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Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
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Jacob Heringman's DGM Diary Archive

February 2000


Zan is back from Estonia; all is well. Our house is full of guests: the members of the Newberry Consort from Chicago. Weíre deep in rehearsals for Fridayís concert in the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre in London. Weíre also taking time out to cook some nice meals, and to catch up on each othersí lives. Today we went to Broadcasting House and put in an appearance on "In Tune", on BBC Radio 3, to advertise our concert. We performed three pieces from the programme live in the studio, and were asked various questions by the affable host. Then back to South London for a late-evening rehearsal. And now, exhausted, to bed. Not sleeping well for some reason. This happens sometimes. I have a feeling itís when I donít take time for myself during the day (even if itís just half an hour) to walk or lie down or read or do something that allows me time to think and process. The thinking and processing has to happen some time, and when the days are completely full, the insomnia comes along. You might say itís the body insisting that I take some quiet (waking) time to think. So I welcome the insomnia (as long as it doesnít happen too often), and try to use it constructively--meditating time.


Itís suddenly quiet in the house. The Newberry Consort (the members of which have all been staying in our house this week) gave its Purcell Room concert last night, which went very well. And now the members have dispersed. Dave and Ellen have gone to a hotel in central London for the weekend to have a little break before they return to Boston, and Mary has gone out to visit Jane in Devon (Jane being Susannaís viol-maker, and a close friend of ours--in fact, we were married in her garden). Mary will pass through once more on her way back to Chicago. Itís great fun looking after a houseful of people, but very tiring.

Enjoyable concert. The audience was warm and friendly, exceptionally so for a British classical audience. I think this was largely due to the personable and informal atmosphere that Mary created. The audience really made us feel welcome. And itís always a thrill to play in a concert with my wife. The lineup was: voice, lute, fiddle and viols. I actually played both lute and viol, which was a treat. I donít get to play much viol these days, and itís such a fantastic consort instrument. Five viols playing William Byrd together--hard to beat.

This morning, finally a break--bruch at Sizzlerís Cafe down the road with the Saturday papers. Zan and I are recharging the batteries by having some vital time alone together, which is pretty rare. Iíve also gone back to work on learning the lute pieces for the Italian madrigal record Iím doing in the middle of February.

Email from Hugh with a mock-up of the inlay for the Josquin CD. Looks fab! A lute photo which I took, and the track list superimposed on it.


Immersed in the wonderful madrigals of Verdelot, 22 of which Iíll be recording with Catherine, Charles and two other singers for Linn next week. I love putting together programs to record or perform, especially when itís wonderful music that otherwise virtually never gets a hearing.

Also today, received first sketch of Andrew Keelingís new piece for Virelai (voice, renaissance flute, lute and viol)--itís part of a song-cycle Iíve "commissioned" from a few composer/friends. (I put commissioned in quotation marks because the composers have all kindly agreed to do it for nothing. Meanwhile, Iím trying to find some funding.) The pieces are all 3-6 minutes long, they are all settings of renaissance love poetry, and all are for Virelai. In other respects the cycle is random, as the composers are not collaborating, but rather, producing these pieces independently of one another. Itíll be interesting to see what comes out! It can be a growing cycle, the more composers I can interest--a bit like a book of short stories by different authors but all on related themes. Andrewís piece looks promising. It's a setting of the famous Sidney sonnet "With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies". Canít wait to hear it.

Photo session the other night for Early Music Today. Theyíre doing their cover story in the next issue on me and my Josquin project. Thatís great publicity both for me and for DGM. Perhaps if one of these pictures turns out nicely Iíll post it on my bio page to replace the somewhat outdated one currently there.


Sunday morning, quiet and sunny in South London. Jane was up from Devon and we had a bit of a feast last night. So settling down to practise this morning feels difficult. The body and mind crave a day off. But thereís much music to learn by Wednesday, and very little time to do it. After Saturday, I wonít be working for more than a month, so the body and mind will just have to wait a week for some time off.

Preparations underway for our (delayed) honeymoon trip to the US. We leave on 29 February, and return on 1 April! This has been planned for more than a year now. It had to be, since itís quite complicated for two free-lance musicians to take that much time off. Neither of us can remember the last time we stopped work for so long. Weíre both looking forward to it very much.

Was interviewed on Thursday for the cover article in the next Early Music Today. The article is specifically about my Josquin CD for DGM which will be released in the coming months. Luckily, the interviewer, Andrew Stewart, is an intelligent and interesting person with a special interest in the subject of lute intabulations, so we had a fascinating two-way conversation, rather than the somewhat one-way exchange that usually constitutes an interview. Andrew was also very interested in DGM and its approach to the recording business.


Mad preparation for concert in Dorchester with Catherine tomorrow followed by three days of recording with Catherine and Charles back at Toddington on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (the wonderful place where I recorded the forthcoming DGM Josquin album and many other things too). But--disaster strikes! Catherine has a cold. The singerís worst nightmare just before a concert or a recording. Big question: will she be ok by tomorrow, or does it all get postponed? Sheís a great professional, and she finds ways to sing even with a cold, and, in fact, it neednít even show in her voice. But this is only possible if itís a bit better by tomorrow, and if the cough lifts. Help! Poor Catherine. Iíd hate to be in that position--singers are very vulnerable. So all will become clear tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Iíve been working very hard on the material for this record. I think itís going to be good. Itís another one of those situations in which a programme of really wonderful but rather neglected music has been concocted by yours truly, and Iím always a bit apprehensive when itís my "baby". Apprehensive--but also excited and optimistic. Itís what I love to do.

Planning to talk this evening to a friend at the Arts Council of Great Britain about my scheme to get a song-cycle of new music for my group Virelai together. Four composers have already agreed to write a piece each for our combination (alto voice, renaissance flute, lute and viol)--Andrew Keelingís "Sad steps" is one of them. All composers have been given the same brief: to write a 3-6-minute song for our combination, setting a renaissance love poem of their choice. (Hence Andrewís choice of Sir Philip Sidney.) The use of a renaissance text does two things: 1) it ties all the pieces together, providing a sort of theme for this otherwise disparate song-cycle; and 2) it links this new music with the past--with the period from which our instruments come.

For me this cycle is exciting for lots of reasons: 1) it can grow to almost any size, and be added to over time, as more composers get interested; 2)I like the idea of a collaborative cycle in which the contributions are made by lots of different composers from different traditions--there will be an accidental quality to the finished product, as well as a theme; 3) and Iím very keen on the idea of having new music for our old instruments--while I believe strongly that the old music has contemporary relevance (readers of this Diary will have seen me arguing this point frequentlly), a body of new music in addition to the old helps to make the lute a contemporary instrument.


Back from the front line. Last time I wrote, I was just about to head off for four days of intensive work. All well, Iím glad to report. Concert in Dorset County Museum (a great little venue, by the way) a success. A very enthusiastic and friendly audience. And I got to meet Catherineís 90-year-old grandmother. It was worth it just for that.

I donít usually like to do this, but I played four different instruments in this concert. (Big lute, little lute, vihuela, renaissance guitar.) Normally, I like to play one or two at most, but it seemed somehow appropriate to give this audience a mixed-bag programme, so really they got four ultra-short concerts for the price of one. We began with a section of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Spanish pieces for voice and vihuela and for voice and guitar, with vihuela and guitar solos. Then we travelled to mid-sixteenth-century France for a section of songs for voice and lute and for voice and guitar, plus solos from me. Then, after the break, a short trip to Venice in 1536, for madrigals by Verdelot, for voice and lute and solo lute. Finally, a slightly more familiar repertoire for English audiences: songs from Elizabethan England by Dowland and Campion. Itís all fabulous music, and more or less irresistible once youíve heard it.

I always used to resist the idea of putting together concerts which include lots of different repertoires, always preferring to stick to more monothematic programmes that can go into a little more depth. And my programmes have generally been regarded as successful. But this one seemed to work, and Iíve realised that the way to make it work is simply to abandon the idea of a "unified" concer t altogether, and think of it and present it instead as four short programmes, each one unified, but separate. Then it becomes like going to the cinema and seeing four excellent short films which arenít connected overtly but which seem to shed light on each other in some way. The drawback is that itís stressful and not easy to play so many different instruments in one evening, not to mention carting them around. But Iíve now been convinced that, occasionally, it can be a good idea.

Then three days of recording for Linn. This was the programme of Verdelot 1533 madrigals, some performed by four (wonderful) singers in their original form, some performed in the the Willaert 1536 lute song arrangements, and some performed as solo lute arrangements by composers of the time. It was very very hard work, and I came out of it physically and mentally exhausted. But I think itís going to be a lovely record, and Philip Hobbs, the wonderful Linn Records man, is happy. We were recorded using new technology, and this disc will be available from Linn both as a CD and as an SACD. Another of my dreams has been realised in the recording of this record--itís a project Iíve wanted to do for some time, and Iím delighted that the other artists and the record company came together to make it happen. Watch this space!

After that, a quiet day in Leicester with Zan, visiting her parents, and today a day off to recuperate. Heaven!

47 emails awaited us on our return. Several of which are splendid pdf files from Hugh showing the current state of the Josquin booklet. Itís great! Iím very happy with what Hughís done. Heís combined my photos and Ade Hunterís with simply presented text, and the result is elegant and visually arresting. I look forward to seeing the current incarnation of the front cover and the CD itself.


Thatís better! Nothing like a couple of quiet days at home to catch up with oneself. Iím busily doing as much as I can before Zan and I disappear for the entire month of March for our long-awaited honeymoon. I donít think Iíve ever taken a month off (voluntarily) before, and thereís a surprising amount to organise. This is a trip that we planned over a year ago, and it involves traveling all over the USA and a little bit of Canada, partly as tourists, and partly to see my mother and my siblings in their various corners of the USA. Readers of this Diary may not be hearing much from me for awhile during March.

Plans are afoot for a bit of lute touring in the USA in May/June: so far, fairly definite concerts planned in Bloomington, Indiana (Bloomington Early Music Festival), 27 May (Iíll try to provide a link to their website when I have it), Chicago (venue not yet decided) shortly thereafter, and Berkeley, CA around 8 or 9 June. Iíll try to put these dates on the Tour Dates page as soon as I have more information. These concerts will be mainly of Josquin des Prez, and can therefore serve as launch concerts for my new DGM Josquin CD, which Iíll certainly have copies of by then, although the official release date may not be until slightly later. There will be more US concerts in the future--Gail is meeting with some success in her sterling efforts to interest American concert promoters in this obscure UK-based lutenist.

Very heartened by some new and extremely favourable reviews of black cow, one in Renaissance Magazine, and one in the all-new International Record Review, due out on 1 March.

Itís an exciting time for me because Iím getting more press than Iíve ever had, including, noteably, the cover story in the next issue of Early Music Today. Maybe work is picking up. Thereís nothing really more satisfying, challenging and rewarding than doing solo concerts: for one thing, you learn a lot about yourself and your abilities; for another, you have the privilege and the responsibility of communicating directly with people who have come along specifically to hear you. I used to hear a lot about presentation and how performers should learn to present themselves well. But Iíve gradually learned that, for me, the key is not to "put on" a face or a manner or anything else, but simply to be myself with the audience. Itís the best way (for me). Who am I? In this context, Iím someone who loves the music deeply, and who loves people, and who loves to communicate with people through performance. Communicate what? A love of this music. What else? The sense of peace and tranquility that is so often to be found in this music. Anything else? Perhaps a little bit of insight into another world.

Meanwhile, Iíve copied Andrewís "Sad Steps" for all the members of Virelai, and weíll start rehearsing it in April. Itís going to be premiered in Radovljica (Slovenia) in August.


The countdown to our big trip is underway.

Spent much of yesterday filling in forms to enable Virelai to avoid double taxation when we perform in Germany in April. No one told me that this is what musicians do with most of their time! You wouldnít think it! Weíre going to the old opera house in Frankfurt on 16 April to give a concert of Parisian chansons and dances. Itís a programme weíve done before, and one weíve recorded for Virgin (the record is called Chansons Nouvelles). Itíll take about two hours, and, we hope, be a musically rewarding experience for all concerned. Who in the audience could possibly guess at the hours spent on extramusical matters connected with this concert? Thereís Malcolm Bruno, who got us the concert, acting as our agent. Thereís the time spent negotiating about our fee, and whether they can pay for an extra seat on the plane for Susannaís bass viol (as baggage handlers cannot be trusted with musical instruments). Thereís the correspondence back and forth between myself and the venue in Germany on the finer points of the programme and the songs-texts and translations. And then thereís the letter that each member of the group has to send to their local tax office asking for certification that we are who we say we are and that we are UK taxpayers. This certification then goes to the German tax authorities, along with a form weíve all had to fill in claiming exemption from German tax, and if they approve it, we wonít have tax deducted from our fees. This means that weíll only have to pay tax once on the fees, instead of having to pay double tax and getting half of it refunded about two years later if weíre lucky. So the hours tick away while I fill out forms I donít understand. And I curse fate for making me spend my time this way. And so it often goes.

And then the day of the concert comes. And the concert is a rewarding musical experience (sometimes). And Iím reminded how lucky I am to be in this profession. All the paperwork is worthwhile because Iím allowed to commune with an audience and play the music that I love with friends and colleagues whom I respect. I donít think Iíd trade this for anything.

Bloomington is looking like itís going to happen on 28 May in the afternoon. Thank you to Jim, who says in the Guestbook that heíll come to my recital in Berkeley, and that he enjoys black cow. I hope to say hello to you in Berkeley in June.

Hugh the brilliant has sent me a mockup of the Josquin des Prez CD booklet and cover and inlay. I think it may be the most beautiful CD artwork Iíve ever seen! Thank you Hugh. And thank you Adrian Hunter for the wonderful photos on the front and back of the booklet, and on page 1 of the booklet. My lutographic close-ups donít look bad either.

Our thoughts have been with Andrew Keeling and his family yesterday and today.




Continuing the process of preparing to go away for a month. Iím winning the battle with the piles of administrative work, and the end is in sight. But the job is never finished, because, really, when Iím finished catching up with all the immediate and urgent things, I should be getting on the phone and trying to interest promoters in concerts from me for next season and the season thereafter. But usually I simply run out of time for active promotion, and end up with the work that is offered to me rather than work Iíve actively sought out. One of my aims is to try to shift my focus somehow to make a little more time for active determination of my own future as a performer. Joining up with DGM has been an important step in this direction.

A pupil turned up unexpectedly at 11.00 for his lute lesson, which I thought was supposed to be tomorrow at 11.00. Luckily I was at home!

Iím off in a little while to Karen Wentworth for an Alexander Technique lesson. Iíve been having Alexander lessons for about five years now, and itís affected my life profoundly, as well as transforming my playing. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to become more integrated, less habit-driven, and, perhaps above all, more comfortable in their own body. Karen is a fabulous teacher, who also teachers aspiring Alexander teachers at the school which she founded recently for the purpose. Karen is one of those people who seems to know absolutely everybody. Surprising numbers pass through her doors. A peculiar fact about Karen is that she has taught (at least) two other DGM artists--in both cases this was before DGM existed. Small world!

Cover art for Josquin des Prez nearing completion.


Received first edit of record made in January with Musica Antiqua of London. It includes--more Josquin!! Some nice things. Itíll be out at the end of February, I think, on the Signum label.

To my delight, Matt Seattle is considering contributing a piece to my projected cycle of songs for Virelai setting renaissance love poetry to music.

This is my farewell to the Diary, for awhile. Weíre off in the morning for a month. Iíll certainly check into the Guestbook and Diary occasionally while Iím on the road, and Iím sure Iíll submit the odd Diary entry occasionally, though almost certainly less frequently than of late.

So, for the moment, I wish all readers a peaceful and happy month of March.


A quick PS to todayís earlier entry

Hugh came to see us here in South London this evening, and we had an excellent session finalising the front and back covers of the Josquin CD. So dedicated is Hugh that he makes house calls! Heís also taken away a lute of mine to try some experimental imaging.

It was also a great excuse to have some food and organic red wine in good company, and to give him a key so he can come and hang out here while weíre away, should he suddenly desire a weekend in London.

And now, Hugh having left half an hour ago, and last-minute emailing completed, to bed.