More than 70 early music players converged at the University of Puget Sound on July 9 to participate in the fortieth anniversary of the Port Townsend Early Music Workshop. The music of recorders and viols could be heard across this lovely campus as participants reveled in the opportunity to once again come together to make music.
The workshop was not without its difficulties–Covid made its presence known to several folks by mid-week, and we ended the workshop one day early to avoid further issues. In spite of this, for most of us in attendance the joy of many sparkling musical moments made it worthwhile.
We began Sunday evening with a tutti session, filling the UPS rotunda with the full sounds of recorders and viols of all sizes. Other evening programs included a Monday evening romp through some of William Byrd’s lovely vocal music, led by Peter Seibert. This was followed on Tuesday by an introduction to West African dance led by Etienne Kakpo, joined by faculty percussionist Antonio Gomez. Etienne broke down the components of each dance and we all gained confidence as the steps became easier with practice. Wednesday evening’s auction included sparkling drinks and snacks. The mood was festive as we outbid each other for the good cause of SRS scholarships. Surely a highlight of the week was the faculty concert on Thursday evening. From Baroque to jazz to Bossa Nova, the variety of music and virtuosity of the faculty delighted everyone in attendance. (Click on images below to enlarge.)
A few class reviews
Susie Keithly on “Language from the Heart,” focusing on Georg Philip Telemann and taught by Eva Legêne
Eva’s approach to teaching Telemann’s ornamentation had us examining examples he used in writing his 12 Methodical Sonatas. Eva wrote guidelines to help in determining how these ornamentations were used. Her knowledge and storytelling gave us insight into her desire to study these, as well as increasing our knowledge of the brilliance of his writing.
Virginia Felton on “Recorder Technique,” taught by Mark Davenport
Mark Davenport’s technique class sounded challenging at first–an entire week of focusing on chromatic scales. However, with his easy-going teaching style it did not take him long to get us all engaged in the music. Along the way he convinced us that truly mastering chromatics could allow us to make significant leaps in our facility at sight-reading and playing in general. Sure, we all know how to play a B-flat. But when you see an A-sharp, do you have to stop and think, “Oh yes, that’s ‘really’ a B-flat.” If we spend some time practicing chromatic scales and exercises that demand facility with those chromatics, our brains, fingers and ears will ultimately work well enough together that the chromatics become as easy to recognize and play as a C-natural.
And while we did spend time on some exercises, we were rewarded with a Bach prelude and a lovely arrangement by Mark’s father LaNoue Davenport of chromatic variations on familiar Christmas carols. All in all the class was fun, challenging and very worthwhile.
Sidney Welch on “Recorder Orchestra,” with Cléa Galhano
Cléa led 32 players in a carefully curated selection of pieces that represented celebrations, joy and new beginnings. As the class had an overarching theme, we were not limited to a particular region or time period, and so explored works by Josquin des Pres, Bach, Rosin and arrangements by Irmhild Beutler. Each piece held a unique story, which was read as a preamble by various members of the orchestra, setting the tone. As an orchestra, we covered all ranges of recorders, from Sopranino to Contra Bass, presenting a thick and well-rounded timbre. Cléa brought, once again, immense enthusiasm and strong passion for the pieces we explored, allowing each member to do the same, reveling in the energy of the room.
One of the pieces, “Evening Song,” a Native American song arranged by Irmhild Beutler, was definitely a favorite among the group. It had many contrasting sections, allowing us to explore the percussive sounds of the recorder, as well as honing into the lyricism and serenity. Similarly, “Dance for Joy” by Sylvia Rosin featured heavily percussive playing, decked out with flutter tonguing and impressive runs by various soloists. These pieces were definitely toe-tapping masterpieces – I highly recommend that you listen to both on YouTube!
“La Gondoletta,” a Venetian folk song arranged by Irmhild Beutler, was a beautifully danceable piece that traced the sounds and techniques of a barrel organ, heavily featuring the Sopranino as our “Biondina.” This piece definitely transported us to the beautiful city of Venice.
There were many great things about this class, and the pieces were so fun. I truly went home with them as wonderful earworms. It was a great repertoire to encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zone, as well as see the recorder from multiple perspectives.
Karen Soma, on “Voices and Viols,” taught by Jonathan Oddie
I love the sound of recorders and viols, so was very excited to take Jonathan Oddie’s class. I had not expected what a lush texture the human voice added. We spent most of our time working on Michael Praetorius’ thrilling “Magnificat a5 sopra Angelus ad pastores.” Years ago, the first time I played next to a viol player, I learned much about musical emphasis. This time, sitting next to a singer, I learned so much about how to phrase vocal music. It was also satisfying to hear how well a tenor recorder and a soprano singer could blend.
I found Jonathan’s conducting easy to follow and appreciated his calm and exacting demeanor while taking us repeatedly through various passages of the music. It was satisfying to hear the sound he was eliciting from this large group of various instruments.
On Friday morning, learning that the workshop was closing early, my first reaction upon realizing that I would miss that class and the student concert was, “Oh no, I won’t ever be a part of that glorious music again!”
Jennifer Myers on “Music of the Spanish Renaissance,” taught by Mark Davenport
Music of the Spanish Renaissance was an intermediate level class taught by Mark Davenport. We started with some villancicos, and we were able to experiment with some different ways to play them so they would vary on the repeat. Also helpful was having enough people to always have someone else on your same line.
Mark was very impressed with our playing on the villancicos, so he was excited to bring out some more challenging pieces that he had set for voices and early instruments. Having taken other classes from him, I was not surprised to find that we now had music without bar lines. More challenging, indeed!
Once we had a feel for counting the notes (and rests!), we were able to make great headway on these pieces, which included “Trahe me post the, Virgo Maria,” by Guerrero, and “Versa est In luctum,” by Lobo. Along the way, we learned about cadences and where they occurred in our parts. Overall. the class was very fun and relaxing!
Kathy LaForge on Brazilian Music and its Portuguese Roots,” taught by Cléa Galhano
I had been looking forward to Cléa’s Brazilian Music class, mostly because I love Cléa as a teacher and also because Brazilian music has such wonderful rhythms. I definitely was not disappointed!
Cléa has so much positive energy and really knows exactly how each piece needs to sound. She gave us some background information about Brazilian music and then we jumped into a very catchy piece called the “Lundu” which is a song and dance of African origin introduced in Brazil by enslaved people and still popular today.
We also played a monophonic song from the Middle Ages, part of the “Cantigas de Santa Maria,” written during the reign of Alfonso X of Castile. It was quite a contrast to the Lundu.
Peter Sibert had arranged a piece especially for Cléa called “Agua e Vinho,” which was also a favorite of mine, SATB plus GB and CB so it was very rich sounding.
Cléa has a knack for challenging and encouraging every level of student in her class so we all enjoyed playing these great pieces.
Sydney Welch on “Fugal Fugato,” taught by Mark Davenport
What comes to mind when you think about fugues? Probably something along the lines of “major counterpoint”, or just a simple, “Oh no!” Mark led a tremendous class, focusing on some of Bach’s most memorable works, such as “Jesu, meine Freude” and “Komm, Jesu, Komm.” With a group of ten players, we focused on double choir pieces, where we were often one-on-a-part. With these fugues came a lot of counting and focusing on things around you, listening for the intertwining melodies, or who had the same part as you, but in the opposite choir. Mark made this challenging exercise so much easier, as he guided us through the motions of the pieces, cueing us in when needed.
“Jesu, meine Freude”, which was set and arranged by Mark, was a great piece to allow us, as a group, to hone our musicality and ensemble sound. This piece has a unique musical roadmap that led itself well to the contrapuntal nature of Bach’s work. With many motifs dotted through the piece, it was fun connecting the dots and listening to each other as we passed them around.
“Komm, Jesu, Komm”, also set by Mark, was one of the faster pieces, which definitely required more counting and concentration. As a group, we had strategically positioned ourselves so choir one sat on one side, while choir two sat on the other side. Mark did a splendid job of cueing us in, as entrances were often staggered between choirs. To really hone in on the style, Mark also had us develop our own technique for various trills, which added so much color to these already beautiful works.
This class was a great steppingstone into the world of counterpoint and fugues, and I hope more people get to explore Bach’s work, either through playing or listening. Mark made the class very enjoyable, and I’m glad he could join for his first Port Townsend workshop this year!