Corsham's magnificent Georgian Town Hall was the setting for the SWEMF Workshop for Singers on May 20th. On the menu, a feast of favourites by Josquin, Mouton, Pierre de la Rue and Clemens, as well as Brumel's anarchic Laudate Dominum and a dramatic Magnificat setting by Gombert.
The invitation announced that the workshop would be led by the young conductor and composer William Carslake, well-known for his 'charm and humour as well as his passion for the music'. He more than lived up to his reputation and did not disappoint the 25 singers, a reasonably balanced group of excellent sight-readers, who sang all the better for his warm encouragement and his excellent tips on vocal technique. His easy, informal approach and his insistence that we should, above all, enjoy the music, did not detract from his attention to detail about vowel sounds and phrasing. As a result, the concluding sing-through was accompanied by a sense of achievement as well as by the sepulchral tone of Andrew van der Beek's serpent.
Some early music workshops present singers with a facsimile part-book in the original notation. Morel's nine-part canon (Honi soit qui mal y pense) in its original, circular, spidery manuscript (which looked just like a garter) would have defeated all but the most expert. Fortunately we were also given this ancient novelty piece in modern notation.
Thanks to William Carslake for a most enjoyable day's singing, and to Celia James and SWEMF for organizing and hosting.
- Bruce Saunders