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Music for Renaissance Wind Instruments

Workshop directed by Tim Bayley, Gloucester, 13th February 2016

For the last few years Tim Bayley has conducted an annual workshop for Renaissance instruments for SWEMF. Latterly we have held these sessions in the atmospheric surroundings of the timbered, late fifteenth-century Parliament Room at Gloucester Cathedral, with its splendid wooden ceiling and wall paintings. On past occasions we have met in April, but had to opt for an earlier date this year. No problem if the heating is working properly, but a chilly first session took place, and it was only after application to one of the very helpful vergers that we began to thaw out from our somewhat cold predicament. Undeterred, a band of shawms, cornets, sackbutts, curtals, recorders, and the occasional rackett or kortholt, managed to soldier on.

Tim likes to begin with a few simple chords to get us listening. They can sound excruciating at first, but very quickly people start using their ears, and the musicians present on this occasion were usually capable of deciding which adjustments to make to bring us into more tuneful accord. Tim is very good at allowing us to play through a piece rather badly to begin with, but in such a way that we begin to familiarize ourselves with it. He then directs our attention to one or two sections that have given difficulty, but always in such a way as to move us forward rather than to harry us. Individual lines might be gone over, but not at too great length, so that all are kept involved. The result is more confident and tuneful, and we feel we have made progress and achieved something musical, rather than merely playing some notes. It seems to me that the best tutors share a knack of judging just how much to tax their players with detail, and just when to decide that the work done is sufficient to produce a satisfactory result, even if it could have been refined. Tim is very good at such judgements.

We worked on a couple of simple chansons first, and then enhanced our ambition, tackling works in 8-part, 2-choir format. Although we played a couple of items in sections (brass, recorders, reeds) we were rather fewer in number than we have been, and for most of the day we played in full ensemble. Perhaps we could have done a little more of the sectional performances, where everyone gets to listen to the pieces as well as to play them, and that’s no bad thing. And perhaps it was a little too ambitious to tackle the 11-part piece at the end of the day when lips were beginning to feel the strain. Overall, however, there was a satisfying variety of music, well suited to the instruments, which gave us all an opportunity to enjoy making our particular contribution to the ensemble.

- Simon Pickard


Waits were outdoor performing groups of Loud Wind instruments, and Tim plays a bewildering array of instruments. He usually performs rather earlier and more outdoor music than SWEMF does, but he has notated and produced a splendid range of pieces for a wide range of loud and soft sets of instruments, and these were used in Gloucester for the Indoor Band. On this occasion we had a very well balanced group, with three each of recorders, cornetti, and sackbuts, along with four shawms, two dulcians and two racketts. Tim Bayley supplied music for up to eight parts, mainly secular chansons from the late sixteenth century, but also including a particularly splendid motet by Créquillon. In the ample space of Gloucester's Parliament room a full and glorious sound was produced.

- Jonathan Tribe




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Last modified: 08 April 2016