Sat 20 Oct, 11am - 6.30pm, Friends' Meeting House
Sun 21 Oct, 10am - 6pm, Ralli Hall


This two-day international conference is aimed at the interested general public as well as academics, students and professional and amateur performers.
A range of talks, discussions, practical workshops, masterclasses and short performances will cover many aspects of a vivid and historically informed approach to singing renaissance and early baroque music.

Conference details

  • Two day conference run by NEMA and BREMF
  • Saturday 20 October Friends’ Meeting House, Ship Street BN1 1AF
  • Sunday 21 October Ralli Hall, 81 Denmark Villas, Hove BN3 3TH
  • Tickets available for whole conference or single day
  • Conference dinner Saturday evening: The Old Ship Hotel, King's Road, BN1 1NR
  • Download brief biographies of the presenters
  • For further details visit NEMA

Downoad music for vocal workshop 4.40pm Sunday (‘With devotion and passion’) - right click on links to download
Josquin: Tu solus  pdf of score  midi file Byrd: Ne irascaris pdf of score midi file Palestrina: Tribilationes (original key, 2pp only)  pdf of score
Palestrina: Tribilationes (original key for nuns)  pdf of score Palestrina: Tribilationes (down tone)  pdf of score Palestrina: Tribilationes (down 4th)  pdf of score
Saturday 20 Oct: Friends’ Meeting House
Chair: Flora Dennis
Coffee from 10.30am as delegates arrive


11am Francis Knights, Deborah Roberts & Flora Dennis
Introduction and welcome
Anthony Rooley with Evelyn Tubb soprano and Michael Fields lute
The creative use of silence in the music of English composers c.1600 - especially Dowland and Ward
This talk explores (with carefully chosen recorded examples) the fundamental relationship of Sound and Silence in performance, and underlines the fact (which I have experienced throughout my life as a performer) that
'All Sound Arise from and Returns to Silence', and that this was underlying the music of England around 1600. It draws on a refined awareness they had of NeoPlatonic Philosophy, transmitted from Italy (first Marsilio Ficino a 100 years before, then into Dowland's generation with Giordano Bruno). Of course it is linked to a refined understanding of Elocution, Rhetoric and all the skills so highly developed then (but largely left 'sleeping' in our education today). Once the performers today have become conscious of the advanced use of silence in the composer's style (especially I choose Dowland and Ward) their skills in engaging an audience, who are not maybe at all conscious of these things, it is an unforgettable experience for them... I will specifically choose maybe 10 precise examples that reveal a wonderful variety of 'silence contexts' - sometimes philosophical, or emotional, and even humorous! In fact all human emotions can be communicated more profoundly with this alert use of sound and silence. Dowland and Ward were indeed conscious of this fact - so needs the modern performer therefore to become more alert!
Robert Toft
Sing as you speak: the secret fire of rhetorical delivery, 1500-1625
  In earlier times, singers rooted their practices in oration and employed principles of rhetorical delivery to move the passions of their listeners. Indeed, between c.1500 and c.1830, performers treated scores freely
to transform skeletally notated compositions into passionate musical declamation. This talk explores various ways Renaissance and Baroque singers freed themselves from the written page (tempo flexibility, rhythmic rubato, grammatical & rhetorical pauses, cadence, accent & emphasis, etc.), and if we today use these techniques to re-create the natural style of vocal performance listeners from c.1500 to c.1625 probably heard, we can combine rhetoric and music in ways that are truly historically informed.
12.30pm Gerald Place
Hallooing and singing of anthems
Shakespeare's plays and poems abound with songs and references to singing (the word music alone occurs well over two hundred times), and these songs vary from the crudest ballads to some of the most subtle and moving art-songs to be found anywhere.
In a theatre with little scenery and no lighting effects, songs set the mood and this is often as much to do with magic and healing as love. For audiences to be convinced and moved the skill of delivery must have been of the highest order. Shakespeare both praises good singers and, rather more often, ridicules poor and pretentious ones just as his inclusion of music in the plays veers from sublime to slapstick. From a practical point of view Gerald will consider: how a modern singer can approach this repertoire (here the outdoor theatre is a consideration); solo or ensemble (both appear in the plays); singers learning their art, and dynamics & phrasing.
Gerald will illustrate the talk with sung examples.
1pm L U N C H
2pm Discussion/round table
Speech, rhetoric and approaches to singing
With: Robert Toft, Gerald Place and Oliver Webber. Chaired by Flora Dennis
2.30-4pm Robert Toft
Masterclass for young professional singers currently or previously on the festival’s Early Music Live! scheme and taking part in this year’s festival.
4-4.30pm T E A  B R E A K
4.30pm Laurie Stras
What does it mean when a woman sings? (keynote)
The question, ‘What does it mean for a woman to sing?’ is inflected by context – a woman’s voice means something different in different societies and at different times, and its meaning also depends on who the woman is, whom she is singing with and who is listening. In Christian European cultures, the debate originates in
Scripture: women in the Old Testament sing in triumph, but only one woman, Mary, is permitted to sing in the Gospels. Otherwise, Paul’s teachings in the New Testament ensured that women’s singing – in the church and elsewhere – would be regarded with deep suspicion.
In early modern Europe, women’s singing was deeply embedded in courtly, common, and religious cultures, but its meaning was hotly contested and its practice keenly policed. In some 21st-century European art music contexts, particularly those in which renaissance music is performed, women’s singing and women’s voices are also contested and policed, sometimes with different emphases but with equal fervour.
This talk sets out some of the ways in which renaissance women’s voices were both championed and decried, and how their singing was framed by protocols of modesty and virtue enacted by both performers and listeners. It will then highlight some of the ways in which women’s voices have been considered in the 20th- and 21st-century performances of renaissance music, as a prelude to the following round table discussion.
5.15pm Round table
The female voice in early music (gagged or muted?)
With: Laurie Stras, Candace Smith and Lisa Colton
Chaired by Deborah Roberts
6pm Short recital
Members of Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens
6.30pm End
Drinks reception at the Old Ship Hotel followed by the conference dinner
Sunday 21 Oct: Ralli Hall
Chair: Francis Knights
10am Gawain Glenton
Il canto schietto: Towards an understanding of Luigi Zenobi’s 'simple' style of singing
  Luigi Zenobi’s Perfect Musician letter (c.1600) is one of the most engaging sources for students of historical vocal performance practice. Zenobi details the skills required of singers at this time, explaining that they should be able to deploy a repertoire of florid and playful passaggi involving scales, leaps, skips and echoes.
He makes clear that every good singer should ‘know how to sing the piece in its simple form (‘deve saper cantare il canto schietto’), that is, without any passaggio, but only with grace, trillo, tremolo, ondeggiamento, and esclamatione.
’ Zenobi’s letter is not a formal treatise and does not offer the reader any examples pertaining to these modes of performance. It is however clear that Zenobi’s idea of ‘simple’ performance involves a degree of ornamentation which challenges modern expectations of late-renaissance polyphony.
This paper aims to shed light on the concept of canto schietto by linking Zenobi’s letter to contemporary sources including Oratio Scaletta’s Scala di musica (Verona, 1598), and Francesco Rognoni’s Selva de varii passaggi (Milan, 1620), both of which include advice on singing ‘cleanly and well’ (using the term ‘cantar polito e bene’). These sources show that Zenobi’s view of ‘simple’ performance formed part of the musical mainstream. Scaletta and Rognoni provide us with some of the practical details missing from Zenobi’s tantalising letter, details which are crucial to any modern performer wishing to understand and attempt the artful performance of late 16th century vocal polyphony in a historically informed style.
10.30am Viviane Alves Kubo-Munari
Soverchi passaggi: affectation and vocal ornamentation at the beginning of the seventeenth century in Italy
  Documentation on singing from the beginning of the Seicento presents, in its majority, a contraposition to the typical passaggi of the vocal practice of the sixteenth century, proposing a "new way of passaggi" (nuova maniera di passaggi).
In the seventeenth century, these ornaments became associated with an unnecessary virtuosity, thus reinforcing a widely mentioned habit in the treatises of musical interpretation of the period: affectation. The affettazione signified a great shortcoming on the part of the singer—the "long" passaggi being an example of this. Therefore, this paper discusses the influence of the Courtly Culture and the theories of Oratory about the vice of the affettazione in the transformation of the passaggi tradition in Italian vocal practice from the mid - 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century.
C O F F E E  B R E A K    
11.30am Round table
Ornamentation: what is appropriate for the modern performer?
Viviane Alves Kubo-Munari and Gawain Glenton
12 noon
Greta Haenen
From “Voce Umana” to ornament: tremolo in Italy in the late 16th and early 17th centuries
  The Italian “Voce (h)umana” (“human voice”) is a shaking stop on the organ, which produces an intense tremolo. It seems music in the "old" polyphonic style had a preference for the tremolo: not only the organ stop points to this, various instruments make use of it as well. Sources as late as the late 16th and early 17th century
mention tremolo, not just for music in the old style: there is mention of a boy singing con tremula voce in an English theatre piece; German early 17th century sources define the characteristics of a "good voice" (also for boys), one of them being a "zittern-und bebende Stimme" ("a tremulous voice"), which suggests that this kind of singing still had a place in art music. Especially German protestant sources make use of this definition well into the 17th century. Their use of the word tremulus however, has nothing to do with "vibrato", as it involves two different notes. Although some late 16th century writers (e.g. Zacconi) still mention tremolo as a useful, but in no way necessary device (coloratura often seems to have been sung on the speed of tremolo), the second half of the 16th Century also sees substantial changes in vocal technique, answering to a demand for more passionate music, and eventually leading to solo singing and bel canto. Etude-like collections with diminutions show a substantial enlargement of tessitura and new technical developments (especially of breath control), including a new concept of voice production. Diminution and ornamentation change and the definition of tremolo also shifts from the technical device it may have been before, towards an ornament: as the idea of "beautiful song" gets replaced by the idea of passionate song, the (over-)use of tremolo and as such also of a certain type of bravoura (e.g. Pietro della Valle) is rejected. At this moment tremolo becomes an ornament with a clearly defined purpose (mainly "feminine" passions), which is only possible if it is not used continuously.
Download handout
12.30pm Round table
The modern singer. Tremolo, trillo, vibrato… what did/do these terms actually mean? Greta Haenen, Richard Wistreich, Hama Biglari and Tim Braithwaite.
L U N C H    
Richard Wistreich
'Historical singing' - fantasy or reality (keynote)
  The phrase 'historically-informed' is a badge (usually self-awarded) worn by many musicians who perform ‘early music’ these days. But just what does it really mean, both in a certain world of musicking that embraces
practitioners and their audiences, and in more scholarly historiographical terms? When it comes to singers and singing, for all that the airwaves and download sites are brimming with the sounds of confident performances of a massive range of music of the past, almost unimaginable fifty years ago, there remains a continuous uneasy stand-off between what we think we know and what we think we are actually doing. ’Indeed, rather than coming to terms with what a commitment to being ‘historically-informed’ might actually lead to, singing itself is (and is in danger of remaining) the elephant in the room.’
Discussion with questions & answers    
Joe Bolger
'Primal Sounds' in early music singing: contemporary pop aesthetics for lute song performance.
(Including time for questions/discussion)
  This workshop and lecture recital will focus on the techniques and concepts of Primal Voice or Primal Sounds, exploring their potential as tools for the expression of affect in lute song performance.
Leading pop and rock vocal coach Dane Chalfin describes Primal Sounds as ‘everyday, reflexive, emotionally-motivated sounds that all humans make from birth including things like sighing, whimpering, crying out and yelling.’ Primal Sounds present one possible approach to situating the ‘rhetorical concepts and terminology’ of lute song within bodily praxis, prompting vivid holistic interplay between body, sound, text and affect. Such cross-genre experimentation has the potential to radically challenge received opinions of early vocal aesthetics, whilst also engaging wider audiences in the expressive power of lute song performance
T E A   B R E A K    
4pm Dr Muthuswami Hariharan
Vocal traditions of musicians and composers of Indian music from the 14th to 16th centuries, including questions
  The tradition of Indian Music is more than 3000 years old, but the first named singer-composer emerged in the 14th century with more appearing over the next 200 years. No Indian music was published until 1885, and this was using western notation and ornamentation symbols so that is could be played on the Western instruments of English settlers. However, because of the continuity of the oral tradition and Gurukula system of education,
the original music and vocal style from the 14th century onwards is still practiced in India today. One of the main reasons for the continuity of the tradition lies in the traditions of Royal Houses and Temples.
This paper will present the contribution of the first composer of Indian music, Saint Jayadeva, up until the 16th century. This golden age of Indian music was mentored and pioneered by these composers, all of whom were singers. The contribution to vocal style and ornamentation of composers like Annamacharya, Purandara Dasa and other Haridasa composers: Tukkaram, Alwars and Nayanmars – all of whom hailed from southern part of India will be covered in this paper, along with sung examples. The Royal Kingdoms and Maharajas, who were also performers, composers, musicologists and patrons contributed a lot to the growth of Indian music from 1450-1650. These included: Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagar and Marathas of Tanjore. The contributions will thus cover the Indian system of music and singing from both the South and North.
4.40pm Deborah Roberts
Workshop for all: ‘With devotion and passion’: Singing sacred polyphony. What did it really sound like?'
6pm END