At the beginning of the third meeting of the Seattle Recorder Society at Faith Lutheran Church, Music Director Vicki Boeckman graciously greeted seventeen of us on Zoom plus a couple dozen players in the wonderful, warm, welcoming space (OK, maybe not that warm, because an open door was providing ventilation).
Announcements included notice of the “secret” program that Peter Seibert will have for us at our Thursday, December 7 hybrid playing session. President Dave Gloger updated the membership on the project to archive SRS records which is now nearly complete. Some items will be stored at the University of Washington, and other items (e.g. early newsletters) were scanned for online access. Molly Warner offered a four-string dulcimer, free to a good home! And the elated new dulcimer owner is Linnet Henry! Laura Townsend described the Back Room Gang’s style (slightly simpler and slower music); the Back Roomers would join Laura after the first set of music with the large group. The Moss Bay playing session led by Laura will be Saturday afternoon, November 18 at the Shoreline Public Library.
The Back Room Gang included a lively group of five participants who peppered leader Laura Townsend with a variety of questions about recorder technique. Topics covered ranged from reading alto lines “up an octave” to thumb technique in the upper register to fingerings for notes needed to play the music at hand. Laura also brought several altos and tenors with keys added so that players who face challenges with comfort or reach could see – and feel! – some potential solutions. The group tackled two 3-part madrigals that work especially well on recorders and brought great life to “Sweet Kate” and “Your Shining Eyes.” These examples of Renaissance polyphony offer rhythmic challenges as well as an opportunity to use the words to make musical choices.
Vostre Beaulte by Gombert and Si bon Amour by Jacotin
Our warm up pieces, both in four parts, were from the same music collection. The “long-short-short” (whole note-half note-half note) pattern connected these two songs, so we were asked to look and listen for that. Ideally, Vostre Beaulte would use the whole note as the tactus to give it a nicer flow, but Vicki said it was totally OK to subdivide, “That’s why we have toes!” When the bass line got “super high” (highest E’s and F’s!) Vicki thankfully let us drop down an octave for a few measures. It was originally pitched so high to give sweetness, but also probably wasn’t intended to have so many players on each part. Si bon Amour had the same long-short-short repeating pattern, this time in the key of “F-ish.” Unlike last month’s tone painting style, this was more about playing beautiful chords together. Singers would sing this music at pitch, while the recorders played in the designated (by the tiny 8 markings near the clefs) octaves. Here Vicki conducted in two beats to the measure as the chanson theme was morphing into a canzone. Those players who were up for it – both the accomplished players as well as those willing to try new things – were encouraged to add Renaissance style diminutions, especially sopranos on the first and second endings. We were reminded to watch Vicki conduct the gracious ending: “it might not happen as soon as you think!”
Een Vrolic Wesen by Jacobus Barbiriau (Barbireau)
Admired by his contemporaries, Barbiriau (1455-1491) was born in Antwerp and composed Een Vrolic Wesen, a pop tune of the late 1400’s where the long-short-short pattern continued. The tune was so popular that Isaac even used this tune for one of his masses. The tonality of this piece resembled G minor, although the E flats weren’t consistent. The first time through Vicki had us all play the top line (the original tune), on any instrument: the stepwise sections didn’t need as much energy, but we should give energy, life, air to the syncopated rhythms to highlight those. Then everyone played the second line together – an intricate line that played around the melody like a cat. This was a precursor to Bach episodic music, where the line twisted around the theme. Next, those who could read bass clef on any instrument played the bottom line. The melody (top line) was the most important, but the other two lines had an important presence without being overpowering. “Isn’t that sweet? Lovely!”
Canzone Duodecima, La Bassa by Cangliasi
We moved on to the canzones which first appeared around 1608-1610; the rhythmic motive defined them. These were written/intended for four instruments – not the organ (!). This four-part instrumental composition style was short-lived: ending when the figured bass appeared in the early 1600’s, so these truly are gems! Flute master Jeffrey Cohan introduced Vicki to these, and #12 is one of the most beautiful due to the chromatics. The descending chromatics should have a passionate pleading, sorrowful feeling, while the upward chromatics were to be striving, yearning, hopeful. For a change the tenors had the cadence with a written out diminution for the final flourish. “Isn’t that amazing?!” We all applauded – it was really a joy to play!
Canzone Terza by Biume
Although we were running short on time and Vicki was ready to release us, well… we were all assembled as were our instruments, so we had a quick run-through of the super-fun last canzone. She talked through this precursor to the Bach Fugue style, and gave us a quick articulation lesson: we got our tongues tu-du’ing, and then had to get our fingers to match up with that! “If you can’t hear all the parts around you, then you’re playing too loudly – be sure to listen all around you.” This time the basses had the unusual and cool part in the second-to-last measure with a final word by the sopranos before we all ended together on a gorgeous chord. We were encouraged to play this awesome, fun piece with our own ensembles.