Vol. X, No. 1 – January 2024

In this issue:

    Cascadia Viols is the quarterly newsletter of the Viola da Gamba Society ~ Cascadia, a chapter of the Viola da Gamba Society of America.

    Roma Sprung | President

    Janet Loy | Secretary

    David Solet | Treasurer

    Board members at large

    Robert Clark | Webmaster

    Dirk Freymuth

    Kris Hoeveler

    Adaiha MacAdam-Somer

    Zoe Tokar

    Karen Bartlett | Editor

    Brandon Labadie

    Cascadia Viols is grateful to:

    St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church for hosting our events

    Boulder Early Music Shop for the material in our lending library 

    President's Message

    Fellow Lovers of the Gamba,

    I write this newsletter in the midst of the holiday season. It is with sadness that I must let you all know that Jeanne Collins is stepping down from the board. Jeanne is a founding member of Cascadia Viols, and has been instrumental in establishing the structure of our chapter to enable us to continue our mission to encourage the appreciation, study, and performance of the viola da gamba and related music in Oregon and beyond. She has agreed to remain in the background to answer questions and give guidance as needed. Since she has stepped down, we are all made very aware of how much work she did to make the chapter run smoothly, especially our workshops. It will take several of us to fill her shoes.

    However, I would like to extend a huge welcome to Brandon Labadie, who recently has agreed to join the board. Brandon has already been doing a lot of work for the chapter; he and Robert Clark have been redoing our rather charming but dated website, and the new website is now online for the New Year. You can all log on and see their impressive work. Things are much easier to find, music for the workshops will appear as if by magic, and newsletters as well, will be online. The archived material will still be available as pdfs so nothing is lost and everything is gained.

    We just had our second workshop of the season on December 16, lead by our own Adaiha MacAdam-Somer, and it was a great success. You can read more about it in Brandon Labadie’s write up later in the newsletter. We were 14 very happy gambists exploring the world of Byrd in the morning, with more music and cookies in the afternoon. We followed the format that started with Josh Lee during his workshop on Oct 7. In October, we had a rather smaller gathering than usual after a few folks had to bow out. Josh was very flexible and we all
    decided to remain in a large group after the technical work of the morning. We were able to
    explore some of the 6 and 8 part repertoire and everyone seemed to enjoy staying in the larger group rather than breaking into small consorts. Adaiha followed the same format, even though we had a more robust gathering. It is both challenging and exhilarating to play in a larger ensemble and I think everyone enjoyed the experience. Adaiha’s leadership and musicianship is exemplary. I feel we are so fortunate to have her in our town.

    At the board meeting following the workshop, we all agreed that this format seems much
    better, offering an enjoyable and superior educational experience. We have decided to
    continue with this format for the remainder of the season and will revisit the concept in the
    summer. If anyone has input feel free to write us at info@cascadiaviols.org.

    Saturday, we had three new members join us: Carla Essenberg, who has just moved to
    Portland from Maine; Justus Mackintosh, who drove all the way from Roseburg for the day;
    and Andrew Ehrlich from Portland, who is exploring the world of the gamba, from his vantage
    point on the violin, or viola da braccio.

    I would like to remind everyone that coming up in January and February we have Loren
    Ludwig and Zoe Weiss presenting our winter online workshops. I hope to see many of you there. And of course in March and May Shanon Zusman and Bill Skeen will be here for our in-person workshops.

    In the meanwhile, stay warm and keep playing.

    Roma Sprung

    Cascadia Viols 2024 Calendar

    Here’s our line up of the remaining season’s workshops, with as much information as is presently available. As usual, due to vagaries of the weather, over the winter months our workshops are online. In-person, day-long workshops are held at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Portland, OR.

    January 13, 2024 – (online) Loren Ludwig, “Lawes, Lawes, and Lawes”

    February 10, 2024 – (online) Zoe Weiss

    March 23rd, 2024 – Shanon Zusman

    May 11th, 2024 – Bill Skeen

    Zoom Workshop with Loren Ludwig “Lawes, Lawes, and Lawes” Saturday, January 13, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. PST

    On his website, Loren Ludwig aptly calls himself a performer-scholar. He performs widely as a solo viola da gambist and chamber musician, and is a co-founder of critically acclaimed ensembles LeStrange Viols, the 17th-century string band ACRONYM, and Science Ficta. His teaching activities include a wide variety of positions across four continents, including residencies on the musicology faculty at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, Grinnell College, and the New Zealand School of Music. 

    Loren’s non-teaching/performing interests are multi-faceted: the reconstruction of a lost tradition of ensemble string playing in New England c1800; the restoration of a New England tenor viol built in 1816; archival work in VA and MD uncovering evidence of the participation by African American musicians in colonial musical culture; and various scholarly publications, to name just a few.

    Our online Cascadia Viols workshop this month will focus exclusively on the 17th century composer and musician William Lawes. Loren writes: Let’s play some William Lawes! Safely muted in your home music rooms, participants will play along with iconic (as well as some exciting but lesser-known) recordings of five- and six-part consort music by the “Beethoven of Britain.’ There will be less talking and more playing, and we’ll survey as much of this terrific music in excellent recordings as we can. Entirely risk free, this is an opportunity to “double” some of the finest consort players in the land as they tackle some of period’s richest and most delightful music. All levels and instrument sizes welcome; pitch A = 415.

    “When you’re playing renaissance part music, counting to 4 and coming in right is just the beginning. Between reading the complicated rhythms, listening to yourself and the group, feeling the tactus like a big gong in your gut, and remembering how to play your instrument, it’s a real workout for your brain. The trick is learning to delegate, to do different tasks with different parts of your body.”

    -Tina Chancey

    Workshop Report: Josh Lee "Strong, Weak, and the Art of the Bow Gesture" - October 7, 2023

    ~ by Brandon Labadie

    For our October viol workshop with Josh Lee, we gathered in our usual space at St. Michael and All Angels Church on an unusually warm day. More unusual was that our ranks were more sparse than previous workshops; a few illnesses and vacations made for a more intimate setting, perfect for this workshop’s theme. Josh came to us from San Francisco, where he and his partner Ben have an active recording studio, and where he actively performs and teaches. I have known Josh for over ten years—our first performance together was Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art in California when I first began professionally playing oboe, and now I take weekly viol lessons with him over Zoom.

    The theme of this workshop was Strong, Weak, and the Art of the Bow Gesture—an ostensible return to a basic technique on the viol. Josh provided a workbook of sorts, which outlines multiple bow gesture combinations played on Thoinot Arbeau’s “Belle qui tien ma vie.” We began with this pavane in four parts, following Josh’s markings above each note: ‘ = strong and U = weak.

    An excerpt from “Belle qui tien ma vie” :

    I think it is also important to note here that Josh suggests “…playing a work at least two times compassionately before discussing the work or performance.” This will allow you to experiment a bit with producing the strong and weak bow gesture. Speaking of strong and weak, Josh describes the strong bow as follows: relax your bow arm, allowing the weight of the arm to aid in the strong gesture, while at the same time applying a slight tension to the bow hair with the ring finger. Move the bow across the string, releasing the tension in the bow hair as you go. Conversely, the weak gesture is a passive movement in the right arm and fingers, facilitated by an ever-so-slight “lift” in the bicep—like lifting a piece of paper off the table. We spent some time with the first exercise, learning melody and basic movements of the strong-weak gesture.

    The subsequent exercises in the workbook are various iterations on the strong-weak gesture:

    The two-bow gesture:

    The three-bow gesture:

    The four-bow gesture:

    These bow gesture exercises should be started with a strong bow followed by a weak bow. The three bow gesture should be played “more, less, least” (strong, weak, weak), and the four bow played “most, more, less, least” (strong, weak, weak, weak). The gestures beyond two bows should use the very famous “z-bow” technique; a long initial bow with smaller bowings to return you to your initial position. One important note about the exercise as a whole: strong and weak do not always correspond to push and pull bowing – one should practice producing a strong sound on a pull and a weak sound on a push, as we will often be confronted with this in our consort music.

    With such a small group, we opted to stick together in the afternoon session instead of breaking into smaller groups. We put our newfound knowledge to the test by playing through a few pieces by John Ward (Fantasia á 5 No. 10 and Fantasia á 5 No. 12), as well as some sight-reading of some Byrd. Although this workshop was structured a little differently than our previous ones, the intimate setting allowed a bit more room for exploration in terms of technique and musicality as we worked through the music. That said, I will be excited to see you all again at Adaiha’s workshop in December.

    Workshop Report: Adaiha MacAdam-Somer, "Building Better Bowing with Byrd" - December 16, 2023

    ~ by Brandon Labadie

    I’m writing this in 2024 so I hope you all have had happy holidays and a happy new year! At our most recent workshop, we had our lovely local gambist Adaiha MacAdam-Somer lead us through some wonderful selections of William Byrd. We were also fortunate enough to have three new players join us; Carla Essenburg who just moved from Maine, Justus Mackintosh who drove from Roseburg, and professional violinist Andrew Ehrlich who is slowly being converted into a gambist. It is obviously great to see new people join us, and I hope we are able to keep recruiting as many people as possible. It is also nice to see a few people moving around between the various viol voices—we’ve had a few basses move to tenor and treble respectively.

    Of course, this December’s workshop was not just an opportunity to play the music of Byrd—it was Adaiha’s springboard for revisiting some basic bowing technique with progressively more difficult repertoire. I am actually a huge fan of spending time on some of the “basics” using approachable music in a large group setting. I start my own practice sessions with basic exercises, like practicing string crossings or scalar patterns, focusing on figuring out the mechanics required to get the sound I am after. We have all heard it a million times, but slow practice really does improve your technique!

    Adaiha did an excellent job of breaking down the phrasing within each piece; we were all tasked with finding the various melodies in each section of every piece, which we then dissected into the “highs” and “lows”—where did each phrase begin and end? How do you approach each phrase so that you can achieve the climax of the melody? Adaiha talked us through each example, demonstrating ways to achieve crescendi and decrescendi using the music. I think the format of the large ensemble really lends itself well to these types of exercises; if there was something you didn’t quite get, you could lean on your stand partner to help you through it. Justus and I, for example, kept trying to match bowings just for fun. I think one of the highlights at the end of the day—no matter how tired we all might have been—was some of the sight-reading Adaiha brought. Being able to sight-read is another one of those must-have skills we all should cultivate as musicians, and I appreciate some of the spontaneity added to our workshops.

    It is awesome to have such a great gambist in our city. Adaiha’s workshop has been a highlight for me out of all of the workshops I’ve attended so far. Looking forward to seeing you all at the next one!

    Interview: Kris (Fredericka) Hoeveler - Portland, Oregon

    ~ by Karen Bartlett

    Kris (Fredericka) and I have never had the opportunity to say more than hello to each other at our workshops. Since all I knew about her was that she must enjoy the viol, I googled her name, and found that she is a child psychologist. That’s the fun in doing these interviews—learning interesting and surprising things about other members and getting to know them a little better.

    Just out of curiosity, a question about your name: you go by both Kris and Fredericka. How did that come about?

    I was named for my grandfather (Frederick). My middle name is Kristin and—just to complicate matters—my family called me Tina. Sadly, I stopped using Fredericka when I was in elementary school and was taunted by all the pejorative nicknames that can be made from Fredericka. I actually prefer Fredericka but it has become too late to use it effectively, although I did use it professionally .

    And now to what I learned about you online: Could you tell us a little about your background and work as a child psychologist? Do you have a specialty within that field?

    My academic and clinical training include a doctorate in clinical psychology with a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in Pediatric Neuropsychology. I have been retired from clinical practice for five years but it was what brought me to Portland. I moved here in 2002 to take a position at what was then Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital in the Pediatric Development and Rehabilitation program. I then went into private practice with a wonderful colleague. I loved the problem solving and the work with the children and families.

    One other thing I learned about you is that you are a singer. Voice and viol—the perfect combination! I have the feeling that singing came before the viol. Is that right? When and how did your interest in singing develop? Are you active now?

    Musically, my first instrument was voice. I never had the opportunity to participate in instrumental music. I attended elementary school in a three-room schoolhouse (literally) until sixth grade – there was no music education. In middle and high school we had choral music but no instrumental music. I have been singing in choirs and choruses since I was about 10, when I was given special dispensation from the choir director to attend church choir rehearsals with my mother, who was a soloist. I have been singing in church choirs and school choirs and then community choirs ever since. I have been singing with the Oregon Repertory Singers and the Westminster Presbyterian Church choir here in Portland since 2002.

    How did you become interested in learning viol? Do you take lessons? What size(s) do you play?

    I have always loved Baroque and Renaissance music and was introduced to the viol by a friend who was learning to play a tenor. Despite having never played a bowed stringed instrument, I was intrigued, and when a friend was selling a 7-string bass viol I bought it. I have been very fortunate to study with Adaiha Macadam Somer since 2020.

    Do you enjoy practicing? What has been your biggest challenge in learning viol?

    I am making progress although I am still a relative beginner. I actually love practicing. I wish I were making more progress but occasionally I see some improvement! My greatest challenges are making a sound that I think anyone would like to listen to, playing only the string I want to play, and bow management. I know what I want my music to sound like and it can be frustrating to hear something other than that.

    Are there other instruments you play?

    I had always wanted to learn to play an instrument and was particularly intrigued with the oboe. A close friend in New Hampshire where we then lived, who was also a singer, organist and pianist, got tired of hearing me complain about not ever having learned to play an instrument and gave me an oboe for my 40th birthday. I studied and played the oboe (adding English Horn to the mix) until the beginning of the pandemic when wind instruments became dangerous to others.

    A hearty thanks to you for contributing to Cascadia Viols by being on the board. It seems to me that shortly after you joined, you stepped up serve on the board. How did that happen? As a member at large, what have some of your responsibilities been?

    Jeanne (Collins) was the one who convinced me to join the board, and we have worked together on workshop details. Mainly I proofread workshop announcements and other mailings and husband the nametags!

    When you have time, what other interests or hobbies do you enjoy?

    Other passions include knitting and physical exercise. I learned to knit at a very early age and have been knitting ever since. I have always engaged in physical activities; I have been a competitive athlete since I was a child and although I no longer engage in competitive athletics, I am still quite active.

    Sheet Music for Viols: "Vergene Bella" from Guillaume DuFay (1397-1474)

    ~ by Karen Bartlett

    Such a hauntingly beautiful sound, along with some interesting rhythmic passages, including triplets and hockets—from the moment I first played through Dufay’s “Vergene bella” (circa 1424), I knew I want to include it in the next newsletter. I have Kristina Herrick to thank for introducing to me this 3-part piece, which is a plea to the Virgin Mary for help with the miseries of an earthly existence and is one of the earliest surviving musical settings to the poetry of Petrarch. Although the text is sacred, it is in the vernacular, which implies that it was not written for liturgical use. It is considered a cantilena motet, characterized by a flowing, melismatic top line, with the two lower parts untexted and more instrumental in nature. Kristina has even had the opportunity to sing it, lucky gal. When she handed me the score, all three parts were in treble clef, but I had no doubts that Dick Yates would be able to arrange it for more typical consorts, which is what you will find below. Thank you Dick, and thank you, Kristina.

    Download the sheet music here: Vergene Bella 

    I loved practicing the treble line at home, by myself, but I was in heaven when I was able to play it with the other two parts. This is one of those instances where the whole seems to be greater than the sum of its parts. If you are curious about hearing it before you have a chance to play it yourself, here’s a recording I particularly like: