Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra Newsletter



We have reached a holiday break in our 2005-2006 season and this is also the time of the Astronomic Calendar which is called the Winter Solstice. The winter solstice takes place on or about December 21 every year and is the period of time in which the sun is at its southernmost position. For those of us in the northern hemisphere it means that the sun rises the latest and sets the earliest resulting in the shortest day of the year and the longest night.

Literature tells us that ancient people considered the winter solstice to be an awesome, mysterious and powerful phenomenon. It represented the death of the old solar year and the birth of a new solar year. There has been, through the years, festivities and observances of the winter solstice by virtually every culture in the world. The celebrations have been dated back to the dawn of modern civilization some 30,000 years ago. The solstice was considered the planetary turning point away from darkness and the blessed return to light.

Even today, pagan and Christian belief is intermingled with Christmas Celebration. Some examples of these rites used today are as follows: decorating with evergreens, hanging ornaments on a tree, partaking of sweet confections, processions, gift giving and singing carols.

Whatever method you use to celebrate this season of our year, I wish you a very good and happy one. As the winter solstice demonstrates to us, every ending is followed by a new beginning.

I look forward to seeing all of you in the new year.

Tony Jackson, President


MPROís new member Amanda Williamsen, who lives in Belmont, has played the recorder since she was 12 years old. She also plays the clarinet and saxophone. Welcome, Amanda, to MPRO!


Here are the highlights for the second half of the orchestra's 2005-2006 season: On, Saturday January 28, Tom Zajac will be directing a workshop for MPRO entitled, "A Golden Century of Polish Music: 1530-1630." For further information about this workshop please see the article and registration announcement which appear in this issue of Upbeat. I am also pleased to announce that the ensemble, Gabrieli West, directed by Joyce Johnson, will be performing with MPRO at the orchestraís June concert. In addition to featuring works for this five-part group led by Joyce Johnson on cornetto, the program will also include two exciting pieces where MPRO will join forces with Gabrieli West: The Sonata a otto by Schmelzer and Giovanni Gabrieliís antiphonal Ďaria da sonar' entitled, Chiarí Angioletta.

Other works on the June program will include a ballade by Machaut, arrangements of two choral works by Brahms and an anonymous early 16th-century Italian song for recorders and krummhorns. The orchestra will also be doing encore performances of the Shostakovitch fugue as well as the three klezmer melodies from the first have of this season.

Listed below is the music for the orchestra's first three meetings of the new year. Please note that krummhorns will be needed for the meeting on January 11 and great bass and contrabass recorders will be needed at all three.

January 11 MPRO Rehearsal
Schmelzer: Sonata a otto
Sha, Shtil
Brahms: Dein Herzlein mild
January 25 MPRO Rehearsal
Shostakovitch: Fugue No. 1
Brahms: Der Falke
Machaut: Donnez, signeurs
Gabrieli: Chiarí Angioletta
February 1 MPRO Rehearsal
Schmelzer: Sonata a otto
Brahms: Dein Herzlein mild
Brahms: Der Falke
Rumshinsky: A Bisíl Libe, un a Bisele Glik

I look forward to seeing you at these upcoming meetings and working on this wonderful music with you. Please let any of your friends who play early instruments know about the orchestra's varied activities and invite them to attend an MPRO meeting, workshop or concert.

Fred Palmer

A Golden Century of Polish Music: 1530 - 1630
by Tom Zajac

In the 16th century Poland was one of the richest and most powerful countries in Europe. It was also geographically large, the largest itís been before or ever since. It encompassed an area which included present day Lithuania and Latvia and large portions of what is now the Ukraine, Bylorus, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany. Through a combination of fortuitous events and favorable economic and political conditions, Poland reached the height of its powers by the beginning of the 16th century. It became the bread basket for Western Europe as the population grew, providing wheat and other agricultural products. A long-standing alliance with Lithuania dating from the end of the 14th century culminated in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1569. This Commonwealth benefited from an early form of parliamentary government that gave the landed gentryĖsome 10% of the populationĖunprecedented civil liberties and political influence. Religious tolerance was consciously cultivated, thus avoiding the internecine wars that plagued much of the rest of the continent.

As the middle class prospered, patronage for the arts increased and Poland looked westward, particularly to Italy for its cultural influence. In the fields of architecture, sculpture and painting in particular, this influence is pervasive. Krakow, the capital city at the time is, by all appearances, an Italian city. The Jagiellonian University, founded there in 1364, attracted students from all over Europe. By the second half of the 15th century 40% of the student body were foreigners from as far away as Spain and England. Perhaps its most illustrious student was the astronomer, Nicolas Copernicus. Humanism, another Italian import, was pervasive in Polish poetry, philosophy and letters, having been spear-headed by the great poet and Latinist Jan Kochanowski.

Polandís cultural ascendancy was reflected also in its music. Relatively little of the untold riches, manuscripts and prints, survived the ravages of the many wars and social upheavals as well as forty five years of Communist control. Even the leading composers of the day are each scantly represented by only one or two sources. Enough survives, however, to give a vibrant picture of the musical life of Krakow and other musical centers.

Almost all the genres present in Western Europe make their appearance in Polish sources, and in our survey we will sample some of the tastiest selections. Sacred music will be represented by movements from a mass of Barto?omej Pe;kiel, motets by Wac?aw z Szamotu? and settings of the psalms in vernacular translations by Kochanowski and set to music by Miko?aj Gomo?ka. Instrumental music will be taken mostly from one source, the Jan of Lublin organ book (1541), the largest surviving collection of keyboard music in Renaissance Europe and a vast repository of repertories including dances, fantasies and motets. We will look at early baroque music as well, including a 12-voiced Magnificat by Miko?aj Zielen'ski who studied in Venice with Giovanni Gabrieli, a bizarre chromatic madrigal by Diomedes Cato, an instrumental canzona by Adam Jarze;bski, and some unique anonymous patriotic songs.


A memorial service was held for Hans Samelson, a renowned professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, who died recently at age 89. Hans was an active member of MPRO in the 1980s and 1990s. MPRO old timers will remember Hans sitting in the back playing the tenor or bass recorder. He was well liked by all.

Hans was born in Strassburg, Germany, which is now Strasbourg, France. He left Nazi Germany in 1936 and studied in Switzerland, He received his doctorate there and immigrated to the United States in 1941, where he worked at Princeton, N.J. and Wyoming, New York and Michigan before coming to Stanford in 1960. Stanford presented him with the Deanís Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1977, and he chaired the Mathematics Department from 1979 to 1982. He became emeritus in 1986 but remained professionally active.


Note on your calendar the following MPRO meeting dates for the remainder of the 2005-2006 season: January 11, 25; February 1, 15; March 1, 22, 29; April 5, 19; May 3, 17, 31.

HEALING MUSES presents A Musical Tapestry

Saturday, January 7, 8 pm and Sunday, January 8, 4 pm, HEALING MUSES presents renaissance & traditional song and dance to warm the winter nights and celebrate the longer days ahead. Performers are: Susan Rode Morris, soprano; Eileen Hadidian, recorder, flute, Celtic harp; Shira Kammen, violin, vielle, medieval harp; July Jeffrey, viola da gamba; David Morris, viola da gamba, gittern.

St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington St., Albany. Tickets: $18/$15. Information and reservations: (510) 524-5661; www.healingmuses.org. Wheelchair accessible.

All proceeds benefit Healing Muses' project of bringing soothing music to Bay Area hospitals, clinics and convalescent homes.