Il Siglo d’Oro

Cardinall's Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall’s Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall's Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall’s Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall's Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall’s Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Last week Petrushka, this week Il Siglo d’Oro at St Paul’s in Putney, part of the Wimbledon Music Festival.

The plan was Wimbledon, then Putney for a concert, but it was awful day, change of plan, Charing Cross Road, hit the bookshops (the quest for NeverSeconds continues), dinner at Food for Thought, then Putney for Il Siglo d’Oro.

Il Siglo d’Oro the Golden Age – was the name that Spaniards gave to their great flowering of music in the 16th century.

Il Siglo d’Oro – music in honour of the Virgin Mary from sixteenth-century Spain, by Guerrero, Morales, Victoria and Lobo, part of the Wimbledon Music Festival at St Paul’s, Putney, London. Performance by The Cardinall’s Musick.

Prior to the concert and during the interval, the buzz of conversation was not the concert, nor the Wimbledon Music Festival, but the failure of the Church of England yesterday to agree to women bishops. A great deal of anger. The tail wagging the dog. Fundamentalists and bigots who lack knowledge of Scripture, ignorant of early Church History. Jesus had women disciples, Paul had a woman as an important emissary, the Early Church had women bishops. But then this is a church that in the past burnt women and heretics at the stake, supported Slavery, and used Scripture to do so. We do not have White Bishops to deal with racists, why therefore Male Bishops to deal with bigots? The bigots have aligned themselves with Muslim fundamentalists. When the Archbishop of Canterbury says the church lacks credibility, then we know something is very wrong. At a stroke, the Church of England has rendered itself an irrelevance.

In some ways an irony considering the music. The Church of England has always found itself ill at ease with the veneration if not worship of Mary in the Catholic Church. The music for the evening’s concert was a veneration of Mary. The veneration of Mary has arisen because of the lack of a female face of God, and yet for those who wish to check their Scripture, man and woman were created equal, in the image of God.

The opening piece was from the Song of Solomon, as were some later pieces.

The Song of Solomon is an erotic love poem, it is also a worship of Jerusalem as a woman.

Earlier this year BBC Radio 4 had a wonderful dramatization of the Song of Solomon, but the BBC displaying its usual crass stupidity and forgetting it is a public service broadcaster paid out of the Licence Fee, only kept on-line for seven days.

Were we here for a music lecture or a concert? I think the director thought the former, whereas I thought the latter. Interesting as his points were illustrating each piece, they broke up the concert. Though not as bad as Fusiones concierto de Ensamble dos orillas in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife this spring where every piece had to be introduced and explained, and it was in German (though I was told later it is what Germans expect). What would have been far better would have been a half hour pre-concert talk with vocal illustrations of the points made.

My gold standard for early Music is The Sixteen. I am criticised for being unfair, possibly true.

It is actually quite difficult to compare. Different number of players, different venues, different music.

In the spring I saw the The Sixteen in Winchester Cathedral at the start of their Choral Pilgrimage, then one week later at Croydon Minster, same music. I was curious what difference the venue made. It made a huge difference, Croydon Minster was an entirely different experience to Winchester Cathedral.

Cardinall’s Musick eight players, at times only four or five. The Sixteen often more than sixteen.

Compared with The Sixteen in Guildford Cathedral performing Victoria (veneration of Mary), Cardinall’s Musick were a disappointment, but then The Sixteen on their Choral Pilgrimage this year were a disappointment compared with The Sixteen performing Victoria in Guildford Cathedral last October.

That is not to say Cardinall’s Musick were not worth seeing, far from it, and they made excellent use of the acoustics of the building, it merely illustrates my point that comparisons are not easy.

Music is dying, the music industry is dying. That is what the media likes us to think. They are wrong, live music is thriving, music at grass roots is thriving, if what I have seen of the Wimbledon Music festival, music festivals are thriving. What is dying, is the big record companies, an aberration that is killing music, and the sooner they die the better, but everyone is suffering as they lash out in their death throes.

One area though that is suffering is classical music. In part, because once you have a good recording of a classical piece, why buy another, unless it is substantially different or better?

Look around the concert tonight. You would have been hard pushed to find anyone under sixty. Petrushka was different, there was a good age range, including a few children, girls in their teens and a few young women in their twenties, probably it was the puppets that pulled them in, but it was still heavily skewed to the 60+ end of the age spectrum.

Not unique to tonight. A common phenomenon. Is that because this is the last generation and they are slowly dying off, or do you have to be this age to appreciate the music? If the latter, do you have to be deaf?

Music has to be a community supported activity. I noticed everyone seemed to know Festival Director Anthony Wilkinson, also he seemed to have a band of willing volunteers flogging programmes, serving drinks, managing the tickets. They also have a schools programme, though not being local, I know not what it is.

This message has yet to get across to performers. The days have long gone when they can remain aloof.

During the interval I noticed no CDs on sale. I was about to raise this with Anthony, when on the front row I noticed a pile of CDs. I went over to pick one up, for a lady to explain they were hers, but I was welcome to have a look. She then told me she had asked, and that was how she got these, but she said only two different albums Byrd and Guerrero. A small box of CDs vanished whilst we were talking.

Somewhere during the second half, mention was made of CDs for sale, but not what, where they would be, or how much.

After the concert, I went over and thanked the lady. She said, if you do not ask, you do not get. I then saw again the same small box, to find people were being told, sorry, all sold, you can find on the net. I asked how much? I was told £10.

This is not good enough. They should have had a stall (I am amazed they did not), they should have been chatting to people, mingling, signing CDs.

I usually do not buy a programme, partly I object to paying extra, but usually they are waste of money.

The programme for the festival was a small book. Flipping through one I could see a lot of work had gone into preparing it. I am sorry to say that when I left, I forgot to pick one up.

The website for the festival could be improved. It lacked links to any of the performers. That is simply bad web design.

A random sample of the artists, none had the means to listen on-line, bar a few minutes lofi samples.

Why, what are they fearful of, or are they simply complying with the diktats of record labels who are stuck in the Stone Age?

Every single one should have been on bandcamp and youtube or vimeo. That way people can listen, share with their friends, download digital music, buy albums.

If you go to a concert and enjoy what you have seen and heard, the first thing you wish to do (apart from listening to the CD you may have been able to purchase), is to share with your friends. Why make that difficult if nigh impossible?

From what I have seen, two events, a festival worth visiting, just a pain to get to if you do not live in Wimbledon.

Many thanks to Festival Director Anthony Wilkinson for the invite.

Wimbledon Music Festival runs 10-25 November 2012.

The Cardinall’s Musick is a UK-based vocal ensemble specialising in music of the 16th and 17th centuries and contemporary music. Founded by the scholar and musicologist David Skinner and the singer-director Andrew Carwood. They take their name from the 16th century English cardinal, Thomas Wolsey.

For next year, a few suggestions (with a sample performance or album):

A more contemporary feel which maybe would pull in a younger audience.

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One Response to “Il Siglo d’Oro”

  1. keithpp Says:

    For an alternative take on the evening, in an otherwise highly pretentious review, Robert Hugill malkes a very good point on location and acoustics.

    Until a concert starts, I do not know, am I in a good location or not.

    For the piece from the Song of Solomon, the soprano stood out like a sore thumb, very discordant. The director must have thought so too, as he sought to explain, or maybe it was excuse.

    I was sat in the fourth row, by the aisle.

    I experienced a very unpleasant standing wave.

    Solo singers explains a lot, they sing as solo singers.

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