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CD Review: Wayward And United

The members of Wayward Sisters are Anne Timberlake, Anna Steinhoff, Beth Wenstrom, and John Lenti.

 

Wayward Sisters: A Restless Heart
Beth Wenstrom, baroque violin; Anne Timberlake, recorders; Anna Steinhoff, baroque cello; John Lenti, theorbo and baroque guitar; with Paul Von Hoff, sackbut
Available at waywardsisters.com

By Benjamin Dunham

The name Wayward Sisters refers not only to the witches in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas but also to the peripatetic life-style of today’s early musicians — not that different from when the music was first composed.

It must have seemed natural to contextualize the group’s latest recording in terms of dispossession and displacement (ergo “wayward”). But the program includes pieces by composers whose dates stretch almost two centuries (1560-1750) and who settled mostly with success and stability in various countries throughout Europe, sometimes their own. Linking them all under the banner A Restless Heart might be a bit of a stretch.

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) had a long and productive career in Rome, and Johann Schop (c. 1590-1667) was a fixture in Hamburg. Italian violinist Nicola Matteis flourished in London from 1670, grew rich, and lived in a great house until reversals caused him to die in poverty after 1713. The multi-capital careers of two Francescos — Geminiani (1687-1762) and Corbetta (1615-1681) — seem to have been pulled along by fame and demand, not famine or despoliation.

J. S. Bach (1685-1750) moved around early in his career, but you get the feeling he might have stayed in Köthen making music for and with Prince Leopold for the rest of his life if the new mistress of the house hadn’t discouraged her husband’s musical interests.

The composer who most easily could be described in refugee terms is William Brade (1560-1630), but not as an object of sympathy. Born in England, Brade spent many years shuttling around in Germany and Denmark, hounded, it may be believed, by his reputation as “a wanton, mischievous fellow.” You wonder why some of these guys were rehired again and again (as they are today), despite their unsavory reputation. A well-wrought work like Brade’s “Choral with Variations,” performed on violin and theorbo, may be the only explanation available at this distance in time

So the real appeal of this CD is not its rationale but the music-making of Wayward Sisters, who, though scattered far afield when not playing together, are able to achieve an empathetic, even telepathic, collegiality when they do. Beth Wenstrom’s violin is both alert and expressive in her solos in the Sonata Quarta from the Sonatae Unarum Fidium by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (1620-1680), and recorderist Anne Timberlake deftly tongues her way through Schop’s Lachrimae Pavan (with its forlorn, sometimes halting, sometimes echoing passages, the only work that audibly hints at the pain of separation). Both players excel in their exchanges in Corelli’s Sonata da Camera a tre, Op. 2, No. 12, Sonata Decima Quarta by Giovanni Battista Fontana (c. 1589-1630), the Sonata Secunda by Biagio Marini (1594-1663), Geminiani’s The Broom of Cowdenknows, and the delightful slow-fast movements of Matteis’s Ground per Fa la Mano.

In addition to his graceful continuo playing on theorbo, John Lenti solos on Baroque guitar in Corbetta’s searching Caprice de chaconne. Anna Steinhoff’s cello glints in dark colors and light in the Fantasia a Basso Solo, No. 5, by Bartolome de Selma y Salaverde (fl. 1613-1638) and provides a solid but flexible underpinning throughout the program.

The two Bach pieces on the program are the organ choral preludes BWV 684, “Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam,” and BWV 721 “Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott,” arranged by Lenti to fit the four instrumentalists. Paul Von Hoff, sackbut, joins the group to play the pedal chorale melody of the lively BWV 684.

A Restless Heart is an attractive collection of original music and arrangements played by a wonderfully talented group. Scratch the surface and you will be pleased to find not an argument about separation and alienation but rather a fairly typical early-music concert of “favorites,” using instruments and techniques chosen simply to show the music and the members of group to advantage.

Which indeed they do.

Formerly editor of American Recorder and Early Music America magazines, Benjamin Dunham has reviewed for Musical America, The Washington Post, and Gatehouse Media.

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K-State Recorder Workshop

As part of Early Music Month and Play the Recorder Month,  the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance at Kansas State University will host the 2nd annual K-State Recorder Workshop for student and professional music educators, recorder players and enthusiasts, early music fans, and more. The date and location of of this year’s Workshop is Saturday, March 30, 2018, 9:00am-4:00pm in Room 105 of McCain Auditorium (1501 Goldstein Circle, Manhattan, KS).

The Workshop is open to anyone 13 years or older. Previous recorder experience is beneficial, but not required. Participants must provide their own instrument.

Register here: https://goo.gl/forms/yw52PEqTEFA8B9EJ3

Registration deadline is Friday, March 22, 2019
Registration fees must be received by Tuesday, March 26, 2019
There will be no registration or payment accepted on-site at this year’s Workshop.

Registration Fee:
Registration is FREE for all students of Kansas State University enrolled for the Spring 2018 semester along with non-student members of the K-State Collegium Musicum.

Registration fee for all others:
$35 if received by December 31, 2018
$45 if received after December 31, 2018

Checks made out to “Kansas State University” should be mailed along with the response receipt from this form to:
K-State Recorder Workshop c/o David Wood
1501 Goldstein Circle
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506

Cash payment of registration fees is possible by visiting the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance Office in Room 109 of McCain Auditorium, Monday-Friday, 9am-12pm or 1-5pm. Payment by credit card is not available.

About the 2019 Workshop:
After great feedback from last year, we will offer two separate technique tracks during the morning – one for Beginner to Advanced Beginner players and a second for Intermediate to Advanced players. The afternoon session will focus on large-group playing for all workshop participants. You may refer to the Berlin/Blaker Self-Rating chart (http://tibiaduo.com/wp-content/pdf/self_rating.pdf) if you have any doubt about the level of your playing ability.

Clinician:
Anne Timberlake (annetimberlake.com) has appeared across the United States performing repertoire from Bach to twenty-first-century premieres to Celtic tunes and holds degrees in recorder performance from Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University. She has coached through Indiana University’s Pre-College Recorder Program and at the Amherst Early Music Festival, the San Francisco Early Music Society, the Virginia Baroque Performance Institute, Mountain Collegium, Columbia Gorge Early Music Retreat, and numerous other workshops along with American Recorder Society chapters. She maintains a private studio out of St. Louis, MO, where she also leads a large-group playing session through the local chapter of the American Recorder Society.

 

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Use What You Have

Photo credit: Marin Currie

Photo credit: Marin Currie

 

Second in our series of guest articles marking Early Music Month

By Anne Timberlake

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can

    — Arthur Ashe

I have this quote taped to the door of my studio. That’s out of character, because inspirational quotes — Dream big! Reach for the stars! — make me itchy. Often they represent endpoints, telling you where to go without telling you how to get there. And an endpoint with no plan is the opposite of good teaching — and good learning.

But Ashe’s quote is different. In three sentences, Ashe assures us that everyone can learn and everyone can grow — every single one of us, without exception — and what’s more, he tells you how to do it.

Each of the quote’s three sentences is worth mulling, but lately it’s that middle one I keep coming back to.

Use what you have

As teachers, we frequently focus on pinpointing weaknesses. We figure our job is to assess what’s going wrong and why, and determine what a student needs to do to fix it. Do you need less tension in your fingers? More knowledge of the uses of different tonguing patterns? Better thumb technique?

This focus on need can be valuable, but it sometimes overwhelms what could, and should, be an equally detailed assessment of strength.

A strengths-based approach to teaching and learning pays multiple dividends.

First, a focus on strengths invites students to nurture areas in which they are already strong, rather than simply shoring up areas in which they are weak. Just because something is an area of strength does not mean it could not be further developed — and turned into an even greater asset.

As a player, I’ve spent many years trying to shore up my musical weaknesses. I worked, and continue to work, on my rhythmic precision, my reading, my harmonic understanding.

This was, and is, valuable work. But I wish it hadn’t taken me as long as it did to focus on improving my shaping, one of my areas of relative strength. Just because I was already strong didn’t mean I didn’t have room to grow.

Second, a focus on strengths allows us to harness what we — and our students — do well to help us learn more efficiently and effectively. Each student’s strengths are individual, as are each student’s weaknesses, and finding a way to apply strength to weakness can be magical.

Here are some examples:

Student A, a professional musician transitioning to the recorder, was struggling with overblowing. Student A had an excellent ear and the ability to adjust his blowing to match pitch. We developed a practice plan involving matching pitch with a tuner to help A accustom himself to the recorder’s optimal airflow.

Student B, a five-year-old girl learning recorder for the first time, was struggling with hand position and did not enjoy having her positioning corrected. B was highly articulate and eager to communicate her knowledge. We spent several weeks having B “be the teacher,” instructing me and her mother in the proper way to hold a recorder, improving her own positioning in the process.

Student C was not a natural improviser, and ornamentation was initially daunting. But C was extremely hardworking and ferociously organized. Together, C and I developed a set of “rules” for ornamentation and outlined a step-by-step process, allowing her to use her strengths in task analysis and process implementation to work toward successfully going off-book.

What strengths do you and your students have? How have you recently accessed your strengths, or helped someone to use what they have?

Find this article and more of Anne Timberlake’s writing on her blog.

Recorder player and teacher Anne Timberlake has appeared across the United States performing repertoire from Bach to 21st-century premieres to Celtic tunes. She is a founding member of the ensemble Wayward Sisters, specializing in music of the early Baroque. In addition to teaching private, group and online recorder lessons, Anne has coached through Indiana University’s Pre-College Recorder Program, the San Francisco Early Music Society, the Amherst Early Music Festival, Virginia Baroque Performance Institute, Mountain Collegium, and for numerous ARS chapters. Anne currently resides in St. Louis, MO. 

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