The Canadian Renaissance Music Summer School

Course Description


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CRMSS 2019 Theme

The theme of CRMSS 2019 is tentatively Musica Transalpina. This early printed colleciton of music, published in London in 1588, in which English translations were applied to Italian madrigals, will not in itself be central to our work over the week, but the book represents the historical connection between our two main areas of focus this year: English sacred polyphony and Italian secular madrigals. Our ambition in 2019 is to explore English music from the Eton Choirbook through the works of Byrd and Tomkins alongside Italian madrigals from throughout the period.


A major focus of the week's work will be singing together as one chamber-choir sized ensemble, exploring larger scale, mainly sacred a capella music of the Renaissance. The specific repertoire chosen will depend on the distribution of voices amongst the course participants, and the repertoire selections will conform with the theme of this year's course.

We hope in 2019 also to divide the participants into two smaller chamber choirs which will work separately, as well as all sing together in one massed group.


While the majority of our time will be spent preparing ensemble music in choral and small group contexts, good solo vocal technique is of course essential for good singing - in any style. While Greg will conduct the full group in choral sessions each day, Matthew Long, Emily Atkinson, and Andrew Pickett will provide solo singing tuition for all the course participants as well. For those who wish, Matthew will be in charge of arranging specialist solo coaching sessions throughout the week. Participants are enthusiastically encouraged to bring their own solo repertoire, and we suggest works written before 1650.

Consort singing: one and two per part vocal chamber music

Any serious amount of time spent getting to know the music of the Renaissance must include small-ensemble singing. The tutors will choose groups and assign them repertoire before the week begins, sending out scores and reference recordings so participants can prepare and come with at least one or two pieces already learned. Over the course of the week, it is hoped that other groups will form ad hoc to explore this wonderful secular and domestic devotional repertoire, sometimes forgotten when thinking of vocal music from the Renaissance. It is of particular importance that the secular music of this period be covered, as it provides such a vivid picture of the sorts of musical lives the musicians of the time actually lived, be they composers or singers or both.

As with solo repertoire, there will be opportunties to work on small ensemble music you might bring yourself.


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Final course concert

The work we do over the course of the week will lead us to a major public concert performance.

This year we are excited to be able to present this event in the wonderful acoustic of St Peter's Cathedral Basilica in downtown London, Ontario. This is one of London's premier concert venues and is particularly well suited to choral singing.

It will take place at 8pm on Saturday, May 25th 2019. This will be a ticketed event and we will be promoting it in collaboration with the Basilica.

Choral Evensong at All Saints Church, Hamilton Road

On Thursday, May 23rd 2019, we will sing Choral Evensong at All Saints Church, Hamilton Road. This was a major venue for us last year at CRMSS 2018 and we are delighted to be able to come back and contribute to their worship while exploring some of the magnificent music written for this in the English Cathedral tradition.

The service will start at 5:30pm and is free for the public to attend.

Choral Vespers at St Peter's Seminary

This year we have the special privilege of singing a Choral Vespers service in one of London's truly magnificent and rarely enjoyed liturgical spaces - the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at St Peter's Seminary. We hope to present a Catholic service entirely in Latin and following the pre-Vatican II rite found in the Liber Usualis.

This service will take place on Friday, May 24th 2019, starting at 5:30pm. It will be free and open to the public.

Eucharist at St Paul's Cathedral, London Ontario

As the final event of the course, we will provide the music for Sunday morning Eucharist at St Paul's Cathedral, on Sunday, May 26th 2019. We will perform a large scale a capella polyphonic Latin mass setting, and accompanying motets. It is hoped we will also include Gregorian chant propers in this service as well.

We will be singing at the normal time for Eucharist at St Paul's on a Sunday morning, which is 10:00am.

Daily evening services

Throughout the week, at the end of each day, we will sing Compline in the Chapel of Huron University College. These services will begin at 9pm and will happen on the evenings of Sunday, May 19th through Friday, May 24th. Our Compline is simple and largely made up plainsong, with a few simple motets for contrast, and is designed not as a crescendo to our day, but as a way of bringing it to a close - as the service was designed to do monastically. While these services will be open to the public, they will mainly serve as a way for us to come together as as course and to experience the daily rhythm of liturgical music making that formed the wider context for most of the music we will be studying.

Informal 'sharing' sessions

The course schedule will be designed to encourage self directed and ad hoc chamber music 'break out' sessions. If desired, a casual concert will be arranged, only to be attended by course participants, in which we can share what we've been getting up to without the pressure of the need for polish or to impress the public.

Lectures, Symposia, and Round Table discussions

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Every day of the course will include one session in which we don't sing! These discussions will provide context for the practical music making which is the focus of the course, and highlight the importance of scholarship in performance, and, crucially, visa versa.

At CRMSS 2018, the following talks took place:

For CRMSS 2019 we are still finalising our programme of talks and lectures. Our new lute tutor, Lucas Harris, will be speaking on technical and historical aspects of the lute and Dr. Helsen will also give another lecture. As our lecture plans firm up, we will post more information here.

A Typical Day

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Below is a description of the typical day from CRMSS 2018. In 2019, our schedule may very well evolve considerably. Please watch here for updates.

Full course choral rehearsal - 3 hours, including 15 minute tea break
Small group and/or solo sessions
Lecture / Symposium / Round Table
Full course choral rehearsal - 2 hours, including 10 minute tea break
Evening Service rehearsal (approx. 45 min)
Evening Service (approx. 30-45 min)
Pub / Home / Sleep / Late night singing!