A week of singing
Last week I took my first vacation from uni that didn’t involve visiting other people.
I left on Saturday the 6th to attend the Tallis Scholars Summer Schools UK course, and spent a week singing the music of my heart. This course is held each year in the East Midlands of the UK — formerly in the small town of Oakham, and for the last two years in the even smaller town of Uppingham. It takes place in the Uppingham School, a very posh school for boys and girls aged 13 to 18. We stayed in a girls’ dorm (or “boarding house”) and except for one dinner were fed every meal on site. As a full choir we rehearsed in the chapel. We had several configurations of small groups, including “tutor groups” assigned by the three tutors and “small groups” that were more or less self formed according to the music we wanted to sing.
What I did not expect was that each day would last from breakfast at 8am through the end of Compline at 10pm. (I did not, in fact, know that we would be doing Compline.)
I had done a little work on the main music in advance, including my usual process of importing MIDI files (gotta love CPDL!) into the Finale application and setting the different voices to different instruments to enable me to hear my part in context. I hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at the sheet music before the week started, but I had listened to the computer files enough that everything sounded familiar — and believe me, that helped a lot with reading the music when the time came.
The small groups work involved music I hadn’t seen before — so I was signt reading — and I am delighted to report that for the most part it went VERY well! Really, I had trouble with only one piece, and that was because I was singing tenor in a song whose alto part I already knew very well. So my impression that I now read early music fairly well was borne out! (That doesn’t mean I’d be able to read Fayrfax or Dunstable easily, but the stuff with familiar, common rhythms and patterns has begun to sink in.)
There were other things I didn’t know in advance, an important one of which is that we are encouraged to bring music to share in the small groups. Next time I go (next year, if I can afford it), I am hoping to take Dufay’s Vasilissa, ergo gaude. (The edition that my former group sang differs slightly from any that I have found recorded on line, so I am not posting a link here.) If not, I will take another Dufay or two. Maybe I’ll even try transposing his Gloria (the most beautiful piece of music ever written, IMO) for women’s voices and see how that works. (I get choked up every time I hear it, so I’m not sure I could sing it, but it’s so gorgeous it has to be worth a try.) I’ve just done some searching online and have not found a recorded version of it, although CPDL’s sheet music appears to be the right version.
On Wednesday we took a field trip to Tewkesbury Abbey, where we attended a concert of the Tallis Scholars. Apparently this is another regular feature of the summer school program. It was nice to have the day “off” from the intense learning-and-rehearsing schedule. I also enjoyed visiting another of the great churches of England.
I could go on and on, but it’s getting late and I’m getting tired, and I have a paper to revise, a presentation to begin, and a CHI paper to begin. So I’ll end here. Except to say that my photos are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ebuie/sets/72157634555134779/