Course Description for CRMSS Ontario 2022
This page outlines in some detail what CRMSS 2022 was like. You can use this as a rough guide to get a feeling for what CRMSS Ontario 2023 will involve.
Full details of CRMSS Ontario 2023 will be posted here soon.
RepertoireBack to top
CRMSS 2022 Theme
The theme of CRMSS 2022 was Camino: Polyphonic Journeys through Iberia and the New World. We focused on the music of Renaissance Spain and Portugal and also encountered music written in and for the Latin American world during the Renaissance.
There is so much here! It would have been possible to spend a week singing the music of Tómas Luis de Victoria alone. We looked further, of course, knowing that this area has long been a crossroads: a place of pilgrimage, and the seat of a global empire.
The "golden age" of Spanish polyphony is well-known today, with works by Victoria, Francisco Guerrero, Alonso Lobo, and Cristobal de Morales often performed around the world. Less well-known is the music of a school of composers all connected with the small cathedral town of Évora in Portugal: Duarte Lobo, Manuel Cardoso, and Filipe de Magalhães. These men wrote polyphonic music in the middle of the 17th-century, backward-looking at first glance, but with decidedly modern, sometimes audacious, and always intensely expressive flourishes.
As Iberian influence spread over the centuries, some Spanish and Portuguese composers found themselves living and working in the New World - in places such as Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. Chief among these was Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, a Spaniard who enjoyed great fame while based in Puebla, Mexico. In time, polyphonic musical traditions took hold in these places as well, and eventually resulted in native born composers writing in a Renaissance counterpoint style.
There was so much to explore! Many came and joined us as we dove deep into this rich, passionate, and evocative style.
What types of singing happened at CRMSS 2022?
A major focus of the week's work was singing together as one choir, exploring larger scale, mainly sacred a capella music of the Renaissance. The specific repertoire chosen depended on the distribution of voices amongst the course participants, and the repertoire selections conformed with the theme of this year's course.
We also divided the participants into two smaller chamber groups which worked separately, on top of the tutti singing we did together.
While the majority of our time was spent preparing ensemble music in choral and small group contexts, good solo vocal technique is of course essential for good singing. This applies to music written in any style and from any time period.
Lucas Harris and Katherine Hill led the solo singing side of CRMSS 2022. Solo singing and good vocal technique are core parts of CRMSS and this year was no different.
We were very lucky to again have Lucas Harris, one of Canada's most prestigious lutenists, with us for the entire week in 2022. While not running Lute Day, Lucas was available to work with solo singers in preparing solo repertoire to be accompanied on the lute or vihuela, a 16th-century guitar. Lucas brought an array of instruments for the purpose! Singers interested in exploring this repertoire throughout the week also benefited from a masterclass experience.
Participants were enthusiastically encouraged to bring their own solo repertoire, and we suggested works written before 1675. Participants brought music written by composers from Spain, Portugal, or the Spanish colonies of the New World during the Renaissance, to fit into the broader theme of CRMSS 2022, but we also worked with participants on any Renaissance music they had an interest in.
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 chose groups and assigned them repertoire before the week began, sending out scores and reference recordings so participants could prepare and come with at least one or two pieces already learned.
It is in these small group settings that we can best explore secular repertoire from the Renaissance, but participants weren't restricted to only working on this in a small group.
Over the course of the week, some other groups also formed ad hoc.
As with solo repertoire, there were opportunities to work on small ensemble music that participants brought themselves.
The pre-formed small groups were all at least two-per-part. Everyone was allocated into one of these small groups. There was more time set aside for even smaller, one-per-part consorts to form and experiment with other repertoire, both on an ad hoc basis and also under the direction of the tutors.
PerformancesBack to top
Final course concert
We were extraordinarily privileged to be giving our final course concert in the magnificent chapel of St Peter's Seminary. This concert was open to the public and took place at 2:30pm on Sunday, May 29 2022. The concert included a selection of the music we'd learned over the course of the week, including chamber choir, tutti, small group, and solo selections.
Choral Vespers at St Peter's Seminary
At CRMSS 2019, a definite highlight for everyone was the special privilege of singing a Choral Vespers service in one of London Ontario's truly magnificent and rarely enjoyed liturgical spaces - the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at St Peter's Seminary. We were delighted to again sing Choral Vespers at St Peter's Seminary, at 7:00pm on Saturday, May 28 2022.
This church service was open to the public.
Daily evening church services
Throughout the week, at the end of each day, we sang Compline. These services began at 9pm each day. Our Compline service is simple and largely made up of plainsong, with a few simple motets for contrast, and is designed not as something pressured or necessarily to be worked towards, but rather as a way of bringing our day together to a peaceful close - precisely as the service was designed to do in its original monastic context. These services mainly served 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.
Internal 'sharing' concert for CRMSS participants
Everyone who participated in CRMSS 2022 had a chance to perform any of the music they worked on over the week that they wished to, be it in their preformed smaller groups or in groups they form themselves or the solo repertoire they've worked on or music they bring themselves... or anything else! This concert took place on Friday, May 27 in the early afternoon.
Conducting MasterclassBack to top
Leading on from the success of our conducting masterclass at CRMSS 2021, we offered a slightly different, and more focussed conducting event in 2022.
In 2022, we worked with individual participants beforehand to determine how many would like to take part, and what each person's level of experience is.
The conducting session was held toward the end of the week, once everyone had gotten to know one another(!), and those interested with significant experience in conducting and being in front of a choir had the chance to work with a choir made up of their peers. We discussed what specific requirements are needed and beneficial when conducting Renaissance counterpoint and how to pick apart a piece of polyphony from a conductor's perspective.
A Typical DayBack to top
Here's the shape of how 'a typical' day looked at CRMSS 2022. We are always in the process of tweaking the daily schedule to get things just right, and pacing our time is very important to us.
New for CRMSS Ontario 2023 will be a 'soft launch' to the week. The course will begin on the afternoon of Saturday, May 13th 2023 with a longer registration period and time for you to find your feet in our venues. The singing that day will only consist of a tutti rehearsal, followed by wine and nibbles (that might perhaps extend into the evening!). More information on this 'soft launch' will be available soon.
The right pace
We received some very positive feedback after CRMSS 2022 suggesting that the pace of the week was much improved relative to previous years. The week is a busy one and it's important that everyone gets enough down time.
Attendance at Compline each evening will not be compulsory, but is greatly encouraged! The feedback we've received from those who did attend every night in previous years has been that it is a wonderful way to bring each day to a close, but we also understand that some of you may need your sleep!
Attendance at the talks will also not be compulsory, but encouraged - if for no other reason than to give your voice a break and get your brain thinking about something other than all that sight reading.
Of course, if you feel at any time that you need a break, you are welcome to approach any tutor and ask.
Lectures, Symposia, and Round Table discussionsBack to top
The course will include some sessions 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.
In the past at CRMSS, we've enjoyed the following:
- Dr. Aaron James gave a talk about how musicians in the time of Josquin des Prez actually learned music as students, using a system known as the Guidonian Hand, and entitled A Helping Hand: Guido, Hexachords, Solmization, and Musicianship in the Renaissance.
- Dr. Kate Helsen showed us how Josquin des Prez was actually a pretty slippery character to pin down - who was he, actually? How many 'Josquins' were there? Her talk was entitled Josquin: Choose your own adventure.
- Dr. Patrick Murray took us through the process of preparing a piece of Renaissance polyphony for modern day performance in his talk entitled Anything but ‘Ordinary:’ Bringing a Renaissance mass to life in contemporary performance.
- Sharang Sharma took us through an introduction to some practical methods we can use to help learn the required musical skills to sight-read Renaissance music and chant effectively.
- Dr. Roseen Giles gave a paper entitled “‘Don't worry, this will sing itself', and other musical fictions" about the practice of musica ficta.
- Andrew Pickett presented “‘Drop the beat’ - Introduction to the theory and practice of vocal ensemble intonation”.
- Dr. Kate Helsen introduced us to some of her fascinating new research in “What's in a Riff - Chant DNA in modal polyphony”.
- Greg Skidmore, Matt Long, and Emily Atkinson took part in a round table discussion led by Dr. Giles entitled “Being a Professional Singer in the UK”, taking questions on every aspect of their professional lives in the UK.
- Lucas Harris gave a lecture entitled “Musica Transalpina: The madrigal in Italy & England, c1600”
- Dr. Kate Helsen gave us a crash course in Renaissance musical notation with her workshop entitled “Partly Useful: Renaissance notation”
- Dr. Troy Ducharme of the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University wrapped our heads around Gesualdo's wild sounds with “Beyond Rules: Counterpoint Technique, Musical Meaning, and Style in Selected Works of Gesualdo.”
Lute DayBack to top
A mini-CRMSS just for lutenists!
Following on from the success of the first CRMSS Lute Day in 2021, we again ran a dedicated sub-event within CRMSS in 2022, CRMSS Lute Day. Lucas Harris took charge of this event. If you are interested in taking part in CRMSS Ontario Lute Day 2023, please get in touch with us.
Lucas contacted potential participants individually and created a bespoke experience once he has an idea of who was coming. Here is a list of proposed activities for CRMSS Ontario Lute Day 2023:
- Warmup and technique class
- Lute ensemble work
- Private lessons(probably short, 30 to 45 minutes)
- A workshop of division playing
- Lute 'tasting' session
- Short, informal concert, perhaps in collaboration with singing from Katherine Hill and/or Greg Skidmore
We were very fortunate to welcome Terry McKenna back as a tutor at CRMSS 2022 Lute Day. He joined Lucas in planning and running this event.
The date of Lute Day in 2022 was:
Monday, May 23rd 2022
The event lasted for a 'full day'. Participants and tutors at CRMSS 2022 Lute Day were also welcome to attend our nightly Compline service.
The cost of attending Lute Day in 2022 was $125