Finns Ain’t What they Used To Be, Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, Wigmore Hall, 6 January 2018

OK, this baroque concert didn’t really have that dreadful pun as its title – but it did have a tongue-in cheek humour to it, certainly in the first half, which was dedicated to Telemann’s work.

Here is a link to the programme and basic information from the Wigmore Hall site.

Both of the Telemann pieces are relative rarities, new to the ears even of Telemaniacs like me and Janie:

  • Ouverture burlesque in B flat major TWV55:B8
  • Trauer-Music eines kunsterfahrenen Canarienvogels (Canary Cantata) TWV20:37

The Helsinki Baroque is a very together orchestra; seemingly a group of dedicated musicians who enjoy playing with and riffing off each other. We suspect that Aapo Häkkinen is metaphorically “gentle yet strong glue” for this Finnish combo.

Carolyn Sampson was the soprano for the evening. She stood right in front of us and sang magnificently.

The Canary Cantata – in full “Cantata of Funeral Music For An Artistically-Trained Canary Whose Demise Brought the Greatest Sorrow to his Master”, really is a most unusual piece.

Click here (or the embedded YouTube below) for a recording of a young American soprano, MaryRuth Lown, singing the piece;

My so-called friends who thought my German singing sounded like Yiddish in my Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich Lassen performance the other week should click through and hear this aria.

Gresham Society Soirée, Barnards Inn Hall, 14 December 2017

It begins with the following line oft-repeated:

O weh! mein Canarin ist tot

…which means, for those who need a translation into lingua franca…

Oy vay! in drerd mein feygele.

…but I’m diving too deep into detail. Actually if you want to read the whole cantata in English, click through the YouTube link above (not the embedded vid) as a full translation is there on YouTube. Weirdorama lyrics.

The second half of the concert was more “regular” in terms of familiarity and style, but still hugely interesting and enjoyable. J S Bach for this half:

  • Concerto in D major for harpsichord BWV1054 (from Violin Concerto in E major BWV1042)
  • Cantata: Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen BWV51

I don’t think I had heard that concerto with the harpsichord as lead instrument before; I have recordings of it on violin and piano.

The cantata was spectacularly good; Carolyn Sampson on top form, as was Nicholas Emmerson on baroque trumpet, going red in the face trying to get such a complex string of notes out at pace on that challenging instrument.

The encore was a complete change of mood, from the jubilant Bach “Jauchzet Gott” cantata to the mournful Handel “Eternal Source Of Light Divine” cantata.

The encore was also a triumph; albeit a calming one rather than an uplifting one. Here is a YouTube of Iestyn Davies singing it:

All in all, it was a wonderful gig; a delicious start to the year for our concert going.

I cannot find a YouTube of Carolyn Sampson with the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, nor of that orchestra performing any of the pieces we heard, but the following YouTube gives a feel for that orchestra’s work at that scale (16 or so members) on a work of that period with a fine soprano…

…while the following is a YouTube of Carolyn Sampson with a different super orchestra – The Sixteen:

Innsbruck – Yiddish Version, 14 December 2017

As a retort to those so-called friends who suggested that my performance of Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich lassen for the Gresham soirée sounded more like Yiddish than Renaissance German…

…I have recorded a Yiddish version.

With apologies to Ian Pittaway, my music teacher. I listened carefully to everything he has taught me over the past several months…

…and studiously ignored or did the opposite for this “performance”.

Enjoy…

…or should I say shepen naches?

For the record, here is the more authentic version from the day of the Gresham performance:

 

Gresham Society Soirée, Barnards Inn Hall, 14 December 2017

Robin Wilson Leads Us In A Latin Canticle, Tinniat Tintinnabulum

Back in March, when Janie and I went to see The Tallis Scholars perform works by Heinrich Isaac:

The Tallis Scholars: Isaac and Mouton, Wigmore Hall, 9 March 2017

…I had no idea where it would lead. But I was much taken by their encore song, Innsbruck, Ich Muss Dich Lassen. I found a simple chord version of the song and started strumming it out on my baroq-ulele.

Once I learnt that the piece probably had a strong temporal connection with Sir Richard Gresham’s birth year and the start of the Tudor period, I resolved to prepare that song for the next Gresham Society soirée by learning how to play it “properly”.

Ironically, I found my source of serious early music learning through a comedic spoof shared on the Early Music Facebook Group on the 1st of April:

The song Shakespeare stole from: a discovery from the 16th century

I tracked down Early Music Muse, who is a delightful musician, music teacher and expert on early music named Ian Pittaway, based in Stourbridge in the West Midlands.

I have now had several fascinating Skype-based lessons with Ian, a couple of face-to-face lessons and lots of practice in-between. Ian also transcribed the Innsbruck song for me into Renaissance-style tablature.

Roll the clock forward some months to the day of the soirée. Despite several explanatory exchanges of e-mails, Professor Tim Connell remained convinced that I am dead-panning a joke rather than REALLY preparing to play something serious. Fortunately he was at our offices that afternoon, so, on the way to Gresham College from Z/Yen, I had the opportunity to persevere with him and get him to amend his introduction.

In fact I bundled out of the cab before Gresham, to pop in and see John White, to drop off some gifts from Thailand and from the Chelsea Physic Garden in the summer, all of which I keep forgetting to take with me when I see John. He and his work team were finishing their Christmas lunch in Vivat Bacchus. The team, who are a very jolly and friendly bunch, asked me to play my Renaissance song for them. I attempted to play it, but frankly the place was far too loud for anyone to hear me…

…which was just as well, as I soon realised, once I got to Gresham to warm up, that my baroq-ulele was monstrously out of tune. Something to do with tube train vibrations that doesn’t seem to happen in the car. I spent most of my warming up time desperately trying to tune my instrument. In desperation, I even got the screwdriver out at one stage – really.

Meanwhile Michael Mainelli was also in the green room warming up his bagpipes and trying to “sooth my nerves” by challenging my pronunciation of every German word. As Elisabeth (Michael’s wife, who hails from Germany) put it, rather sharply, when I asked her, after the performance, about this pronunciation point, “what would Michael know about German pronunciation?”

In truth I was already feeling a little sensitive about my pronunciation, as Micky, the night before at the Chelsea Physic Garden, had declared my accent, “more like Yiddish than German”.  Elisabeth thought Micky’s concerns were just funny.

The soirée was scheduled differently this year, with the buffet served before the show, then the first half of the soirée was professional musicians showing us how it should be done.

Sian Millett Sings A Very Flirty Habanera, With David Jones On Keyboard

David I/we knew well from previous soirées – he was my “partner in crime” at the event a few years ago in my rap version of Any Old Iron (to be Ogblogged in the fulness of time).

But don’t be deceived by the limitations of David’s bit-part roles in my slapstick comedy performances; David is actually a fine pianist and has an excellent baritone voice in his own right. His rendition of Tom Lehrer’s The Elements is always a bit of a highlight of soirées, but this year he did also sing some charming songs, such as Copeland’s Long Time Ago and Novello’s My Dearest Dear.

Sian Millett charmed us with arias spanning the centuries, from Ombre Mai Fu  (Handel) to Secret Love (from Calamity Jane) via the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen.

After a short break, the amateurs took over the programme, including my rendition of Innsbruck, which I billed as the Sir Richard Gresham Nativity Song.

I don’t have a recording of the performance but I do have a rather rudimentary vlog of my dress rehearsal at home on the day of the performance:

I probably spent as much time preambling the song as I spent singing it – so if you want to know more about the song you can find my preamble notes (including some additional notes I didn’t use on the night) in full by clicking here.

After my little performance, the highlight for me was Anthony Hodson’s bassoon performance (with David on “harpsichord”), Telemann’s F minor sonata. Those two also performed The Teddy Bears Picnic (which looked equally challenging for bassoon) – I could have joined in and even sung my Coppers Are Dressed As Hippies version of the tune had I known in advance…probably for the best that I didn’t.

There was also a comedic poetic tribute to Dawn who was sitting in front of me, looking amused and embarrassed in equal measure. Finally, of course, the traditional Professors’ Song as the closing number, captured this year on vid by Georgina – shared through this link, with thanks to Georgina.

I got very kind and pleasant feedback on my piece from lots of people over drinks after the show. But the icing on that particular post show cake was feedback from Frieda, one of the Gresham Society regulars, who explained to me that her mother is from Innsbruck and used to sing that song to Frieda when she was a little girl. Frieda seemed almost overcome with emotion telling me about it.

I asked Frieda if the song had sounded alright to her in my attempted German voice and in the early music style; she said it had. I told her that she had really made my evening with her feedback, but she insisted that hearing the song at Gresham had made her evening.

As always with Gresham Society, there were lots of interesting people to chat with before and after the show. I suggested to several people that I would revert to silly stuff next time, but detected a groundswell of enthusiasm for a more serious piece. We’ll see.

Innsbruck, Ich Muss Dich Lassen, My Preamble For The Gresham Society Soirée, Barnards Inn Hall, 14 December 2017

There follows the preamble to my Innsbruck performance, explained in more detail in the piece linked below:

Gresham Society Soirée, Barnards Inn Hall, 14 December 2017

Did anyone by any chance come to this soiree primarily to hear me sing a silly song? Good, because on this occasion I’m going to perform a serious piece, for the first time since I was at school.

  • Heinrich Isaac was a Netherlandish (Flemish) Renaissance composer who died 500 years ago this year;
  • Prolific composer of beautiful sacred music, but by far his best-known work is a secular song, Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich Lassen – Innsbruck I must leave you.
  • If there had been Euro pop charts back in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, Innsbruck would probably have been number one in the charts for decades. Greensleeves probably originated more than 50 years later, but in mainland Europe, Innsbruck was probably still number one for decades even after Greensleeves turned up.  Many hymns, cantatas and songs are based on the Innsbruck tune, not least several Bach works;
  • the first document mentioning Isaac’s name dates back to September 1484, placing him in Innsbruck as a singer for Duke Sigismund of Austria;
  • documents show that by July 1485 Isaac had relocated to Florence, employed as a singer at the church Santa Maria del Fiore…
  • so it is likely that Isaac wrote his Innsbruck song c1485;
  • c1485 is an interesting year. Not least, c1485 is the exact circa year of Sir Richard Gresham’s birth;
  • 1485 is also the year when Richard III failed to trade his kingdom for a horse, ending up interred in a Leicester car park, marking the start of Tudor England;
  • so it seems right to perform Innsbruck for The Gresham Society in this lovely Tudor Hall;
  • To try and give the song an authentic early Tudor sound, I found a delightful expert on early music Ian Pittaway, who wrote the tablature arrangement I’m going to play you and has coached me to play my instrument better, not least the Tudor-stylee I shall try today;
  • The difference between messing about with comedy music (my usual thing) and having a genuine go at performing in a Renaissance style, in German, is enormous. I have learnt a lot about early music and also about myself by attempting this;
  • You’ll hear three verses. The first laments having to leave Innsbruck. The second laments having to leave a true love behind.  The third verse professes faithfulness and virtue ahead of an intended return to Innsbruck;
  • It is a beautiful song and I hope I can do it justice for you tonight.

 

Additional Notes

  • Much of his working life in Florence; a close associate of Lorenzo de’ Medici. A contemporary of Josquin des Prez – agent’s letter to the court of Este comparing Josquin with Isaac – “[Isaac] is of a better disposition among his companions, and he will compose new works more often. It is true that Josquin composes better, but he composes when he wants to and not when one wants him to.” Isaac got the job;
  • Lutheran chorale, “O Welt, ich muß dich lassen”, the 17th century hymn “In allen meinen Taten” by Paul Fleming and later still Bach’s chorale cantata In allen meinen Taten, BWV 97 and also elements of the St Matthew’s Passion.

Jazz In the Round, Sam Barnett Quintet & Interchange, Cockpit Theatre, 30 October 2017

While Waiting For Action

This was a well cool evening of jazz.  An exciting new 10 piece (dectet) of female jazz players supported by a quintet of extremely talented teenagers.

It is all explained in this Jazz In The Round at The Cockpit link – click here.

Just in case they aren’t so good at archiving at The Cockpit, I have scraped the raw HTML so you’ll still be able to read the text at least here.

I happened across this pretty much by chance. Rohan Candappa is going to try out a new performance piece at The Cockpit 31 October, so I looked at the website for the place, as I didn’t know it, although it is more or less “on my manor”.

I spotted this concert and checked out a couple of YouTubes and audio links  for the performers. I liked what I saw and heard – Janie did too – we booked it.

This is the YouTube I checked out for the Sam Barnett Quintet:

I found the following Spotify link for the Interchange/Issie Barrett stuff – click here or below.

First up, the youngsters. Jez Nelson from Jazz FM introduced the acts:

Jez Nelson with the Sam Barnett Quintet

All good musicians, but Sam himself plus the drummer Zoe Pascal were the standouts:

Janie felt that the Sam Barnett compositions were too reminiscent of the greats, e.g. Miles Davis. “Not original enough”, she said. “He’s sixteen years old for goodness sake” was my response to that.

Composing Their Own Stuff

The Interchange dectet also compose their own stuff; not just Issie Barratt but all of them compose. We heard five pieces by five different members of the ensemble. The standout piece for us was Palmyra by Shirley Smart the cellist. All ten are superb musicians. The standouts for me are the multi-instrumentalists Yazz Ahmed, Helena Kay & Tori Freestone, plus the percussionist Katie Patterson.

To add to the arty coolness of it all, Gina Southgate was there, right behind us, painting the ensembles as they played:

Gina Southgate’s jazz art

Slightly to detract from the late-nighter coolness of it all, I was well tired after a weekend of outings and I’m back here again tomorrow, so I fired up my smart phone and pressed the “come and get me” buttons as soon as the gig ended, which slightly curtailed Janie’s chat with Gina Southgate.

Anyway, we’d had a great evening, which we rounded off with some smoked fishes, salad and wine back at the flat, before flaking.

The Alehouse, Bjarte Eike & Barokksolistene, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 29 October 2017

We liked the sound of this 17th Century alehouse music concert, described thus:

They will transform our candlelit space into something close to a 17th-century alehouse, with a menu of highly entertaining, touching and beautiful folk music.

So we awaited the concert with rapt attention:

Rapt attention considering the show hasn’t yet started
A Shakespearean pre-show double-selfie

In the first half Bjarte Eike explained the 17th century alehouse music phenomenon to us and demonstrated the fusion of serious and folk music through the material played – several pieces of Purcell for example. Some with Shakespearean themes to make us feel at home; Timon Of Athens, Midsummer Night’s Dream, you get the idea.

In truth, we found the first half of the concert far more to our taste than the second half. The first half had a bit of audience participation with a sea shanty and stuff, but the second half seemed to weird out completely, seeming more like a bawdy modern Gaelic cèilidh than a 17th century alehouse.

Of course this was never really meant to be a truly authentic depiction, but we felt the project must have run out of material that related to its purpose, or simply found that they could only get the audience going by playing more familiar stuff.

It just felt a bit gratuitously bawdy at times and bit of an ego trip for some of the performers to show off their favourite tricks.

Here is a link to the Shakespeare’s Globe page on the event we attended.

Below is a video of the performers taken recently.

This search term – click here – should tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about them, even if you have been afraid to ask.

I must say The Globe rather irritates us now. The bars and other audience facilities are very utilitarian and the bars always seem to have just run out of the thing you want. There’s something a bit amateurish and/or touristic about the whole set up; the prices are far from amateur.

But the setting is superb and was ideal for this concert – or at least what this concert was purported to be.

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; an ideal setting for Alehouse music

We enjoyed our evening but we won’t be rushing back, either to Barokksolistene or The Globe.

Christopher Tye and Claude Le Jeune: 16th-century musical radicals, Wigmore Hall, 22 October 2017

I got several e-mails from the Wig slightly changing this concert; at one point swapping an artiste, at another tweaking the programme. At no point undermining my purpose, which was to hear viol music by two Renaissance composers whose viol music I had never heard before.

Here is the Wigmore Hall page on the gig we finally saw.

We really enjoyed our evening.

It was more or less exactly a year ago that we saw and heard Phantasm do a wonderful job of Orlando Gibbons – click here.

In truth, I think Gibbons is the better gig – or at least more to our taste.

The Tye is rather relentlessly somber. But he must  have been a spunky chap. Word on the street is that Queen Elizabeth did not like his playing and sent a verger to tell Tye that he was playing out of tune. Tye sent back the message that it was her ears that were out of tune. I’ll remember that riposte for my baroq-ulele playing and singing.

Still, we preferred the Le Jeune, who was new to both of us as a composer and far more upbeat.

Janie was a little disappointed that the lute was such a bit part for these pieces. We had recently seen Paul O’Dette’s superb solo concert – click here – but of course when the lute was part of an ensemble it tended to have a continuo role in those days.

We always get a warm feeling with Phantasm. Laurence Dreyfus comes across so nicely and explains things without the slightest note of condescension.

Yes we enjoyed very much indeed. If you have never seen Phantasm live, seek them out. If you live in a remote place, I would recommend the Gibbons as a place to start listening,ahead of Tye or Le Jeune,  but for sure do listen to some…

…and if it is the Tye you fancy, you can click the image below and Amazon it:

Catharsis, Xavier Sabata, Armonia Atenea & George Petrou, Wigmore Hall, 9 October 2017

Our Daisy is partial to a bit of countertenor singing and this Wigmore Hall concert looked a bit different and interesting, so I booked it.

We quite like Monday night concerts at The Wig, not least because they are a darned good excuse (not that we need excuses) to take a Monday off.

Goodness knows where the Monday went…indeed where the whole weekend went, but there you go.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall resource on the concert.

It started with a rather jazzed up version of one of Vivaldi’s well-known concerti. We thought the whole concert might be jazzed up, but in truth only that first piece was.

Then enter the countertenor, Xavier Sabata, who is a rather big and fearsome looking chap. Very dramatic delivery style. Wonderful voice.

The ensemble is Greek, of course, but Xavier Sabata is Catalan. He looked as though he might make a unilateral declaration of independence any moment and frankly no-one in the hall looked able to stop him if he were to do so.

Daisy got the sense that the ensemble were not in the best of moods, either with each other or their situation. That certainly didn’t reflect in their playing, which was excellent. Perhaps it was the multiple encores at the end that bothered them and left Daisy with that sense; George and Xavier might well have gone on for an extra half hour were it not for the Wigmore Hall aficionados calling time after the second encore.

It turns out that this line-up has recently recorded an album named Catharsis, basically a collection of these full-tilt countertenor arias.

Here (or the image) links to Catharsis on Amazon – other retailers are available.

Much as we very much enjoyed the concert, we weren’t motivated to buy the album, but it would be a good way to hear what this beautiful music sounds like if you weren’t at the concert.

Erica Jeal in the Guardian reviewed the album – here.

David Vickers reviewed the album in Gramaphone – here.

Barry Creasy on www.musicomh.com gave the concert a superb review – here.

We ate light after the concert, back at the flat; open smoked salmon sandwiches and a very jolly bottle of Austrian Riesling. Nothing baroque about the supper…unlike the delicious concert.

Will You Go Walk The Woods So Wild? Paul O’Dette, Lunchtime Concert, Wigmore Hall, 2 October 2017

I used to say that there are only two places left in the world where stewards and patrons still call me young man; Wigmore Hall and Lord’s.

Today I must sadly report that I went to both places and was referred to not once as young man. This is becoming a pattern. What is going on?

Still, apart from my awareness of my fast disappearing “youth”, the lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall was an absolute delight. Janie and I both very much enjoy the relaxing nature of this type of music…perhaps it’s our age?

Paul O’Dette is no youngster either – indeed he looks a little like father Christmas these days, making his press photos a little dated, perhaps.

But boy can he play the lute, jamming good with Byrd and Dowland…

…here is the Wigmore Hall resource on this concert, so you can read all about it.

There was a rather lovely Bacheler Pavane and Galliard between the two pieces listed for Bacheler on the above resource.

This was a BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert, so still available at the time of writing for another four weeks or so if you are in  the right country or can convince the BBC iPlayer that you are – click here.

There was a delightful encore of an Italian Renaissance piece – sadly I missed the name of it and the broadcast missed the piece completely. It was lovely.

As was the whole concert. Very soothing music. I realised that this type of music would suit me very well for when I’m working or relaxing, so I downloaded some and bought a couple of CDs on-line too.

The above double CD was the closest I could find to the concert we heard (and lots more besides). I snapped up the last currently available copy at a sensible price on Amazon, but you might want to look occasionally and/or elsewhere for it.

Janie and I enjoyed a fine lunch at The Wig after the concert, then on to Lord’s (via Noddyland) for the end of season Middlesex Forum and drinks party, not that there was anything to celebrate. Still, the forum went as well as can be expected and it was good to see people at the end of the season.

This evening (the next day), I am mellowing out, listening to Paul O’Dette on the lute, while writing this Ogblog piece. Such sweet sounds.

Simon Jacobs, Circle Line, Album Launch Showcase, Old Paradise Yard, 10 September 2017

To Old Paradise Yard in North Lambeth to join Simon Jacobs, friends, family and groupies for the launch of Simon’s long-awaited album, Circle Line.

I say long-awaited…some tracks on the album, the song Circle Line included, I recall Simon playing and me bootlegging onto cassette 35 to 40 years ago.

People had come from far and wide for this launch. As far west as Bristol, where Simon’s kid sister Sue lives…

Sue and Ian swap tales of the wild west

As far north as Lincolnshire, where several of Simon’s family members live. As far south-east as Hong Kong, from whence the delightful and redoubtable Ting Ting had ventured specially to support the launch.

Party time at IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, before the performance

The venue was Eduard’s IKLECTIK Lab at Old Paradise Yard. Eduard himself was one of several really interesting, good company people we got to meet and chat with over the evening. Timothy, Lydia and Ting Ting were similarly people we met for the first time with whom Janie and I felt immediately at ease.

Then the performance/launch:

Simon announced…
…Simon sang…
…Simon stomped…
…Simon tinkled the grand piano ivories.

Although Simon did not quite tinkle in the András Schiff, Well Tempered Claiver stylee Janie and I had experienced a few days earlier, Simon did emulate the great man by not doing an encore.

“I don’t have any more…just relax and party”, said Simon.

And so we did.

Mark Lewis turned up, which was a very pleasant surprise, having not seen him for decades. Janie enjoyed meeting him too. Mark triggered an old memory or three that I must retro-blog soon while the memories are fresh. Indeed, seeing several members of the Jacobs family gathered together again, including Simon’s mum, brought back many memories too.

It was a very enjoyable evening, the purpose of which was to launch Simon’s Album Circle Line, which is available from iTunes (where I indeed found it simply by searching the term Circle Line) and also on Amazon, from whence I actually bought the download, as it was 10p cheaper there.

Don’t just sit there, click through and buy the darn thing. You’ll love it.

We had a great evening – thanks Simon.