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Fiddle Trek

Historically Informed Summer School

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I have just come back from the Historically Informed Summer School at Scarborough, which explores the interface between early/ baroque and folk music. I had signed up thinking that the course would improve my folk technique & that I’d find out something intriguing about folk tunes that had made it into the art music repertoire and vice versa.

However, the introductory meetings left me feeling confused and lost.

Moreover, I decided early on that I didn’t have full confidence in the ‘folk’ tuition - the classes & repertoire seemed a bit nit-picking, based on Shakespeare songs & dances, and not a lot to do with ‘real folk’.

So I plumped for the baroque violin classes, which were excellent but challenging. They were taught by Amelie Addison, a cellist, and Anne-Marie Christensen, violin, who were both knowledgeable and very kind. I had to miss some of the sessions so that I could work on the music we were studying, pieces from Matthew Locke’s setting of Shakespeare’s Tempest. I opted for the second violins, and got a lot of help from the tutors, as I have a blind spot when it comes to baroque rhythms especially when the first violins are playing something different.

I went to two sessions on Geminiani's violin treatises which were very interesting - again, led by Anne-Marie & Amelie.

There were also two fab classes on early music led by the sparkling Rebecca Austen-Brown, a friend of my fiddle teacher - renaissance dances & 14th century ballatas. A lot of the tunes were ones I knew which had featured in Folk Festivals of the 1970s & 1980s, so that was a joy.

I enjoyed the session 'Try a Viol' with Susanna Pell - such a lovely person - but I won't be switching any time soon.

Taggart had his own problems - his classes said they were both for sheet music readers & for learning by ear, but the tutors assumed that everyone can learn by ear. They had not provided sheet music & had to dictate the various chords to Taggart as he went along.

Also, we'd been told by email that keyboards (harpsichords etc) would be provided and that we didn't have to bring our own. In the event we had to carry our own keyboard up & down two flights of stairs for three of his classes, and for the others, the director provided an electric organ. However, Taggart did enjoy the figured bass classes & found Graham Coatman to be an excellent teacher, so he got something out of the week as a whole.

There was a wonderful tutors' concert on the Wednesday evening with the divine Susanna Pell playing a division on the viol, accompanied by her husband Jacob Heringman on the lute; also Anne-Marie Christensen did a wonderful musical send up of a show-off eighteenth-century theatre violin solo which was virtuosic and very entertaining.

On Thursday we had a musical banquet - each course featured several turns by some of the other pupils, some brash and amateurish, and others really quite good.

On Friday afternoon, just before we went home, there was a concert during which we shared what we'd been doing during the week. Our group played a gavotte & the Curtain Tune (featuring a tempest) from Locke's Tempest, and we also saw the large-group productions of the Medieval Band (Tandernaken) and songs and music from Purcell's Fairy Queen, which I'd had to miss to catch up on some Locke practice. They were 'quite good'. Rebecca's recorder group offering was the best in this concert, in my opinion.

The accommodation was good but I couldn’t settle to sleep very well & I have come home absolutely exhausted.

I met some lovely people - most of the tutors, and some friendly violinists and early music fans from Yorkshire, Cumberland and the North-East - and I’ll have a lot to talk about with my fiddle teacher, who’s a baroque specialist.

But it’s not something I’d go to again.
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Updated Aug-22-2016 at 14:09 by Ingélou

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