July 10, 2011

Day 2 - York: Workshop for Voices, The English Concert

Today was a good day.

Walking York's medieval city wall
I got to have some alone time!  The guys, Andrew and Daniel, attended a vocalists' medieval music workshop which I excluded myself from mostly because I woudn't want to subject the workshop attendees to my voice.  My poor band kids have to listen to me sing parts all the time, it's really a wonder that the program is growing.  Anyway, I'll let Andrew tell you about his nerd workshop below.  I had a great morning.  We had breakfast and then I decided to have my first run here in York.  I was intending to go running in Hyde Park in London, but we were just to busy and tired from walking so many miles everyday that we didn't.  York, as I mentioned yesterday, is beautiful.  The River Ouse runs directly through town and the wonderful city of York has put in a riverside running/walking/biking trail that runs for miles, even past the city.  So while the boys workshopped, I ran 5 miles along the river in York (Aren't you proud of me, Devon?!)!  

Here are a couple of observations:
1.  Running is far more exciting in a foreign country
2.  Running is great practice for driving in a foreign country, you have to run on the opposite side!
3.  Running in 60 degree weather vs. 100 degree weather makes me like running!
4.  Running through farms, hills and dales is so much more gratifying than running on concrete in Houston.

Quaint York
After that I meandered through town.  Having never been here, I have to say it is officially my favorite small town that I've ever visited.  The history of this place is pretty awesome.  Remember Constantine?  Roman Emperor?  York originally was called Eboracum back in AD 71 and Constantine was crowned emperor here!  Skip ahead a few hundred years to the year 627and a church was built; more on that later.  The Vikings took over, then the Danish and finally the Normans who fortified the city with a wall; more on that later.  During medieval times, York became England's second biggest city with Henry VIII using the church I mentioned earlier, "York Minster", as his Anglican Church's northern capital.  
The trees kind of block the view and look small, but the trees are HUGE
York Minster Cathedral is unbelievable.  (Andrew's Note:  What you see above is about 23 1/2 steps from the place we're staying.)  Gothic design at its absolute best.  If you've been to Westminster but not York Minster, there really is no comparison.  York Minister is shockingly tall, beautiful, ornate, and it honestly just astounds you.  It's visible from nearly every point in the city of York, all directions are given in relation to it.  We're attending church there tomorrow, so we'll give you the scoop on the inside for that later.  

I spent some time in town.  My Nook and I had "high tea" at the Earl Grey Tea Shop.  It was lovely!  (Nice - sounding British already!)  Scones, egg and watercress sandwiches, tea, a good book and no boys.  Yes.  I did some shopping in the center of York, which is the location of the "Shambles" street.  It is billed the most picturesque street in Europe, although to get a people-free picture you have to get there at like 4 AM.  (Not happening).  Shambles came from the word shammell, meaning a butcher's cutting block because the street used to house rows of butchers.  The Tudor buildings are so quaint and the shopfronts make you want to buy way too many unnecessary things.  I found a cute pink coat (very, very necessary, husband) that will be great for football season with the band.  (That's OK...I'm pretty sure I'll find a VERY necessary $800 kilt in Scotland.  In fact, I'm sure of it.) 
Tea time is much better without boys

The Nook, my date

The Shambles

More Shambles

Some meat sellers still located in the Shambles area
 I then headed to hear the impromptu performance put on by the medieval vocal workshop the boys had been in all day.  It was really neat to hear music that had just been found and not yet published be sung for the first time since the 1500s.  Wow!  (It was a great little workshop - although I could've done with about 2 hours less of it :-)  We rehearsed a William Byrd Mass written for the Catholics for the first 2 hours and got some really good insight into why he wrote it and the correct way to sing a piece from that period.  Bottom line = measure lines are a pesky modern invention, pay no attention to them!  Sing the line!  Our director never did tell us exactly what he does for a living, but he was incredibly knowledgeable about all things early music.  He may have been a professor, probably at the University of York.  The folks who came to sing ranged from "enthusiastic amateurs" (as they called themselves) to early music professors (as we found out when one tenor piped up and said, "Pip pip, your score for the Dering motet has an error in the Latin - it should be the plural of the word in bar 31!"  Somewhat intimidating :-)  Anyway, we broke for lunch and came back for another 2 hours of rehearsing on some little known pieces by the late renaissance/early baroque composer Richard Dering.  We had a little performance of Byrd's Mass for 4 Voices and the 4 Dering pieces we read through.  A little rough, but fun!
Bad picture... sorry.  Andrew and Daniel are in the top right
After the "concert", we did some walking around York's 2 or so miles of medieval wall.

Walking the 2 mile wall around York

Following this concert, Andrew and I went to hear the talented English Concert.  This group features all instrumentalists (yay!), such as the familiar:  oboe, cello, viola, violins, double bass, and the not so familiar:  theorbo and harpsichord.  The concert featured music of Handel and Vivaldi.  Quite impressive!!  Here is what we heard:

Handel-  Concerto grosso in B flat Op. 3 no. 2
Vivaldi-  Cello Concerto in A minor, RV420
Handel-  Armida abbandonata, HWV105
Handel-  Alpestre monte, HWV81
Handel-  Three arias from Agrippina, HWV6

Vivaldi wrote at least 28 cello concertos.  It wasn't so much that he loved the cello, more that people were willing to pay him to write them, so he did!  The third work listed is a beautiful cantata.  During the time of Handel, opera was banned in Rome by the Pope, but the people like Opera, and the secular cantata, being a similar format, was the perfect substitute for composers to use without getting into trouble.  Enough nerd from me.  (And me!)    

New pink coat!  And it's cold enough to use!


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  3. Mrs. Redmon!! That's so awesome that you're running there. I have to say, you're right, running there is probably a million times better than attempting to run in this oven we call Houston. Anyways, keep it up Mrs. Reds! (: