Hello, I’m Lyz filling in for Evy this month! Our second meeting of the year was our second meeting in our new space at Faith Lutheran Church — and my first for both! I loved the new space as a comfortable and friendly spot that took me back to my first Seattle Recorder Society meetings in 2019. We had a lovely gathering of people in person and online, including a few who were there for their first or second time in person — or their first time returning after a long time away. This month also saw the return of the Back Room Gang!
The big announcement of the evening was a date change for our December meeting. Due to a conflict with the space, we’ll be gathering (under Peter Seibert’s baton!) on Thursday, December 7 (and not on Friday the 8th).
And with that, we tuned up!
Our music selections for the evening focused on madrigals by the Danish composer Mogens Pedersøn, employed in the music-lauding court of the wealthy monarch Christian IV. As was tradition in the court, Pedersøn traveled to Italy to learn from some of the great composers of his era, with Giovanni Gabrieli foremost among them. These studies led to Pedersøn composing a range of madrigal works that express a variety of tone and emotion with relatively few words. Tradition at the time demanded that composers present the king with a bound copy of their works; Pedersøn’s tome survives to this day!
We played two three-part madrigals. The first one, Non Fuggir, (“Don’t leave!”) was sprightly and a bit playful. The second piece, L’amara di partita (“The bitter parting”) was more somber, with themes of weeping and anger. We used mostly lower recorders, with a pair of sopranos doubling the tenors for color, and to aid people without tenors. After a few tips on reading vocal music — including adding beams to eighth notes when needed — we worked first in unison and then in parts to “speak” the words and convey the emotion of the text. Recorders can use articulation and breath to emulate the words, emphasizing longer vowels or more separated consonants to align with the words.
Having exhausted the entirety of Pederson’s three-part madrigal repertoire (he wrote only two!), we moved onto his five-part Sio rido et Scherzo. Though it begins with “laughing” and “singing” among the parts, it moves to admit that the fun is just a cover for the speaker’s “great pain.” As the text shifts, so does the tone of the piece, moving into a slower, more melancholy feel. This piece trades melody and motifs back and forth between the parts, engaging the different voices in a fun and challenging way. We paid special attention to the punctuation and articulation of the text, working to differentiate rapid-fire questions (“What shall I do?”) from the longer phrases dwelling on the speaker’s “grand torment.” Surprisingly, despite the conflicting and often morose text, the piece employs very few dissonances and relies more on word painting within each line.
Our last piece of the evening took a departure from our good friend Pedersøn and jumped a few decades forward to the Austrian composer Johann Schmelzer. We know very little about his Sonata a 7 Flauti other than that it was completed on April 15, 1619, and that it was written explicitly for seven recorders — not transverse flutes, which would have been specified as such. The score survives, and Vicki provided a facsimile of it for those of us adventurous enough to read from unusual clefs. I was not so adventurous, but some members were!
This piece consists of three sections: a grand call-and-response reminiscent of a courtly entrance, a lighter and quicker dance-like section, and a pompous closure. With seven parts, we had quite a time chasing one another through the call and response of the first section, being careful not to overblow on the response!) and then growing sweeter together. The second section proved quite tricky as all the interactions took place slightly off the beat. Counting was key here, and it took us quite a few attempts to bring it together — but it was worth it! The final section was triumphant, reminiscent of Schmelzer’s personal talent with the cornetto, but Vicki warned us to avoid playing longer notes “like a laser beam” right up until the rest; instead, we should let the sound evaporate and embrace the idea of “musical silence.” Then we got to “interrupt” that musical silence with another triumphant exclamation, back and forth through this final section. The piece came to a close with a nod to an older style of cadence but with just a bit of a twist to keep it fresh.
We closed the evening with a reminder that the SRS library is once again available to members, one last benefit of our lovely new space.
Thanks for letting me lead you through our evening, and I hope to see you at a future meeting!
– Lyz Liddell
Back Room Gang
Players in the Back Room Gang joined leader Laura Townsend in a spacious and comfortable room just down the hall from the main group. The session began with all players in unison playing a Medieval Estampie, which was then played over a drone of two notes (an open fifth) that really brought out the tension and release in the melody. Keeping to Medieval style, next up was a duet for altos and tenors that utilized a wider range of notes and prompted a discussion of how to change our breath for the upper register, using fast, focused, cold air (but not too much of it!). We wrapped up the evening with a complete change of pace, looking at a pair of Rigaudons in the French Baroque style. It sounded very Francais, indeed, with a touch of lilting inequality on all the eighth notes.
– Laura Townsend
Thank you, Lyz, for volunteering to write this month’s article! We are still looking for a volunteer to write about the January 2024 meeting for the February newsletter. You can write in your own style, and no worries if your writing is a bit rusty – we’ve got a team of proofreaders/editors standing by! You can attend the meetings either via Zoom or at Faith Lutheran Church. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or President Dave Gloger at email@example.com if you are able to help. This is a great opportunity to volunteer for SRS without a long term commitment 🙂