Sunday, July 24, 2005

Masses of early music in summertime Cambridge

Last night we were at a spell-binding performace of Christopher Tye's Missa Euge bone. Forget about MP3s, webcasts, CDs or vinyl, the only way to hear great music is live, and in as beautiful a setting as Trinity College Chapel in Cambridge, which dates from the same period as the music being performed.

Christopher Tye is a local composer here in East Anglia, but our paths never crossed as he died in 1573. His posts included lay clerk at King's College in Cambridge, and later choir master at Ely Cathedral before taking Holy Orders. He was an almost exact contemporary of the much better known Thomas Tallis, but sadly few complete works of his have survived, and information on his life is incomplete to the extent that his exact dates are uncertain. The Missa Euge bone is set for six voices, and is full of the defining features of the period with its rich textures, imitation and polyphonic writing. But the innovative cadences distinguish it from the works of his contemporaries. He composed two other masses which I don't know, but they must be worth exploring. The Missa Euge bone is exquisite.

As a taster here is the complete Benedictus from the Mass taken from the superb Hyperion budget re-issue (unmissable at around £5 - $9) with Winchester Cathedral Choir directed by David Hill. And share this wonderful music with a friend or colleague by emailing them a link to this post including the music by clicking here.

The performance last night in Trinity College Chapel was part of the Cambridge Early Music Summer Schools, and also included English Renaissance choral works by Tallis, Weelkes, Gibbons and Byrd (see end of post for the full programme) . The excellent choir was the Serlo Consort (see photo above). They are a young professional chamber choir who started working together while studying together at Exeter University, where their director and founder Kit Perona-Wright made a post-graduate study of English cathedral music. The Serlo Consort follows the accepted practice of using female voices to take the boy's parts (unlike Winchester Cathedral Choir in the excerpt above). They combine technical accuracy with youthful power and energy that distinguishes them from the 'cut glass' precision of established groups like the Tallis Scholars.

In my post Monteverdi in Cambridge I wrote about the pivotal role played by that wonderful university city in the early music revival. Cambridge is still very much a vibrant centre for early music making, and the Cambridge Early Music Summer Schools are one of the splendid institutions furthering performance practice and scholarship. The summer schools are short study courses in Baroque, Renaissance and Medieval music which have been running since 1992. They are designed for amateur, semi-professional, and professional musicians, and there is specialist tuition by leading professional musicians. Over the years those taking part have included The Hilliard Ensemble, Jan Garbarek, The Parley of Instruments, and Musica Antiqua of London.

Linked to the courses is a series of summer concerts. Details of this years are available through this link. They include The Parley of Instruments (see photo above) in Trinity College Chapel (26th July), Jacob Heringman playing Desprez on the lute (31st July) and Musica Antiqua of London (2nd August). Full details of courses, costs and bursaries are on the CEMSS web site.

The Serlo Consort's programme was: Alleluia, I heard a voice - Weelkes: Kyrie 'Orbis factor' - Tye: Gloria & Creed (Missa Euge bone) - Tye: If ye love me - Tallis: Sanctus & Benedictus (Missa Euge bone) - Tye: Sing joyfully- Byrd: Agnus Dei I-IV (Missa Euge bone) - Tye: O clap your hands - Gibbons.

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1 comment:

Garth Trinkl said...

pliable, your readers in the Washington, DC area will have an opportunity to hear Christopher Tye's Missa Euge bone tomorrow evening, Tuesday 7/25, in a free performance, by the Ensemble Phoenix under Robert Lehman, at Washington's National
Cathedral. I hope that the performance will be as spell-binding as your concert was.
Also on the concert is Herbert Howell's sublime Requiem, as well as shorter works of Taverner, Lauridsen, Whitacre, Fissinger, Stanford, and Britten.