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

October 1999


London, Wednesday, 13 October 1999, 22.24

Exactly two weeks and a lot of airmiles since last diary entry. Couldnít possibly fill in all of the missing information, so sketchy summaries will have to suffice. Itís a very very busy time and thereís hardly a moment to catch up with myself let alone with this diary. Ukraine was, as predicted, exhausting, but it was also fascinating and exhilarating. The Ukrainians donít get out of their country much (getting a visa is difficult, and paying for travel abroad on what the Ukrainians earn, next to impossible), and theyíve had a complicated and difficult history of occupation and oppression. Since 1991, theyíve been a struggling republic, and people are speaking Ukrainian more again (alongside Russian). Thereís definitely a sense of insularity; our audiences had never heard or seen a lute and rarely if ever heard sixteenth- or seventeenth-century English song. In both concerts (Kharkiv and Kyiv) they were attentive and fascinated as well as warm and friendly. They were also insanely eager to get their programmes autographed by us. Lots of radio and television interviews, etc. All the stuff that goes with being a novelty. But the concerts were rewarding due to the genuine keenness of the audiences. And our host, Valentine Boinitsky of the British Council, was the perfect guide: a gifted linguist and translator, and an unobtrusive but sure manager of our affairs while we were there. We wouldnít have got far without him, partly due to the language barrier and partly due to arcane customs rituals and suchlike. He also gave us a damn good time--on our free day we went with his friends to the woods for a traditional Ukrainian "shashlik" (or skewered-meat experience). They gathered the wood, built a wood fire, skewered the meat (which they had earlier marinated in "kefir" and other wonderful substances and subsequently carried with us to the woods in an ancient bus), and got out all the trimmings: salads, very sweet Moldovan red wine, the beloved "sala" (which as far as I can tell is pure salted pork fat, eaten along with onion or some other strong thing), and of course the vodka with a chilli-pepper in the bottom of it which warms the extremities in new and interesting ways. having warmed everything in its path thoroughly on the way to said extremities. Not that we needed warming--the temperature was in the 80ís! We were very hungry, and this was the tastiest meal Iíve had in a very long time, partly because of the wonderful food, but partly because of the setting and the delightful company.

Then briefly back home, and off to Mallorca with Susanna, to do our first duo concert ever, and our first concert together since we were married in June. It was a memorable occasion because we premiered Andrew Keelingís duo, written in May of this year as a wedding present to us. The piece has deep meaning for us, and it was great to premiere it on that occasion. Itíll turn up on Andrewís DGM release next year, I believe. Keep an eye on Andrewís diary for more on that subject. In Mallorca we stayed with our good friend Tomeu Quetgles who runs two concert series out there. Heís a professor at the university, and born and raised in a beautiful Mallorcan village where we stayed. Heís a lover of his country and of his Catalan language and culture.

Then plane to London, and straight to Barbican, to play some sixteenth-century lute pieces in Opus 20ís CD launch concert. Fantastic to be part of that event for all sorts of reasons: there was some fabulous playing from the other musicians present; it was fascinating to play my music after about 50 minutes of listening to contemporary "classical" music: in that unusual context, the sixteenth-century lute music stands up rather well, I think, but that context makes me hear it a little differently. Interesting. Also, it was great to meet one or two people Iíd always wanted to meet, including Cathy Stevens, violist extraordinaire, who premiered yet another Keeling creation with Stephen Wray: "Off the beaten track". The audience was nice and many people said kind things to me afterwards. And itís always good to see Robert, and to play the lute to him. (He was in the front row, and the audience member physically nearest me.) I think that his musicianship has influenced me over the years, despite the fact that we SEEM to be in utterly different fields, and his warm and friendly presence seemed a very positive thing as I was performing. Actually, weíre in the same field: music. Itís a broad field, but I believe that musicians of all kinds have a very great deal in common, aside from their many and obvious differences. The other interesting thing about placing the lute next to the louder modern instruments is the revelation that audiences will tune in to the softer sounds if they are given a chance. I remarked to them that lute music (not really composed originally for concert halls per se) needs to be met halfway by the audience. It requires active listening. It rewards active listening. (Actually, what good music doesnít?) After making these remarks, I could feel them tuning in--it was a nearly physical sensation. You could have heard a pin drop. They were really taking part in the performance!

Now, faced with a daunting pile of admin (this always happens when Iím busy touring--it builds up), Iíve got my work at home cut out. Among the many papers is a German review of Black Cow which is very kind--the reviewer says I was brave to record unknown and notoriously difficult music when I could have recorded the more usual fare. Luckily he likes the playing too. I would say this: Iím not interested in recording music thatís been recorded many times when thereís so much really good lute music (as good as the best music of any time or place) that remains neglected and untouched. Thatís what interests me at the moment. I may sell fewer discs, but playing the lute was not a commercial decision, nor is choosing my repertoire. Ultimately I do it for personal satisfaction. Of course thereís also a desire to show the world this wonderful music that the world wouldnít otherwise hear. But thatís secondary. And yes, Iíd like to sell lots of discs and make some money. But you make your choices. Mine is to do what I do as best I possibly can, and hope (but not demand) that the world approves.


London, Thursday, 21 October 1999, 14.50

Iím home at last, and resting after a very long and pretty much uninterrupted period of travel and concerts and recordings. Itís good to be busy. But itís also very very good to stop for a little while. This is day two of ten days of more or less unprogrammed time at home, before I go off on my travels again. My first priority is to rest, as my energy levels are depleted. Second priority: to catch up on all the administrative stuff that piles up when one is away for a long period. Third priority: to try to line up some work for next year. Iím not optimistic about getting around to this last thing. It may have to wait until my next free period. It takes a lot of time and energy to try to be oneís own agent and to try to sell oneself to concert promoters. I must admit itís my least favourite occupation, and Iím very good at putting it off. But Iíd love to line up a few solo recitals to coincide with the release of the Josquin Desprez CD which will happen presumably in the spring. (Must talk to David and Diane about schedule of releases.)

Today something very exciting has happened: Adrian Hunter (my producer/engineer for the Josquin) has sent me the first edit of the new disc. Itís a DAT tape of the pieces in the order we recorded them (rather than in the final order in which they will appear), which I must now listen to carefully in order to assemble any corrections for Ade. Then Iíll go up to his pad in Oxfordshire in the second half of November and look over his shoulder while he corrects it and masters it. Then, by the end of November, I should have a master copy of the new CD to hand over to the DGM team. Reactions after first listen through the tape: great excitement! Beautiful sound (my favourite recording venue, St. Andrewís Church in Toddington, Gloucestershire, and three lovely and contrasting instruments: a big lute, a small lute and a vihuela). Powerful and stunning music. My best playing to date. Making solo records has caused me to progress a lot as a player; with each disc, the playing seems to become more fluid. The first one, of music by Antony Holborne (on the ASV label) has some nice moments, I think; Black Cow is something Iím still quite proud of; Josquin Desprez is, I think, even better. That feeling of moving forward and progressing and improving as a musician is really what keeps me going and motivates me.

Iím also feeling strongly that I must do my very best (with the help of DGM and the distributors and publicist of course) to make sure that this disc is noticed by "the world". Josquin is a sublime and wonderful composer, whose vocal music is relatively popular with record-buyers at the moment. This is the first disc ever to look at the sixteenth-century lute settings of Josquin, strange though that may seem given the quality of the music. I believe in the result--itís a statement which Iím happy to make to "the world". I think (ignoring my bias as best I can) that this is an important release, and I hope that the "classical" market recognises it as such. But all I can do is send it into the world and do my best to promote it. Ultimately its success or failure is out of my hands.

Looking back at the days since the last diary entry:

14 October: a day of teaching

15 October: rehearse with Dufay Collective

16 October: travel to Edinburgh and perform (at St. Ceciliaís Hall) with DC. Pretty good concert, though perhaps a little too long. Good audience reception. Wonderful hospitality from a member of the music society there who put us up for the night in stunning Georgian flat.

17 October: wander around Edinburgh with Susanna, and scale Arthurís Seat at high speed to get our hearts pumping. Later, travel to York and spend the night with old friends there.

18 October: travel York to Huddersfield to do concert there (St. Paulís Hall) with Rose Consort of Viols (with whom I made 4 CDs in the past, and through whom I first came to work together with Zan, who was to become my wife). Pleased with concert. Great fun to play this repertoire (Holborne dances with five viols and lute and cittern; lute solos by Holborne--nice to come back to them, having not played them since I made the Holborne record). Stay night with friends in Leeds.

19 October: teaching day in Leeds, and return home.

20 October: what luxury! stay in bed most of day reading Bill Brysonís "Mother Tongue"--a fascinating book about the English language. Stumble out of bed long enough to do a few chores around the house and begin to catch up with the urgent messages and emails.

Today, 21 October: listen to first edit of Josquin, read Diary entries by fellow DGMites. Fascinating to read about the lives of other musicians. Bill Nelson and Robert McFall Iíve not yet met, but I know the others personally and have worked with them a little bit; the diary is a nice way to keep up with what everyoneís up to. Best wishes to Matt--I hope that heíll soon be feeling better. And to Robert McF, if he doesnít mind these words from a stranger, Iím thinking of you during your time of change.


Saturday, 30 October 1999 15.59 London

It's windy and raining; tonight the clocks go back an hour. Tomorrow I'm off to Chicago for two more concerts with the Newberry Consort; but first to St. Louis for a two-day visit with my brother in Columbia, Missouri. Noah is a professor of English at the University of Missouri, and he specialises in Romantic poetry. He's also a musician and a great fan of all kinds of music. He devours the early live Crim records that I keep getting for him. Luckily for me, he's a fan of my lute music too.

Since my last Diary entry, life has been quiet and uneventful, for a change. It took me ages to shake this cold, which is nearly gone now, and I can't say that I've got a lot done in my ten days at home. Too tired from crazy schedule preceding. Needed to stop and do nothing for awhile. So most things will just have to wait.

I'm typing this on Susanna's ancient computer, since mine has gone back to the manufacturer with irreparable hard disc damage. It's died, more or less. It might have been a virus. Files were disappearing mysteriously, and other strange things were happening. If it's not economical to repair, am seriously thinking of going over to PC from Mac so that Susanna and I are on the same system (makes more sense) and can share our computers more effectively. Haven't been able to read the Diary for a few days, so am slightly out of it.

House full of people for a few days, as friends in the instrument-making business descend on London for the annual Early Music Exhibition where instrument- and string- and case-makers and music publishers show their wares.

And now, to prepare for the journey. . . .