The morning of Saturday November 7th was very wet and windy but that did not deter 26 players and singers from attending a very rewarding choral day directed by Patrick Allies. Some of them had come a long distance to attend. The day was superbly organized by Simon Pickard, to sing motets by Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629). The venue was the Parliament Room on the west side of Gloucester Cathedral.
Patrick Allies was a choral scholar at Gloucester Cathedral. He went on to study at King’s College London and then to complete his Master’s degree at Cambridge. He became familiar with works by Praetorius and, when asked to take a choral day, he decided to investigate further and found suitable works in the choral public domain library (cpdl). The choice proved to be excellent.
As a visitor from the Border Marches EMF, I have some experience of choral days for singers and players. They can be very frustrating for singers, for so much time is spent sorting out the music and the assembly of instruments. On this occasion there were recorders, viols, a curtal, a cornet, a sackbut and a shawm. There was some movement of players between pieces, but as the music was completely sorted, no time was wasted.
After a stretch or two, the warm-up consisted of a round by Michael Praetorius, which was accomplished without too much difficulty. This set the tone for the day, for everyone managed to sing or play most of the works put before them. The following is a quote from Wikipedia. ‘Praetorius wrote masses, ten settings of the Magnificat and numerous motets mostly in Latin. Most of his music is in the Venetian style. Choir sizes range from eight to 20, with the voices divided into two, three or four groups, and he must have had well-trained and sophisticated musicians … for these ensembles’! We proved to be up to the expected standard!
Simon had done a superb job in working out what everyone should sing or play, according to the needs of the pieces and the musicians he had available (who were not numerous!). We began the day with Wie lang, o Gott, a motet in five parts which we managed to sing, the altos singing an octave down from the printed page. Then came Cantate Domino for two choirs, with some tricky semiquaver passages and some satisfying dialogue between the parts on the word ‘cantate’. The first sopranos had to sit up on Fs and top Gs for a rather uncomfortable time. Next came Tota Pulchra es, a motet for three choirs. With the resources available it meant that a number of people were on their own, but such was the standard of sight-reading, it was achievable.
After lunch something not too challenging, Gaudete Omnes, followed by Magnificat Quinti Toni, a two-choir piece for SSAT and ATBB. Some singers were on their own, backed up by an instrument; a delightful piece with some tricky passages, where the two choirs mimicked each other one beat apart. The day ended with a sing through of O Vos Omnes and then a run-through of the Magnificat.
Patrick had produced a programme that was achievable, was the right length, and allowed us to sing all the time. Mistakes were made but not dwelt upon, tuning had to be adjusted but we managed to sing the motets all the way through. Choral days are for singing and playing with like-minded people. Patrick and Simon put together a very attractive programme that was very well organized, and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the day.
- Ruth Fraser