26 Sep Vol. VIII, No. 3 – July 2022
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
Karen Bartlett | Editor
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
Summer is almost here, and after a cool spring with lots of rain, I know I will enjoy the warmer weather, though I think we are all thankful for the abundant precipitation. Part of the joy of living in this beautiful part of the world is the lush greenery.
We have been busy in the past three months. After a successful start to our in-person workshops with Larry Lipnik, Martha McGaughey came on May 14 with an exciting and challenging program exploring the music of John Jenkins. Dirk Freymuth assisted Martha in guiding us through the day. We were reminded of why Jenkins is a favorite composer for many of us. Jenkins is wonderfully varied, inventive, and harmonically intriguing. Happily, we had lovely weather that day and we were able to enjoy the farmers market around the corner at lunch time, before resuming our classes in the afternoon.
This was followed the next weekend by our annual meeting on May 21, which was held on Zoom so more of our members could attend if they wished. David Solet made available a comprehensive printed annual report of revenue and expenses for the period 07/01/2021 to 05/14/2022. This can be found on our website in the members section. It showed a beginning balance of $5,672, and an ending balance of $7,169. Total revenue for the period was $5,740, and total expenses for the period were $4,243. Net income for the period was $1,497. The report reveals that over half of our income comes from donations, about one quarter from dues and one quarter from workshop tuitions. This is typical for arts organizations. We continue to have generous support from our donors large and small, which enables us to continue to bring these exciting artists to our community.
Which reminds me, our fiscal year starts July 1, so now would be a great time to renew if you haven’t already. You can renew online by going to our website, CascadiaViols.org. If you have already renewed, thank you.
We have our line up for next season, thanks in large part to the diligent work of Adaiha MacAdam-Somer. 2022-2023 will again be a hybrid season with four in person workshops and two on Zoom. This is going to be our format going forward, to welcome those from afar who joined us during the height of the pandemic, and to allow for addition flexibility in having artists come who might not be able to make the trip.
We are still exploring ways to facilitate our members forming consorts for more frequent playing. If anyone has any ideas, please feel free to contact us.
Hope to see you all soon.
Workshop Report: Martha McGaughey and The Joy of Jenkins
Our final workshop of the season featured Martha McGaughey, teacher, performer, and faculty member at the Mannes School of Music in New York.
One of the approaches to teaching that seems to characterize Martha’s style is her almost seamless transition between musical and technical issues. In the morning large consort session, Martha began by downplaying the importance of tuning one’s strings “perfectly,” noting that the French referred to tuning as a “bourgeois occupation.”
Once the group started playing the music for this session, Martha emphasized that a “consort” refers to an ensemble in which all the voices have equal importance, although not always at the same time. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each player to understand their role by bringing out a moving line–one with rhythmic interest–but allowing the moving line of other voices to come through when one has a sustained note. Martha emphasized the importance of communicating across the ensemble.
Interspersed with these musical concepts were reminders to keep one’s feet flat on the floor, align one’s shoulders in a single plane, and to drop the bow hand from the wrist in order to apply weight to the forearm while pronating the palm towards the floor.
In terms of bow use, Martha encouraged the participants to use very little bow for eighth notes, using the fingers rather than the arm to initiate each stroke, and arranging for the bow to be at one of its extremities for these relatively quick notes. The same thing sometimes applies to quarter notes that occur on a weak beat. Several of the pieces in triple or compound meter had repeated sections that ended with a half note followed by a quarter note. Martha instructed the group to decrescendo from the half note and lightly brush the quarter note with very little bow, so that it was all but inaudible at the end of the phrase—sort of a throw-away note.
Martha called our attention to the irregular length of phrases that is typical of English music. For example, one repeated section contains three phrases consisting of four, ten, and six measures respectively. Martha then encouraged us to identify the most important measure in each phrase.
One final technical pointer that emerged from the morning session was the concept of leaving one’s fingers on the string, especially when crossing strings to a higher open string with stepwise motion.
The small consorts were coached by Martha and by Dirk Freymuth. In his sessions, Dirk stressed the importance of actively listening to the other voices. As a part of that, he emphasized the importance of using rests, especially multi-measure rests, to become engaged by what is happening in the other parts, rather than simply tuning out. He also stressed the importance of actively listening to the other voices while playing, and remaining aware of the relative importance of the various voices at different times as the music unfolds.
2022 - 2023 Workshop Schedule
Interview: Robert Clark, Portland OR
by Karen Bartlett
If I’m not mistaken, Cascadia Viols is indebted to you for securing a new home for our workshops when we left Trinity Cathedral. How did that come about?
As with so many aspects of my involvement with the world of the viol, David Morris was the instigator. He was visiting here in Portland, saw St. Michael’s where my wife Pamela and I sing, knew that Cascadia Viols was in need of new workshop space, and suggested I make it happen. So, of course, I did.
You used to sing in a choir under the direction of David. What was that like?
In a word, fabulous! When I joined the choir in 1993, I was essentially untrained as a singer. I had some theoretical knowledge of music, but basically I couldn’t read and I couldn’t sing. I am a tenor, and David was, and still is, the tenor section leader. He could read anything flawlessly the first time. So amazing! So in the beginning, David was like a musical god to me. I could sing something and it would sound wooden to my ear. Then David would sing it, seemingly without effort, and it would be a beautiful living thing of beauty. Understated, but exquisite. At first I couldn’t tell what he was doing—it was like magic. But over the years I realized that it was not magic, it was a skill, and I began to see the vague outlines of how it was done. That meant it was something that could be learned, so David transitioned from my musical god to mentor. And eventually, as the decades passed and we sang together literally thousands of times, we became friends. I do still see and hear the musical god in him, though.
Was it David who encouraged you to take up the viol? Why did you choose bass?
Yes, David started all this. He stayed with us for a short time before the last conclave in Forest Grove. He had his treble with him, and one evening he handed it to me, saying “Why don’t you try this?” So I did, and I was enchanted. He recommended the bass as a place to start. He said it was the easiest size to begin with, then later the easiest from which to move to the others.
I am in awe of your ability to take up a stringed instrument for the first time as an adult. How has your experience as a singer helped you with viol?
My singing experience has been absolutely invaluable to learning to play the viol! I don’t think I would have made it through the early stages if I hadn’t already had some sight-reading ability, some theoretical knowledge of music, experience with polyphony, and a feel for the idioms of 16th and 17th century music. Even starting with those, it’s been real work learning to play. The disadvantage of starting an instrument at an advanced age is that learning is slower. But the advantage is that it’s more possible to just work away at it without judgment or resentment. I probably don’t have enough life left to become a really excellent viol player, but I can hear and feel my own limitations, and those are motivation for good practicing.
What are your greatest challenges in playing the viol?
My biggest challenge is my bow hand. It looked so easy, and then I started to play. Not so easy, as it turns out. Another challenge is that playing consort music is an incredibly complex activity. There are so many things that require attention at the same time, and I only have so much attention. But it’s getting better, little by little.
As a newcomer to viol shortly after the pandemic started, do you think that the inability to play with others hindered your progress?
It’s hard for me to know how much the pandemic has affected my progress. Certainly I had very limited consort playing opportunities until recently. It’s been an odd way to get involved with playing the viol, but it does seem to be working fine. This is another area where being a singer may have helped, as my experience singing polyphonic music seems to have made playing in consort seem pretty natural. It isn’t the same as singing, but feeling your part in the midst of the piece, listening to others, understanding you shouldn’t be really loud when you are playing a long note that is holding the chord—many things like that are common to choral singing and consort playing.
Do you enjoy practicing? If so, why?
I do enjoy practicing, and that is by design. I know that if I enjoy something I will do it because I want to, and if I don’t enjoy something I will not. So I practice until I hit that point where the pleasure is fading for whatever reason—frustration, boredom, back pain, etc. Then most days I practice a second time in the same way, beginning again refreshed. So, since almost all of my practicing is enjoyable, I look forward to it.
Since you practice regularly, how do you make sure you find time to do so?
This hasn’t been a big problem for me. I’m retired, so I do have time I can choose to spend playing my viol, and I practice almost every day. Although I sometimes do procrastinate starting to practice, I expect myself to practice every day, so if mid-afternoon comes and I haven’t played yet, I’m thinking about where to fit it in. It’s just part of my life now.
Do you now have opportunities to play with others? How is that going?
I have been very fortunate to have been adopted by several members of our community. Janet Loy, whom I know from the CV board, has very graciously invited me to play duets with her, and we are getting together to play regularly. She is helping me to become a competent consort player, although I’m not really there yet. Jeanne and Dan invited me to play with them before the pandemic hit, and we did that once. We’ve since talked about getting together to play again, and I’m very much looking forward to that. And Kris Hoeveler and I have engaged Adaiha for some coached trio sessions—and I can’t recommend that enough for people who want to improve their consort skills!
Your official title as Cascadia Viols board member (thank you!) is “communications coordinator.” What is it exactly that you do?
I began as the venue coordinator for our workshop space at St. Michael’s. And after a few workshops there, I noticed that Jeanne was doing an incredible amount of work to put the workshops together, to the point that I feared she might burn out. That would have been a disaster for the chapter, so I offered to help her. We had some discussions about what she did and what I could actually be helpful with, and I began by helping to put together all the various notifications that are sent for announcing workshops, annual renewals, requesting feedback from the membership, etc. That was the origin of my title.
I’m happy to say that now the work of running the chapter is being spread among even more people, which is very healthy. Adaiha is doing season planning to find and engage presenters for our upcoming workshops, Zoe and Kris are taking turns managing each workshop, Jeanne is doing the music preparation and writing the announcements, David Solet is our treasurer, and I am supporting the CV website, doing the technical part of the messaging to our members, and continuing to interface with St. Michael’s. It’s a great team!
What other kinds of music do you like to play or listen to?
I like a wide variety of music – country, folk, light jazz, classical, rock (as long as there isn’t too much feedback), and more. I’ve always had an affinity for acoustic music, and for chamber music, which may be why I like the viol so much.
What kinds of non-musical interests or work have you had in your life?
Pamela and I are bird watchers. Over the last decade, we’ve visited Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Spain, and India to see the birds there. It’s great to have a shared interest like that. We are also both choral singers, so we share that as well. I don’t think I’ll be able to get her to play the viol though. I’m also interested in astronomy, writing (I’ve written short stories), reading, vegetable gardening, and so many more lesser interests.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m very grateful to have found the viola da gamba, and this wonderful community of players!
Sheet Music for Viols: Telemann "Vivace and Largo"
The eighteen duos in the Opus 5 collection are all written in strict canonic form where each part plays exactly the same notes but starts at a different time. Because the parts are otherwise identical, it is not necessary to show two staves in the score.
Download parts by clicking the links to the right.
Instead, the single staff uses the sign % above the staff to show when the second voice enters playing the part from the beginning. Near the end of the piece, the symbol U shows where the second voice is to stop so that the two parts end together.