Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
Just back from the gig in Cambridge. Arrived exhausted and feeling rather dark after a couple of hard days, to find very comforting words in an email from Andrew (thank you!), and a Diary entry from RF that makes me glad to be alive, and intensely grateful for his music and his thought.
Then, I go downstairs to the kitchen, turn on Radio 3 to catch the tail end of Late Junction, the programme that often plays DGM releases and lots of other interesting music, and what should be playing but "Sometimes God hides", from The Gates of Paradise, followed at midnight, to end the programme, by "Midnight Blue".
Strange and wonderful.
Apropos of various recent Diary entries by various DGM artists, especially Robert Frippís of 1 August, I quote from Martin Williamsís LP sleeve note to Ornette Colemanís 1959 release, The Shape of Jazz to Come, to which Iíve been listening for the last couple of days:
It is probably impossible for Ornette Coleman to discuss music without sooner or later using the word love and he has said, with the innate modesty with which he seems to say everything, "Music is for our feelings. I think jazz should try to express more kinds of feelings than it has up to now." He knows well, then, the source and reason for his music. He also knows that he does not "own" it himself, nor "invent" it, but is responsible to something given to him. As is so necessary with an innovator in the beginning, he is not afraid to play whatever his Muse tells him to play: "I donít know how itís going to sound before I play it any more than anybody else does, so how can we talk about it before I play it."
What he has done is, like all valid innovations, basically simple, authentic, and inevitable--but we see that only once someone of a sublime stubborness like Colemanís does it. . . .
I would only suggest that the courage to play what the Muse tells one to play is not just a necessity at the beginning, it remains always a necessity if a musicianís music is to remain "true" or "authentic".
These considerations hint at why RFís music has been both innovative and true for so many years, and why it remains so; why Andrew Keelingís recent premiere left him full of excitement and hope regarding his compositional voice; and why I needed to take up a long-extinct instrument fourteen years ago, and why I spend most of my time, energy and money occupied with trying to bring to life an old and powerful music.
Another fine rehearsal of new material with friends today. And, in the evening, correspondence with John Potter regarding a possible Virelai visit to York University to perform the "Renaissance Love Songs" cycle of new pieces. John had the excellent idea to invite the York University composition students to submit pieces for us to consider including in the cycle. We could then include some of them in the York concert. Iíve urged Andrew Keeling to consider putting this to his students as well. He seems to think itís a good idea. We also conversed about trying to find funding for the Keeling/Sinfield lute song, though I caught Andrew in the middle of shaving when I phoned him this morning.
Another good phone conversation with Zan, who is still teaching at Dartington, but will have three hours at home tomorrow, on her way to France with Fretwork. Her next three visits home will all be for less than 24 hours, alas. We look forward to some time together in September. Meanwhile, we make the most of what weíve got. Itís precious. Poor Zan is running low on reserves of energy by now, and will badly need some R and R when this busy time slows down. As always when sheís at Dartington, sheís had some good chats with the lovely Keith and Julie Tippett, whom she sees there every summer. I donít know them well myself, but Iím told theyíre delightful people, kept young and flexible by the continual questing that is an open-minded musicianís life.
And now, my eyes are falling shut. I think that means itís time to leave my desk for the day.
Sunday evening. Iíve had a productive day working on the new solo programme, which Iíll be taking to the USA and Canada in October/November and recording for DGM either at the end of this year or the beginning of next. Itís taking shape nicely. Itís hugely enjoyable to spend my day with a lute and a large book, choosing the material for what will be the next CD. Itís going to be my fourth solo CD, and Iím starting to get a feel for the way in which ideas become plans, plans become projects, and projects become CDs and concerts. I take satisfaction in the process by which a whim--a thought, an idea--is gradually transformed by stages into something concrete: a concert or a CD which distills into an hour of music everything which is meaningful to me.
Yesterday, Zan stopped by for a few hours on her way from the Dartington Summer School to the south of France where she has a concert tomorrow night.
After a week of not seeing each other, it was wonderful to have an afternoon together. We didnít stop talking; so much to catch up on! Sheís very tired, not surprisingly, and badly needs a break. After France, sheís off to make the next CD with Fretwork, and then sheís got another week of teaching at an early music summer school. And then more concerts. And so on it goes. But from about the 23rd of August onward, sheís got free time. Weíve got plans for countryside walks, lazy days at home, meals at our favourite establishments. . . . it all seems far away at the moment.
Back from Belgium, where I played in the Bruges Festival on Tuesday, and stayed with friends on Wednesday and Thursday, getting back late last night. Bruges wasnít easy--itís a huge church, too big for lute, really, which made the balance tricky. But itís a thrill to play to a large audience of which, one feels, a large proportion is genuinely interested in what you are doing.
Then, a couple of days at the home of a dear friend whom Iíve known for a third of my life--we spent some time catching up, and I tagged along on some outings with her and her three lovely children. Nice to stop working and do something entirely different for a couple of days.
Late last night, a long phone chat with Zan, who is in the throes (with Fretwork) of recording another album. Iím expecting her back this evening. Hooray! Tomorrow morning sheís off for a week of teaching. Iím planning to visit her at the Course.
And now, I need to finalise the choice of pieces for the next solo concert and CD programme! Exciting. The next project is something rather different from the last two. It consist of pieces from one particular English lute manuscript of the early seventeenth century. This manuscript includes some of the best and best-known English lute pieces of the time, and, as such, is an important snapshot or document of what someone deemed worth anthologizing at that particular moment.
JANE PICKERINGEíS LUTE BOOK
Quiet time; not a lot of external events to report. Keeping up with the emailing, practising Andrew Keelingís pieces for the Slovenian performance coming up, and preparing for the Antwerp concert as well. Thinking about, though not officially starting to practise, Jane Pickeringe. But at least the programme has a shape now, and is ready to be worked on. Itís an exciting moment in the birth of a programme.
Iím suffering from a summer cold--I think the travel, the short nights, the stress, etc., have finally caught up with me. So Iím trying to take it a little more slowly, and to shake this thing off.
Gail has sent me the itinerary for the US/Canada concerts in October/November, which Iíll post on the Tour Dates page very soon.
Iím re-entering the world of the living after a nasty cold had me pretty well knocked out for a few days. It was the result of a depleted immune system, itself the result of working too hard. Nothing like being forced to slow down a bit. Not a bad thing.
Still, though I didnít get far with the practice or the admin, I did manage on Tuesday to get down to where Zan was teaching all week, and to pay her a brief visit there. And then, on Wednesday, I went directly from there to a viol course in Oxfordshire, where I spent a day working with the participants on music for lute and viols, and giving a little lecture recital in the evening. Predictably, I wasnít much good on Thursday, but one noteable feature of that day was a telephone interview with The Independent newspaper about a concert that Catherine King and Charles Daniels and I will be giving at the South Bank on 9 September. Yesterday, a scramble to catch up with various bits and pieces, and today, a really good practice-day.
As always, it felt good to spend a few hours with the lute--it doesnít happen enough! Sometimes I feel as if the baby is getting thrown out with the bathwater. (Iím so busy being my manager, agent and bookkeeper that I donít often get around to playing music.) I think probably most self-employed musicians feel this: many will tell you that their working lives consist of 10% playing music (of which perhaps 1% is meaningful, the sort of musical experience that keeps you doing it rather than changing jobs), and 90% other activities. Are we all chasing that one percent? Seeking to increase it? Am I painting too bleak a picture? Would I rather be in another line of work? No way!
I see from Andrew Keelingís Diary that heís mastered the art of time travel. Whatís tomorrow like, Andrew? Actually, tomorrow Andrew is coming down to stay with us in sunny South London, and early the next morning heíll fly to Ljubljana with us, to the Radovljica Early Music Festival, where Virelai will premiere two of his pieces. Iím so glad he can be there with us!
After long silence, finally I resurface to the point of taking a few moments to write a diary entry. Since the last, the main events have been Virelaiís concert in Slovenia and the concert with Catherine Bott and friends in Antwerp, both of which were interesting, enjoyable and challenging concerts.
Slovenia was hot, and very beautiful. We played in a splendid intimate space in Radovljica Manor, premiering two new pieces by Andrew Keeling and one by Elizabeth Liddle--these are the first in Virelaiís new cycle entitled "Renaissance Love Songs". Andrewís pieces were: "With how sad steps, O Moon", a setting of the sonnet by Sir Philip Sidney, and "My lute awake: variations on a theme by Gail Gillispie". Both are very beautiful, and both show Andrewís melodic gift and his ability to write music that speaks to the deepest part of ourselves. The Liddle piece--three miniature Robert Herrick settings entitled "To Julia"--is very different, and also very effective. Itís in a style which is related to "minimalism" and also to an Arvo Pärt-like early music/new age music-influenced style. It consists of shifting patterns of hypnotic beauty, using a very limited melodic range, and resulting in a constantly varying sequence of tension and resolution, consonance and dissonance, not unlike renaissance counterpoint. We very much hope to record all these pieces one day.
It was a delight to have Andrew present for the premiere of his pieces; he was a great addition to the tour, and the audience loved having him there, as did we. I twisted his arm into playing the lute in the encore piece, which he did to great effect, and to the delight of the audience.
We were then taken out for dinner by the very hospitable head of the British Council in Slovenia.
Arrived home exhausted after a short night, and got straight down to preparing for Antwerp.
The next day, I was off on the Eurostar to Antwerp, where we played on the following day to a full house in the quite large but acoustically almost perfect St. Augustinuskerk. This, too, was a challenging concert, partly because the music is very refined and delicate (fifteenth-century English and French songs, mainly), and partly because it was an unfamiliar performance situation, with musicians I donít work with very often and a relatively small amount of rehearsal behind us. But what excellent musicians they are! It came together well.
Then dinner with my Belgian friends, who came to the show, and then, very early yesterday morning, the train back to London.
Today, Iíve been catching up with the most urgent stuff, and tomorrow Zan and I are taking two days of vacation. Yippee! Much needed!
Plans are well in had now for US/Canada tour in October/November--Iíll get the dates up on the Tour Dates page as soon as I can--and another in February/March 2000.
Spent much of the day rehearsing with Catherine King and Charles Daniels for our concert which will take place in the South Bank Centre on the evening of 9 September. Itís wonderful to come back again to the fabulous Airs de Cour.
Also did a load of photocopying and emailing and cutting and pasting and sticking and gluing and the like. The Jane Pickeringe solo programme is being assembled (literally) at the moment.
Exciting emails from Andrew Keeling regarding the Keeling/Sinfield commission, and from my mother, who just bought a house in the Hudson valley! Sheís moving up there after ten years in southern Maryland. I look forward to having another beautiful corner of the USA to visit. Speaking of visiting the USA, tomorrow Iíll send Dan the revised and detailed dates for the Oct/Nov US/Canada tour.
There is a definite feeling in the air that summer is drawing to a close and autumn is approaching. The days and especially the nights are getting cooler, and Iíve been feeling tired and a little unwell, which sometimes happens when things shift.
Zan and I had a lovely couple of days off together; great to catch up and to go out for walks and to laze! Weíre both at home at the moment, which is a welcome and very pleasant state of affairs. Thereís no replacement for having time together in person to talk things through and just to be.