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This will be held during the lunch-break at the Corsham workshop on July 23rd. Because the workshop, directed by Peter Leech, is for singers only, there will be a parallel playing-day for instrumentalists led by Dick Little in the Council Chamber. We hope that this will encourage as many members as possible to come along to the meeting and take the opportunity to share their views. Details and application forms for both singers and instrumentalists are available on the SWEMF Events page.

From Clare Griffel, Chair

Two events in the past month have set me reflecting on the way that we listen to live music performances, and the impact that this has on our enjoyment of the music. The first was a birthday party which I and several other SWEMF members attended, at which during the evening various individuals and groups contributed short musical items, while guests sat around eating and drinking, chatting in between the music, popping up when their turn came to perform – generating a lovely, relaxed atmosphere which I think encouraged the performers to give of their best.

The second was the wonderful Really Classical Relay, held for the third year running at the Bristol Music Club over the weekend of May 6th – 8th. This is, as far as I’m aware, the brainchild of Bristolian cellist Jonathan Rees, who now plays with a number of first-rate early music ensembles, and is passionate about bringing period-instrument performance to life for as wide an audience as possible. He and a number of equally gifted instrumentalists of the up-and-coming generation offer a programme of more or less non-stop chamber music from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, during which audience members are encouraged to wander in and out as they wish, make themselves comfortable on seating or on the floor, bring their drinks into the auditorium, mingle with the performers between the items, and generally behave in a completely informal way. Performances were of the highest calibre, and there was an extraordinary rapport between performers and audience.

These two events are probably closer to the way much early music was intended to be heard than the conventional concert-hall setting with its serried ranks of respectful listeners. Although of course informality is not feasible when a large audience is involved, and would not be appropriate for, say, a performance of the St Matthew Passion, I couldn’t help hoping that the success of the Really Classical Relay might encourage other groups to experiment with a similar approach. Meanwhile, all being well the RCR will be back next year.

Wishing you a summer of good weather and good music-making!

- Clare

From Lindsey Shaw-Miller, Diary Editor

With May in full spate as I write – a truly glorious spring here on Mendip – there is plenty to enjoy in your June Diary, and a wealth of workshops coming up. Do get your applications in soon! Summer schools are filling fast, though some places do remain for male singers, and instrumentalists, and the gorgeous Triora week for female voices, and the Palestrina week in September, have places remaining for sopranos, a rare luxury for those of us at the high end of the scale.

Back to male singers, though, with our cover image (reproduced below), which, as an art historian, renders me no small thrill. It come from a recently discovered manuscript in the library of Norwich Cathedral, and has about it something of The Name of the Rose. Conservator Lorraine Finch accidentally discovered this item of plainsong, for the Feast of Epiphany, while surveying the parish library in Norwich Cathedral. The parchment is thought to be 14th-century (though the drawing style of the small caricature of a monk looks earlier to me). After the dissolution in 1536, such manuscripts became redundant and were used to bind new books together. This one had been coerced into an edition of Erasmus’ writings produced in 1548. It had been pasted to the inside of the cover to reinforce a new sheet laid over the top. It remained that way for centuries, but years of environmental and technical erosion eventually separated the pages while it was in storage. ‘It is only because the book was falling apart that I managed to see it.’ said Lorraine Finch. ‘It is the largest reused music manuscript in a binding that I have ever seen in my 20 years as a conservator.’

Gudrun Warren, librarian and curator at Norwich Cathedral, said the plainsong ‘is exciting as it belongs to a parish church (Shipdham, near Dereham) and it is a link between pre-reformation books and postreformation.’ I’m grateful to Devon member Charity Scott-Stokes for sending me this link. There is new music, waiting to be released from captivity, in all sorts of places.

Marginal image from a newly discovered plainsong for Epiphany in the parish library of Norwich Cathedral
Photo: Denise Bradley

- Lindsey


The South West Early Music Forum (SWEMF) is a charitable organisation promoting all aspects of early music in the South West of England. Its constitution can be found here. It is one of ten regional Fora, which cover most areas of the UK, and are affiliated to the National Early Music Association, NEMA, who have recently produced a report on the future of Early Music in Britain.

The South West Early Music Forum region includes Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire and brings together amateur and professional musicians, musicologists, teachers and pupils, instrument makers, and early music enthusiasts.

Throughout the year a series of workshops and playing and singing days are organised within the region where members have the opportunity to study works under the guidance of early music specialist tutors. These activities include Baroque Chamber Music Playing Days, Singing Days focusing on particular composers or periods, and Workshops preparing larger scale works for both voices and instruments etc.

SWEMF also organises a number of social events including the Annual General Meeting in May which is sometimes combined with a residential weekend providing ample opportunity for music making and the opportunity for members to voice their views and suggestions on the future operations of the Forum

Members receive a quarterly Diary of Events announcing future activities of SWEMF, and other EM Fora, and also concerts and other events both within the region and elsewhere. Application forms for forthcoming SWEMF events are included in the Diary of Events mailing and are also available on the website.

Membership forms can be printed from the website. The next subscriptions are due on 1st April 2015 for for 2015/2016. For details click here.

A Membership List (last issued with the March 2012 Diary) gives information concerning members' particular interests, instruments played, voices sung etc. so that they may arrange joint activities outside those organised directly by SWEMF.

This site is maintained by Sara Scorey. Please send any comments or suggestions for improvements to webeditor@swemf.org.uk. Suggestions for additional links are particularly welcome.

SWEMF Home Page | SWEMF Events | Other Early Music Events in the South West | National and International EM Events
Reviews and Reports | Items for Sale and Wanted | Players Wanted and Playing Opportunities Sought | Information for Organising SWEMF Workshops
Links to other Early Music Fora | Other Early Music Links | Officers and Representatives | How to join

Last modified: 03 June 2016