Entries in the Category "Madison Early Music Festival"

What I did on my summer vacation

Here are the pictures from Madison. They're biggish files, so I hid them below the fold.

Continue reading "What I did on my summer vacation"

Girls gone wild at MEMF

The final concert went quite well, and was well received. After, there was a reception with hors d'oevres and cash bar...and a MEMF tradition I was not aware of...the MEMF polka band. Evidently this one girl and her grandmother play accordion, and a boombas and fiddle rounded out the ensemble. All the best people were on the dance floor...Sarah and Sherry danced almost every dance. I got swept up by a sweet young thing, so how could I refuse? But my knees gave me hell. Ellen Hargis and Tom Zajac did a number of dances, with Ellen improvising high vocal descants. People were taking turns on the boombas, even Marion (she's a better recorder player). Insanity reigned. Next year I'm bringing my euphonium, damnit...that ensemble needed bass. Lots of good clean fun for everyone.

But now for bed...day comes too early.

Adieu, mes amours

Today, the breakfast conversation was about animal husbandry. Sadie, our youngest participant, plans to be a veterinarian and is beginning college biology study in the fall. She also milks 60 cows twice a week. After a good dawdle, I went to school to test my learnings on my own shawms. Joan's reed played wonderfully on my alto (it plays better than Rotem's alto) but after a week of 460 the instrument seemed dark, like some kind of pommer d'amore. The soprano was a different question; I could play the bottom octave with the good control I had learned, but above that the instrument very much wanted to have its own way. The Cronins are reputed to be quite bright up there. And I couldn't get a stable written upper A to save my life.

Then on to the final concert dress. I gave Laura a CD of my compositions, and have a choral one for Andrew tonight. All went well, though vocally I was not where I wanted to be. Afterwards, I felt a great sadness, being parted from new friends. It's very odd and creepy to have the afternoon off. I walked to Teddywedgers for a pasty (got a whole, should have gotten a half), which was right at the edge of the weekend art festival. I didn't much feel like joining the sea of people oozing widdershins around the Capitol, though certainly ritually banishing the Wisconsin state government seems like a good thing to do. I started back and poked into side streets. I found a wonderful natural pharmacy (even if it was a "worker-owned co-op"), had some good gelato, and then, in a used bookstore, I found a copy of Morrison's Feeds and Feeding for $10 (This is the bible on feeding animals homegrown feed...it gets referred to a lot in writings on organic animal husbandry, and it's out of print). Popped into Pipefitters, a real old-time head shop, and back into the Exclusive Company (the classical record store). Then I headed back and spent some time in the library looking at music periodicals (They have 2 different polka newsletters there! Plus the new SAM journal and Sacred Music, and the stuff that CIM gets that I'm behind on reading.) Then to my locker to bring instruments to my room, and to my room to tidy up.

Big party after the concert. I'll be out as soon as I wake up...which may be later than I want, if I'm up late. I'll certainly miss the festival, though I certainly need a break from the single-minded focus on music. As for Madison, I saw a T-shirt that said something like "Madison: the escape from reality". And it's true: a lovely place to visit, but one with a rather blinkered (or maybe rose-colored) view of reality. I really got the feeling that everyone in town was a member of Democratic Underground. Everywhere, one saw blatant disrespect of the President. Now, of course I don't give the office of the Presidency much respect, but this was personal. And all over town there are historical markers. Most are about leftish concerns (first African-American community, campus riots, the Wisconsin Plan and Fighting Bob LaFollette). And the one I saw that seemed critical of its subject was also big-government: the story of Prohibition in Madison, which had declared a half mile around campus to be dry in 1907, and in 1917 had banned all alcohol sales. Cleveland is a far more balanced place...but it needs the nightlife of the Mall (think Coventry on steroids).

Madison Friday: Glory!

Yesterday was all about preps for the participant concerts. I dawdled over breakfast, being social, as I had an extra half hour before I needed to be at school. I warmed up on the pipes, went onstage for the runthrough at 9:05. Then we went into another room to run the loud band stuff. Loud band was due onstage at 11:30, but Bob told us to blow it off as we'd run it already. Most of us didn't get the message though, and since Bill Baylis, Mike Allsen and I were ready to play anyway, we ran our little trio. Then off to eat sushi for lunch.

The gig went well. My piping was about as good as it gets after a week, though I was cheating by having the drone blocked. We pulled a little stunt: we had signsd pinned to our backs, and on the last note we turned around to reveal the message "Piffaro farm team". Priscilla Smith really is on the AAA Piffaro farm team (she's on their new album), but me? How low does the pro baseball system go? (But I could make a tenuous claim to being on the Ciaramella farm team because of my appearance in Anna's play.) The concert was filled with inspiring performances. Priscilla led and Marion Verbruggen coached a recreation of Loeki Stardust's transcription of Sweelinck's Mein junge Leben hat ein End, in which ALSQ's size-12 shoes were filled with size 11 1/2 feet. Case's own Concerto delle Donne sang wonderfully with a chalumeau (!). (Whenever I said I was from Cleveland, singers felt they had to make positive comments about our ladies...Sarah, Sherry, Cheryl, you GO girls!). Ockeghem's Petite Camusette was ably sung by the channelled voices of Musica Reservata. Then there were a few performances that were, uh, inspiring in a different way. And I knew then that if I crashed and burned, I would be better than that. So the loud band went on near the end, and I played as well or better than I'd ever played. Laura's hubby got it all on Ipod and she has promised me a copy. And at the end, Ellen Hargis made her public dance debut.

Afterwards was mass rehearsal, and Josquin's Virgo salutiferi went exceptionally well. Afterwards, Bob and Joan, Priscilla, Liza, Christine, Laura and her husband Rich and a few others went down to the Memorial Union for beer and brats on the lake, coming back just in time for the King's Noyse concert. I will admit that my critical faculties were in liquid abeyance for the first half, but there was nothing to criticize, this being the King's Noyse. The show was Josquin, Compere, Phalese, Willaert, and Lasso, and KN brought new life to old chestnuts like El Grillo. Grant, Christa, and Tom Zajac played with them. Case's Julie Andrijeski seems to be part of the band these days, and forsook her viola to do a dance number with Grant. And of course, Ellen was singing, doing a particularly effective job of miming Willaert's O bene mio.

Madison: Thurs.

Yesterday was a little bittersweet as it was the last day of classes. I got out early to practice shawm, as the faculty concert was that day and I knew I wouldn't be able to use it. Time-share instruments can be a pain, but thanks to Rotem Gilbert for letting me use her instrument for the 460 loud band (the only high pitch festival band in the country, I hear). In bagpipes, we decided it was safer to mute my drone for the concert...with these little pipes, I'm having trouble getting adequate pressure for both chanter and drone. In dulcian class, Bob and I are negotiating about reeds...the one he made for Priscilla is too large, so he'll have to go to the drawing board. In harp class, we talked about harp types and procurement. Before mass, we had a lecture by Alexander Blachly. No revelations, but a nice chance to hear bits of Pomerium recordings. Lunch was an Indonesian tempeh dish; dinner I scrounged in my room, after going out to a used book/CD store quite a ways out.

The faculty concert was 15th-c, Dufay and a bunch of Hugo de Lantins from an upcoming A-R edition (they're one of the sponsors of the Festival.) There were some things they did tutti...rather odd to hear this repertoire done by a dozen or 2 when 3 people would work better. Paul Flight, it turns out, is not only a fine conductor but a damn good countertenor. One highlight was the first performance of Dufay's Gloria ad modem tubae that really worked for me. Maybe it was the antiphony from the balconies that did it, but it was somehow more interesting, in a proto-minimalist way.

I went back to my room hoping for a phone call. My cell seems to be out of minutes, and I'd asked Rusty to call my room phone, as I hate calling cards. But Sara had messed up her computer and she didn't get the email telling her the number. She got it back up for a morning email though, so all is good.

Madison 6

Yesterday was a pretty uneventful day here. There was no evening concert, just the picnic at the Memorial Union. Food was spendy for what we got, and the cash bar was outrageous. I sat down with some staffers and had a good time, but then after an hour the faculty got up for rehearsal and I left shortly afterwards to practice. I couldn't even call my wife, as evidently my phone is out of time.

Madison 5: Fortune's Wheel, etc.

Yesterday I started to finally get some of the technical concepts we've been discussing. I found myself producing a thin thread of shawm sound in the afternoon loud band, and I said, "It doesn't sound like a shawm; it sounds like a bad oboe," which got me quickly corrected. I still need to work on quiet attacks; too often the sound doesn't start, or because I fear the sound not starting, I hammer the note.

In mass, we hit the Josquin pieces without instruments. Paul Flight has wonderful rehearsal technique and knows how to lead the uninitiated into Josquin's language. I've been singing Josquin for about 30 years, but for many, it was necessary. But sometimes he seems a little cavalier about balance issues, leaving it for us to work out. It's difficult to do music intended for male voices with a choir which is 70% female, and altos alone on the contra wasn't cutting it. Not even the kind of women I like can produce a low D, let alone a low D with any volume. I think I would have split altos and tenors into 3 parts and combined them on each relevant line. That may seem a rather Shawian solution for early music, where tenors should sound like tenors, basses like basses, etc. But projecting the pitches is the Prime Directive. Anyway, Paul did sanction tenor support of the altos when we didn't have anything else to do, and I was in good voice with all the singing and reeding, so I took it on myself to join the altos. After the evening concert, I had 3 people thank me and compliment me on my beautiful (?) voice. That means I'm helping; it also means I'm sticking out. Hmmm...

Fortune's Wheel (with David Douglass and Grant Herreid replacing Shira Kammen) was fantastic. Their program was mostly Dufay, with some Banchois, Busnoys, Grenon and Lantins. I've never heard Dufay sung with such propulsion; even the "white clouds in blue sky" pieces were moving through the sky. They began with a shock-and-awe rendition of "Donnes l'assault", as if to shout to the ghost of David Munrow, "We don't need no steenkin' sackbuts!". There was a good balance between "hits" and unknown pieces, and some of the hits were represented by instrumental improvisation on their content. In "Malheureulx cueur", Lydia Knutson found an expressionist style within period style which reminded me of Schoenberg in its intensity. It sent shivers up my spine. (Maybe good for business; she's a practicing chiropractor.)

Madison 4: AM

Yesterday was a much more relaxed and energetic day than Sunday. I'd gotten some good sleep, found the time for half a bagel mid-morning, had a decent lunch. And I realized that Laura and Priscilla play better than I do, but they don't play like God, and that I have a lot of potential. Piping with the drone is a lot harder (at least this drone) because if you don't start the sound with breath, the drone reed overblows. And I am faced with an ergonomic problem: while pushing the bag, my left-hand fingers tighten up.

The lunch wagons were out in full force on the mall, so I had my choice of relatively inexpensive ethnic delicacies.

The beginning of Josquin's Praeter reum seriem doubled by viols and dulcians is very Brahmsian.

There was still a keglet of the Belgian ale untapped, so we had a happy hour at 6. Fortunately, I didn't get too happy to practice.

Madison 2: PM...my butt is whipped.

Today was rough...just the kind of rough I signed on for, but rough nevertheless.

8:30 (after too many turnovers, Composers Guild business, and news that my mom is in the hospital again) was bagpipe class. We had two newbies, and 3 slightly experienced. So Joan Kimball lent us some bagpipes, showed us some basics, and sent us off into the corner to practice while she worked with the others (no offense to the ear; we were all in G).Piping is a tricky thing to get ahold of: you're either blowing or squeezing the bag, but you have to transition between blowing and squeezing to keep the air pressure constant, or you get dips in pitch and volume.I was starting to get it by the end though. Tomorrow I'll have a drone...wow.

Then there were the two of us in dulcian class. Bob Wiemken is infinitely kind and infinitely strict, and basically we're going to rework my entire embouchure. After that, harp class was a breeze, though it's hard to get a handle on the finger and arm habits of real harping. After a Turkish lunch, it was loud band time, which meant playing on a borrowed instrument because we were at A-460. I wasn't horrid, but my bad habit were found out. The sackbutteers had the worst time adjusting to the new pitch standard.Bob let them figure out what works for them. Me, I've just bit the bullet and learned A positions, and then transpose via clef. But that's not something done in a day, and I still haven't fully mastered it.

I stood for that, and stood through mass, and that's all the standing I could stand. I went to my room for horizontal time and some nosh, back to school to practice. Right now is the Marion Verbruggen recital. I should be there, but I'm not, and I really don't feel guilty about that.

Madison morning 2

Well, we're underway.
The first event was afternoon "mass" rehearsal. The orchestra was a motley crew, with everything from a doucaine to a modern guitar. I had decided to sing because, after all, it's vocal music, and I figured I'd be more useful there. I was right; there was a swarm of soprani, a gaggle of alti, some basses, and a handful of tenors. I had decided I would only sing tenor-clef tenor parts, but I jumped on Tenor I in one of the Sweelinck psalms because it wasn't being heard. With my technicolor falsetto As, I am sure it's being heard now. I had avoided mass at Amherst, because motets in the style of Mahler 8 really aren't my thing. But I would crawl over broken glass to sing Josquin (whose music, like Bach's, is practically indestructible), and Paul Flight knows his business.

At mass I discovered that Eberhard Gerlach was here. I played with Eberhard under Denis Stevens at the Ann Arbor Medieval Festival in 1977, very nearly my public debut as an early musician. Back then he was "that old guy with a bunch of instruments"; now he really IS old, but well-preserved.

Afterwards, I ate pelmeni (not a thrill) and a smoothie from some California chain, listening to 2 divorcees who had finally found each other, revelling in the discovery. It was so cute! Bought a few used gardening books, and then off to check the course postings. I got in all the classes I wanted. There are only 2 in the dulcian course. Too many sackbuts in the afternoon alta (rumored to have some great players in), so I will for sure be borrowing a 460 shawm (from Joan maybe, or if not, Rotem has offered one.)

Piffaro is always worth hearing, but they were a bit off their game in the first half of last night's concert. And I was disappointed to not hear any motets done on louds. OTOH, they're doing some really tasty harp-and-lute stuff, including a recorder/harp/lute rendition of Josquin's Fortuna Desperata (or, as I refer to it from my alta perspective, "the Josquin sackbut concerto"...that's a wicked bass line.) And Susato's Morisque featured 2 tuned Renaissance long drums as quasi-tympani. Afterwards was a reception of Dutch food provided by Slow Food Madison: herring, husarensalade, artisanal bread, gouda from Babcock Hall, sweets...and microbrewed witbier...which was as potent as it was tasty. I has thankful to have only one street to stumble across to make it to bed.

Madison morning

Continental breakfast was predictably carb-based, but I could work with it: there was cereal, bagels, fruit, and the university's own milk (only in more or less defatted versions...evidently they steal all the cream for their ice cream). Only about a half-dozen people showed up for it. I sat with a guy named Aage Nielsen from Boise, who plays bass clarinet in a bass clarinet/viola duo, but whose big thing is playing doucaine in a 14th-c group with vielle and countertenor.

After breakfast I went over to practice some dulcian. the practice rooms were locked, but I found an open classroom and got some good work in.

Then I went shopping. I got some manuscript paper at the university bookstore, and checked out the required book offerings. Not too much happening in the ag dept. over the summer (gotta get that hay in), but there was a course, Nutrition Science 350, which required "I Rigoberto Menchu", Ehrenreich's "Nickle and dimed", and another book of the same ilk. So where's the science in that? Stopped in this incredible classical record store on State St.but didn't buy. DID buy some super-premium ice cream from a place that refused to give nutritional information, saying "You want nutrition, eat carrots." By 11, the street was already full of beggars.

I'm in the library now. Seems to be a nice place, but I had to apply for a pass even to get into the doors; evidently State St. encourages a fortress mentality. From the stories I hear from KSL, can't say I blame them.

And I'm off to register!

Mad-is-son I

The first two states of my trip to Madison were pretty uneventful. Northern Indiana corn is way behind Ohio corn, short and stressed (IL and WI corn are of course beautiful). There really isn't much else to look at on the turnpike, besides The Other Field Crop (soybeans). And I was taking it easy to avoid interactions with The Other White Meat.

IL, OTOH, was a different story. If Mapquest ever sends you to WI via I90, don't do it! Don't go anywhere near Chicago unless you have business there (or like the place). Between construction and the incessant tolls, it was a very poky trip. I counted myself lucky because I missed most of rush hour, having forgotten about the time change (my watch is still in B flat, reads an hour higher than actual time.) Not even WFMT could salve that journey, though where else would you hear a transcription of the Shostakovich 15th for string trio and 3 percussionists? I've never spent time in Chicago, and might actually like the place, given time enough and public transportation. But I found myself looking at some nice boarded-up apartment buildings and thinking, "Politicians love to spend money; why don't they buy these up and put windows and curtains in the sides facing the Dan Ryan? It worked for Potemkin." So...a trip billed at almost 9 hours by Mapquest took just under 12, with minimal meal breaks.

Madison is a lovely place, in spite of that steepled dome east of here, and its denizens (Why is Congressional architecture quasi-religious?) It's in-your-face green, with bicycle paths everywhere, and has quite a healthy nightlife. I walked to the Willy Street Co-op. Another warning: when you don't know distances in a new town, maybe a car is a better idea at first. The hippie district is on the other side of the Capitol from campus (there's a meaning in there somewhere); I walked for miles. The entertainment district is much closer...and the lake...

Nothing happening here yet; Festival check-in is at noon, breakfast at 7, and its before 7 EDT, which is why I didn't have to fight anyone for this computer.