Workshop directed by Emma Hornby

All Saints, Clifton; 5th May 2019
Part of the inaugural Bristol Early Music Festival

What a contrast! When Emma Hornby ran a workshop on plainchant in 2015 there were 13 of us, supported by five students from the University’s Schola Cantorum. On this occasion there were five times as many, but Emma wasn’t daunted, and with great enthusiasm led us through the antiphons and psalms for a vespers which we then performed (though without incense!).

Paul Rouse prepared the music appropriate for Second Vespers on the second Sunday after Easter, and assisted with the rehearsal. The University Schola Cantorum were very helpful and provided cantors as needed.

Emma admitted that, as a specialist in much earlier chant, all this seemed rather modern! However, the notation was clearly familiar to many of the singers, and very quickly a good sound was being produced on the melismatic antiphons. The psalms looked much simpler, often only employing two or three notes, but they were much harder to sing neatly. Of course, we couldn’t expect the effortless perfection achieved by monks who sang psalms every day, and the acoustic of All Saints was a little dry, so our minor stumbles were audible. Despite this, the performance was impressive.

It was most encouraging to find so many singers prepared to explore plainchant. To have prepared all the music for Vespers in a couple of hours, and with so many people, was an amazing achievement, and we are most grateful to Emma, Paul and the Schola for the effort they put into this.

– Jonathan Tribe