wee dug by Joe Davie

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David McGuinness's blog

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Friday 28 October 2011

I dropped into the CCPR at lunchtime to hear Will Page, Chief Economist at the PRS talk about the UK (and Scottish) music industry which was riveting, if not always cheering once you got past the headline figures.

Wednesday included a rare visit to the baths with Bill Lloyd, where we confessed that neither of us could really get the idea of a ‘meta-Beggars-Opera’ sufficiently off the ground for it to be exciting enough to spend lots of money on it. Oh well. But we did chuck around another very promising idea, which led me to think about John Potter, who dusts several centuries’ worth of dust off Gibbons’s This is the record of John in this terrific recording (sorry, Spotify only) from 1990, that I dug out again for a recent lecture. I love the way the singers were all allowed to sound different (and use different accents: Dr Kate Eckersley, take a bow for the shameless Irish on the top) but they still sounded like a real group, and the music has power and commitment. 

Anyway … I stumbled across John’s blog and read for much longer than I really had time to, as so much of it makes enormous amounts of sense to me: not just his views on singing, on which I’m no expert, but the business of trying to have an interesting musical life.  On the singing front, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find ‘classically-trained’ singers who have the musical tools that I’m interested in. This was one of the reasons behind the lineup on the Revenge album, with four singers all capable of remarkable things, but all different. One day after rehearsal, Jim mentioned how unusual it was that Alasdair and Olivia each sounded exactly like themselves, and yet they were singing perfectly together – not unlike that Gibbons recording with Red Byrd: ensemble doesn’t have to mean uniformity.  JS Bach went out of his way to write ensembles that weren’t uniform, which is why it is frustrating when conductors either try to impose uniformity again (too many examples of this to mention), or iron out the details until they’re musically insignificant (Rifkin).

Back to singers and trying not to be bored: John P has been there and done it decades ahead of me, albeit in slightly different musical environments to mine, and I found myself first thing this morning buying his Vocal Authority book (which isn’t yet in Glasgow University Library, that is now being put right too) and one of his Dowland Project CDs on amazon. Later in the day Will Page provided the backup statistic to my hunch that such a physical audio purchase is now quite an old-fashioned thing to do.

Meanwhile, last weekend’s programming idea was ‘Tobias Hume, the Swedish Years’ – I wonder if that will come to anything.