Friday, 10 March 2017

2017 gets off to a busy start

Thanks to several projects all coming to fruition and happening within a few months of each other, it feels like the Band hasn't paused for breath since early January.

We had a period of R&D with choreographer Will Tuckett and librettist Alasdair Middleton, working with three fabulous dancers, starting the process of a new 'all singing, all dancing' piece about Handel.

We've been lucky enough to have funding from the Norfolk Music Hub, to work with 9 schools in Norwich, enthusing students about Handel and his music, and the interesting times he lived in. That mostly took place in February, with a few events scheduled for the end of March.

Meantime, we started work for Cambridgeshire Music on two projects. One is a series of concerts in Cambridgeshire schools, and the other is a project working with talented young musicians on how to play in a historically informed style. 

Our first workshop took place at the end of the February 1/2 term, and we worked with 19 students, looking at ornamentation, bowing, how to read figured bass... to name but a few things. We're working towards a performance with the students, taking place on 21 March, on the European Day of Early Music.

We've been fantastically lucky to have Alan Gotto supply us a harpsichord in Norwich, and for us to have been able to borrow a smaller keyboard instrument for our work in Cambridgeshire schools. I started to keep a tally of the number of keyboard moves in February and March and soon lost count... 

Anyway, pics and details of The Brook Street Band's upcoming concerts in March and April to follow. Hopefully there's one close to you!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Handel and Margherita Durastanti - a musical marriage

We've just finished the first stage of a new project, working on a musical 'biography' of Margherita Durastanti. If the name seems unfamiliar, that's because she has been largely forgotten since disappearing from London musical life in 1734. Durastanti was, however, the singer who had the longest working relationship with Handel, spanning almost 30 years, and several countries.

The Band's project, with wonderful soprano Nicki Kennedy, included a live broadcast for Radio 3's In Tune, a concert at The Chapel Series in Norwich, and a performance at London's St. John's Smith Square.

We were grateful to Handel Hendrix London for the use of suitably Handelian rehearsal space too. We couldn't help taking advantage of the costumes on offer to 'spice' up the rehearsal...

Robert Hugill gave the concert a 5 star review.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Blackmoor Festival

The Band performed as part of the Blackmoor Festival in Hampshire on 25th April. Joanna Selborne, the Festival organiser wrote:
thank you all for the most amazing concert. I'm sure you could judge how popular it was by the amount of clapping at the end. The programme was delightfully varied and the final Leclair piece took us all by storm.Not all the audience are hardened concert goers but clearly everyone marvelled at the standard of the playing. What a fantastic sound!

We were joined at the end by a young fan, aspiring percussionist Leo

March concerts update

We've had a fantastic week, starting with the Band's live performance and interview on Radio 3's In Tune, on 27 February. This was arranged by Jo Carpenter PR to promote the Band's Zimmerman's Kaffeehaus concert at St. John's Smith Square on 1st March. Tatty's interview about coffeehouse culture is now permanently available as a BBC podcast, uploaded on 2 March and archived under 27 February.

The concert at St. John's was the second in a series of three curated concerts, each one preceded by a talk. Zimmerman's Kaffeehaus is a subject close to Tatty's heart - and much coffee was drunk during the research and preparation for the talk! It was great to meet some of the Band's followers, and in particular, thank you to Andrea Liu for her beautiful photographs.

The concert series at St. John's Smith Square will continue in the 2015-2016 season, dates to be confirmed soon.

The Band also squeezed in a performance at Little Bealings in Suffolk. The village of Little Bealings is home to one of the schools taking part in the Band's flagship education project "Getting a Handle on Handel", and it was wonderful to pack out the village hall with a new audience for the Band. The Band will return to Suffolk later in the year in preparation for its performance at Snape on 10th July with composer Matthew King.

In the meantime, we've started rehearsals for a French-inspired programme with flautist Lisete da Silva, featuring Leclair, Rameau, Telemann Paris Quartets (and some Handel!). There'll be four opportunities to hear it this year in various parts of the UK. Again, do please have a look at the diary for dates and locations, and we look forward to seeing you at one of our concerts.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Carolyn Gibley prepares to perform Handel's "Great Suites"

Cellist Tatty Theo interviews harpsichordist Carolyn Gibley about her preparations for forthcoming performances of Handel’s “Great Suites”.

TT: Tell me a little about the history of these pieces.
CG: There are 8 suites, which Handel prepared for publication in 1720, although we rather get the idea that his hand was forced. He wrote in the preface “I have been obliged to publish some of the following lessons because surreptitious and incorrect copies of them have got abroad. I have added several new ones to make the work more usefull. . .” Handel didn’t call them ‘Great’; this appellation is a later addition, referring as much to the scale of the pieces, as well as their musical quality!

TT: Why have you chosen the challenge of these pieces at this particular moment?
CG: About a year ago, following recent CD releases there was a lot of press coverage and reviews of the BSB. These all referenced the fact that the Band is known as a Handel specialist, and whilst I knew most of the Suites to play through, I’d only ever performed three of them, and I’d never tackled all 8 collectively, systematically and thoroughly. I was interested and inspired to do this, as I wanted to fill a gap in my own knowledge as well as the BSB’s representation of my instrument.

TT: So, you’ve been living with these pieces for a year now?
CG: Yes, although the notes were mastered within the first few months, I gave myself a year as I wanted enough time to live with the music. The actual notes are just the basic requirement – after that it’s a question of getting to know the pieces intimately, so they take on their own individual characters. I haven’t spent a full year at the keyboard, as earlier this year I took a 5 week sabbatical in New Zealand, which is the longest I’ve ever been away from a keyboard. I was worried about it, but it was actually really beneficial. When I got back I found a lot of the problems I’d been worrying about had been forgotten, and in many ways the pieces had carried on developing in my mind. Perhaps I was free from the preconceptions and anxiety which can surround everyday practise and I was able to see the bigger picture.

Carolyn at Brook Street, Nelson, New Zealand. It’s nice to see the street signs in Brook Street blue!

TT: A year seems a decent chunk of time to get to know these pieces. Have your perceptions changed at all over this time?
CG: I’ve been surprised by how much I love playing some of the minor key Suites. I’ve always loved the A Major Suite and was looking forward to that, but not so much the pieces in more painful keys such as e and f# minor. But, I just love playing the e minor suite now – it’s so meaty, challenging and satisfying. I still love my original favourites, although I find I don’t spend as much time with them now.

TT: 8 Suites could sound a bit repetitive in programming terms. How are you approaching this?
CG: I’m splitting the suites between 2 concerts, with 4 suites in each. I’ve not programmed them in numerical order, as that would make for an odd progression of keys, as well as too much similar music (e.g. variations) in the same concert. It’s really tricky sorting the suites according to key as Handel didn’t balance them equally. There are 5 minor key suites, and only 3 major key ones.

TT: How does the choice of key affect how you programme the suites?
CG: Some keys are easier on the ear, others designed to be more challenging, and of course I’ll need to come up with a usable tuning temperament that takes all this into account. Handel knew very well that C# major (which is the dominant of f# minor) isn’t easy to listen to. There does need to be some degree of pain, but tricky keys like this are particularly hard on modern ears, more used to equal temperament. I’m currently researching which temperament will work best, as of course I can’t adjust this between each piece. However, I am lucky to have some freedom, in that I don’t have to worry about other players tuning to me!

TT: Are all the suites the same, set out in a similar way to the Bach keyboard partitas, with a string of recognisable dance movements?
CG: Not at all – I think Handel uses the term pretty loosely, as he varies the format of each suite, none being textbook or typical. Handel uses pretty much every available form for early 18th century keyboard music, from fugues, French Overture, unmeasured preludes and sonatas as well as dance movements.

TT: We’re pretty familiar with the concept of Handel re-heating his music, but how much of this repertoire will be easily recognisable?
CG: I’d say that music from at least 4 suites will be familiar. The g minor suite is used orchestrally, and the F Major suite is rather famous and typically Handelian. Both the E Major and the d minor suites with their variations are also well-known. Plus one of its movements is also an organ concerto. Perhaps the best-known music is the E Major suite which contains the famous Harmonious Blacksmith variations. I’ll be ending the concerts with this glorious Suite.

TT: Finally, what instrument will you be using?
CG: I’m lucky to have Alan Gotto so close by. He made my harpsichord, modelled on a French Donzelague, and I’ll most probably use that or Alan’s own Donzelague. The choice of a French instrument is not particularly authentic, but I love its rich and resonant bass and singing treble registers. I have played one of Handel’s harpsichords, an instrument made by William Smith c.1720, and now housed in Oxford’s Bate Collection. It was a wonderful and humbling experience. You could feel the indentations in the keys from his fingers, and it gave me a real insight into him as a player. I could sense the enormous strength and energy that he directed at the keyboard, not to mention the fact that he must have had large hands. Some of the stretches in the “Great Suites” are tricky, and these are big, uncompromising physical works, perhaps just like Handel himself. After all, he would have written them to play himself!

Carolyn Gibley performs Handel’s “Great Suites” at The Chapel, Park Lane, Norwich NR2 3EF, on Sunday 29 June and Sunday 13 July. Both concerts are 6.30-7.45pm.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Early Music Review

Lovely review from Alistair Harper in December's Early Music Review:

'What an enjoyable recording this is!... The Brook Street Band play with superb style and enthusiasm; they have appropriately varied the instrumentation of the individual sonatas, and their programme order makes perfect sense... prepare to be beguiled...'

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Baroque Music course for Hackney Music Development Trust

Spring Term Saturday Afternoon Baroque Course with The Brook Street Band
25th January, 1st and 8th February between 2pm and 5pm.
Haggerston School, E2
Grade 3+ players of orchestral instruments and recorders.
How Much?
£60 for all three sessions (£45 for Saturday Programme Students)

Come and work with the acclaimed Brook Street Band to play music by Handel, Vivaldi, Corelli and Bach. Learn to play in true 18th century style. Have fun with ornaments, light and bouncy articulation, and for string players, holding your bow in a baroque way, and what it feels like to play on gut strings.

Since its formation in 1995 by baroque cellist Tatty Theo, The Brook Street Band has rapidly established itself as one of the country’s foremost interpreter’s of Handel’s music. Named after the Mayfair street where George Frideric Handel lived, the band has released 6 highly acclaimed CDs and performs regularly at the Wigmore Hall and across the UK and Europe.

Contact or call 020 8882 8825 for more details