa orchestral interlude which introduces the shepherds. I love the translucent quality you get from the strings and the way that every section has an intertwining voice. Simple and beautiful.
Brett: Every year, I look forward to the response from the audience. Robert Shaw used to say to his choristers before a performance: “Remember, there is someone here tonight who’s hearing this piece for the first time. And someone here who’s hearing it for the last time.” I think of this particularly when I perform Messiah, which for so many audience members is an annual tradition. I ask myself: who will NOT be here next year to hear this? It reminds me to make each performance count.
Join Joanne, James, Rufus, Brett and Tafelmusik Orchestra and Choir for Handel Messiahat Koerner Hall, Dec 13—16, 2017. Tickets available here.
Music is an integral part of the celebration of important life moments in most cultures, and this is particularly true of rites of passage. In our concert, Four Weddings, a Funeral, and a Coronation, we offered a selection of music written by baroque composers for the celebrations of royal weddings, a coronation, and for the funeral of a renowned French marshal. Continue your concert experience with this selection of music for your further listening pleasure.
Our Lully suite ended with a chaconne from Roland – chaconnes are among our favourite things to play. Many have repeating bass lines over which the composer spins various melodies, and include trios for solo instruments. Last year we performed one of Lully’s wonderful choral chaconnes, from Amadis. The orchestra plays a full 7-1/2-minute chaconne, and then the choir and soloists join with the text “Chantons tous la gloire de l’amour.” The entire movement is 15 minutes of glorious Lully.
(This is an entire suite of excerpts from Amadis: the chaconne begins at 10:30)
The centrepiece of our set of excerpts from Purcell’s Ode “From hardy climes” was an exquisite ritornello set over a ground bass (i.e. a bass line that repeats throughout). In the original ode, it is preceded by the song “The sparrow and the gentle dove” – I played the song tune on harpsichord, with Lucas providing lute accompaniment. It’s very much worth listening to the original song as performed by the wonderful British tenor Charles Daniels, whose singing of Purcell is beyond compare. You will find it on a recording by The King’s Consort, directed by Robert King, on the Hyperion label.
It’s in Volume 4 of a set of recordings of the complete Purcell Odes by The King’s Consort, which is full of treasures. If you track down the set, I urge you to listen to another magical ground-bass song (in Volume 7), again sung by Charles: “So when the glitt’ring Queen of Night,” a remarkable depiction of a lunar eclipse, from “The Yorkshire Feast Song.”
Performing the Blow Coronation Anthem for James II this week has convinced us we must sing more of his music! The one other Blow work we have performed in the past, most often with students at the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, is his remarkable Salvator Mundi. A heartfelt setting of the text, it was probably written by Blow for the Catholic court chapel attended by James and his wife Maria of Modena.
Pachelbel wrote more than his infamous Canon – but we rarely hear it! He was a keyboard player, and you can find recordings of his organ and harpsichord music. There are also a few recordings of his other string music. I encourage you to track down a recording called Buxtehude & Purcell Chamber Music, made by Musica Antiqua Köln way back in 1980 on the Archiv label and reissued a few times. Have a listen to Partia no. 4 in E Minor from the Musicalische Ergötzung.
It’s no secret that I’m married to choir director Ivars Taurins – and the piece that was played as I walked down the aisle at our wedding 36 (!) years ago was a piece not dissimilar to the Pachelbel canon. It is likewise scored for 3 violins and continuo, and is written over a ground bass – and has the same combination of freshness, vivacity, and beauty. Here is a video from Tafelmusik’s House of Dreams CD/DVD.
Purcell Fantasia in 3 parts on a ground: Tafelmusik
I love Charpentier’s choral music – and my favourite of all the works of Charpentier that we’ve performed is his setting of Salve regina for three choirs and continuo. We perform it every few years with the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute participants in the glorious acoustics of Grace Church on-the-Hill, with the sounds of the three choirs intertwining magically. I dream of it being sung at my funeral …
Handel wrote a great deal of music for the royal family – famously Water Music and the Coronation Anthems. Less well known but no less glorious is an ode Handel wrote for the birthday of Queen Anne in 1713 (the Anne for whose marriage Purcell wrote the ode “From hardy climes”). The opening of this ode, “Eternal source of light divine” for solo trumpet and countertenor, is one of my very favourite pieces of music. I have an old recording of the wonderful James Bowman singing it, and play it whenever I need a moment of calm inspiration:
Handel “Eternal source of light divine” from Queen Anne’s Birthday Ode: James Bowman
The ode continues with arias and choruses, including the very delightful duet chorus “Let rolling streams their gladness show,” which was transcribed by Handel for orchestra alone in the Concerto a due cori, HWV 333, that we performed at the opening of this season –– the vocal and choral parts are given to oboes and horns.
If you want to experience the entire ode, you can hear a youthful performance by the European Union Baroque Orchestra (a training program for period players) with countertenor Alex Potter and young singers from Clare College, Cambridge.
(The ode starts at 12:30, and the chorus “Let rolling streams” starts at 23:55) Handel Queen Anne Birthday Ode: EUBO, dir. Lars Ulrik Mortensen