15th December 2016 - Music and Dance combined evening
15th December was the final session of the dance classes that Mistress Katherina teaches on Thursdays. She and I had discussed the concept of live musicians coming along to practice playing for real live dancers, so we took the opportunity to try it out.
Sympkyn and I were there only as musicians - Katherine of Glastonbury mostly danced but played a little - Katherina and William de Cameron were there primarily to dance. Unfortunately nobody else could make it this time but my plan is to arrange further opportunities.
- Earl of Essex Measures
Not too hard to play at a moderate pace. Worth noting that the dancers do not expect any pause between the last note of the B part and the first beat of the A part when repeating this tune. A lot of written music makes it look like the final note should be held - possibly to make up a full bar of beats? - but even so, leave no pause or extra beats when playing for dancers but dive straight back into the first bit again.
- Black Almain
This is actually quite a hard piece to play compared to the other Old Measures and needs to go at a quite a snappy pace. The two of us know it pretty well but still need to practice it with the speed ramped up a bit. The Monday Night Group as a whole plays it too slow to dance at the moment. Next year we may put it on the back-burner while we get our collective fingers around some of the other ones in that set, and revisit it occasionally in an attempt to gradually speed it up with practice.
It was discovered however that it can work quite well as a three-person cascarde, just for fun.
- Ballo del Fiore
This too needs to be quite brisk for dancing. The two of us were able to maintain a comfortable dancing tempo - estimated about 120 bpm (don't quote me). This tune has the same chord structure as the passamezzo antico and as such I have experimented with improvising around the general melody, which can be a good way to keep interested while playing it, given that the dance can go on for a jolly long time and the repeats are many.
- Fedelta d'Amore by Negri
Neither of us had played this before and actually the dancers danced to Electronically Generated Music while Sympkyn and I listened and tootled around trying to play along softly where possible. This in itself was a great exercise and something I recommend all musicians have a go at. It's by no means easy and to begin with can be frustrating but it gets easier with practice (there's that P-word again) and the more familiar and comfortable you are with your instrument the easier it becomes too. I certainly can't nail this piece yet after one try but I was already finding parts of the melody and I think with a bit more time spent listening to it it would be well do-able.
- Il Canario
As mentioned in the Monday blog we are playing this by ear. Sympkyn and I have been pretty comfortable with this one for a while and it doesn't go terribly fast. It is also a really good one to improvise around, due to a simple structure and the fact that the dancers seem to want as many repeats as the musicians feel up to playing (similiar to galliard if I understand correctly).
- Ly Bens Distonys
Again a pretty comfortable one for us to play although a bit of polishing couldn't hurt. It's quite a jaunty tune and needs to be kept at an upbeat tempo. The verdict from the dancers was that it was well danceable at the speed we played, even faster wouldn't hurt, but not a lot faster.
A very productive evening from an aspiring ball musician's point of view and something that I would like to try to arrange maybe once a term/every few months in the future. My grateful thanks to Mistress Katherina and the other dancers for their tolerance and cooperation.