Monday, October 20, 2014

Why I enjoy Evensong

I enjoy Evensong, because weekly for about a year I volunteered (in former days) as an Evensong singer.

This was at The Church of St. Michael and All Angels, directed by the excellent David Riley. That church (in Baltimore, MD) no longer does Evensong, though.

Apparently, they had an ironclad budget for only the music director's part in this (perhaps from a donation), although absolutely no congregation members ever attended (!) that I know of. So, the singers' experience was all fun, performing only for the aesthetic sense of the director.

We (music students) rehearsed a different musical Evensong setting every week during the hour before, and thereupon immediately went "on stage." We even had a countertenor.

Whoever might appear got to sing, so we did so completely for our own pleasure. Most of us attended consistently.

We covered quite a variety of Evensong settings and always (each time) enjoyed an after-party at a Chinese restaurant. :)

So, that's indeed why I enjoy Evensong.

Copyright (c) 2014 Mark D. Blackwell.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Violoncello piccolo & alto violin

A "violoncello piccolo" is a form of violoncello, akin to the cello da spalla (also called viola da spalla).

"A whiny beginning of the [Bach] 6th [cello] suite’s Praeludium (notably less securely played than what came before and after – where there were only a handful of squeaks and slips present) betrayed a few problems, not the least of which might have been the uncomfortably high register in which the suite lies for the cello, an instrument it was not written for. Most cellists use a smaller cello with an additional E string for the performance, which is akin to the baroque violoncello piccolo that these pieces were probably written for."


"Yo-Yo Ma, The New York Album...Release date: September 20, 1994...

"Béla Bartók (1861-1945) Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, Op. posthumous...

"Perhaps in Bartók's mind the draft of the Viola Concerto truly was complete. Nevertheless, the posthumous task of deciphering, arranging, filling out and orchestrating the thirteen extant pages of sketches proved to be [a] formidable one. At the [Bartók] family's request it was undertaken by Tibor Serly (1901-1978), the Hungarian-American composer and violist...

"Serly actually prepared a cello arrangement of the concerto simultaneously with the "original" viola version...Yo-Yo Ma originally intended to perform (and record) this cello version...but he was dissatisfied with the registral displacement and discovered that he could play the solo at its original pitch on the alto violin (or vertical viola), a large "viola" fitted with a long endpin and held like a cello. This instrument, part of a set of eight "violin analogues" designed and made by Carleen Hutchins at the suggestion of composer Henry Brant, is intended to carry the tonal characteristics, projection, and balance of the violin sound into the viola range."

— from the album's original liner notes—on p. 205 of


Copyright (c) 2014, 2015 Mark D. Blackwell.