Jeremiah’s lamentation on the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC has been used for centuries in Holy Week as a timeless meditation on the death of Jesus. But the text has lost none of its power as a reflection on the continuing turmoil in the Holy Land and elsewhere today. The heart-breaking words have been set to music by everyone from Byrd to Bernstein, and the opportunity to sing Tallis’ Lamentations (the second as well as the first better-known part), and to discover Antoine Brumel’s unpretentious but equally moving setting, written a generation earlier, drew a keen group of more than thirty musicians together for this SWEMF workshop in April.
The voices happened to be nicely balanced (no shortage of tenors!) and Robert Harre-Jones, the tutor, was so impressed by the quality of the sightreading and the sound that we sang more than he had thought possible in the day. His light touch, encouragement and attention to detail quickly turned us into a choir.
But Tallis with instruments? I wasn’t sure. The practice of instrumental doubling, familiar in other countries, so easily obscures the transparency of the vocal sound that we expect from English music of this period. But the strings and soft wind instruments present – a violin and two viols, a recorder, a tenor sackbut and a dulcian – worked beautifully.
The efficiency and hospitality of the Thorverton team, a pub two minutes from the church, an appreciative audience for our final performance all added to a very enjoyable day.- Bruce Saunders