Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra Newsletter

Current Month



Welcome back to our first season in the new millennium! (Since our season spans 2000/2001, the argument about in which year the millennium begins, isn't an issue.)

We've got good news and bad news.

1. The bad news is that Angie Owen has retired from the job of Newsletter Editor. She tells me that we will see her at some of the Orchestra meetings and workshops. The Good news is that Dick Davies is the new Editor and Chairman of the Newsletter Committee. We're glad to have you on board, Dick, and I'm sure you'll do well at the tough job of filling Angie's shoes (although they may pinch a bit!).

2. The bad news is: We need to raise the dues - for the first time in over five years. (A hateful announcement for a new President!). The good news is that it's only by $5.00 for Participating members and $2.00 for Associate members.

3. And finally, most of you know that your very effective former President Abby Eller has ceded her position because of something called "work creep" (more likely a full scale gallop!), so you have the dubious pleasure of putting up with me. The good news is - for only 2 years. Let's hope that both you and I not only survive, but also improve, like wine, with age.

Who to ask about:

Diana Fischer - her BIG birthday in August,
Laura Gonsalves - The "Cupertino Crones" gigs this summer,
Len Greenberg - the new recorders he bought at the Berk. Fest.,
George Greenwood - Flute Boot camp and the Recorder workshop,
Toni Jackson - his position on the Board of Directors of SFEMS.

And finally, me - about sneaking backstage into a dress rehearsal of Bach's Cantata #106 (for 2 solo recorders + voices) at the Carmel festival. It's a long story - best told over a cuppa, or better yet, a glassa.

Fred has some wonderful music for us this year. His plans also include the Madrigal singers and a return of Nick Vigil with his oboe. See his article elsewhere in this newsletter.

I'm eagerly looking forward to our new season, and to seeing you on Sept. 6.

Stevie White


Dear members of the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra,

It's time to get ready for another exciting season of fine music making. Here are some of the highlights for 2000-2001: The holiday concert, scheduled for Sunday, December 10, will include Sheep may safely graze by J.S. Bach with Nicholas Vigil oboe soloist as well as four settings of the chorale, Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern for recorders, krummhorns and voices by Michael Praetorius. Appearing with the orchestra for the holiday concert as well as the spring concert on Saturday, June 2 will be the Palo Alto Madrigal Singers directed by Doris Williams. For the spring concert the singers will join the orchestra in two polychoral works for recorders, krummhorns and voices: Tutto lo di by Roland de Lassus and Jauchzet dem Herrn by Heinrich Schütz. The program will also feature Handel's Overture for St. Cecilia's Day and a chanson by the early 15th-century Burgundian composer, Gilles Binchois.

I am pleased to announce that Bay Area performer Frances Blaker will direct a workshop for the orchestra on October 28 featuring the music of the unjustly neglected English composer, Peter Philips. Further information about this workshop appears in this issue of Upbeat. On January 20, Kim Pineda, from Seattle, Washington, will direct a workshop for the orchestra featuring the instrumental music of Schein, Scheidt, Muffat and other 17th-century German composers. Further information about this workshop will appear in the December MPRO newsletter.

I look forward to working with you again in September and encourage you to let any of your friends who play early instruments know about the orchestra's varied activities this season and invite them to attend our upcoming meetings, workshops and concerts.


Fred Palmer


by Frederic Palmer

On October 28, Frances Blaker will be presenting a workshop for the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra featuring the music of Peter Philips. For further information about this workshop please see the announcement which appears in this issue of Upbeat.

Peter Philips, like several other Catholic English composers, decided to leave his Protestant country during the late 16th century and settle on the Continent. The perils facing a Catholic Englishman during this period---even one living outside the British Isles---became abundantly clear when, in 1593, Philips was implicated in a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I, arrested by Dutch authorities and spent several months in prison before being exonerated.

After leaving England in 1582, Philips spent three years in Rome where he worked as an organist and came under the influence of Palestrina's music. In 1585, he entered the service of a Catholic English nobleman in Rome who eventually brought Philips to the Spanish Netherlands. In 1593, Philips met the great Dutch organist and composer, Sweelinck, whose music he admired. Evidently, Sweelinck was equally impressed with Philips's music because he wrote a set of variations on one of Philips's pavans.

Although Peter Philips is know today for his keyboard works which appear in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, he excelled at virtually every musical style and medium current during his lifetime, including secular and sacred vocal polyphony, instrumental music, compositions for one or more soloists and continuo, some in the monodic style of Caccini, and probably more polychoral music than was written by any other English composer of his day. Many of his works went through several publications during his lifetime, his music was known as far south as Lisbon, as far north as Stockholm and as far east as Poland, and Morley and Dowland were among several composers who imitated the haunting close of one of his pavans.

One may wonder why Philips's magnificent music remains for the most part buried treasure. The answer lies in the tendency for musical audiences and historians to pigeonhole composers into convenient categories. Peter Philips simply does not fit the norm, either by the standards of the 16th or 17th centuries or the 20th or 21st. To a large extent, Philips represented and still represents an anomaly: an Elizabethan composer, writing music in essentially a Roman style while in the cultural backwater of the Spanish Netherlands. That is the perception. The reality is that Philips was able to integrate with consummate skill the diverse musical forces at work during the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque and infuse them with his own personal style. His music needs to be brought out of exile and further explored.


I have received two letters which I would like to share with the members of the orchestra. Gail Nickless, Executive Director of the American Recorder Society writes, "Thanks very much for your help in arranging for the Mid-Peninsula Recorder Orchestra to play during the ARS reception at the Berkeley Festival. Please tell your members that their program was definitely a hit. I thank you and the MPRO members for taking time out of your busy schedules to be part of the recorder events at this summer's Berkeley Festival." Merrilee Walker, Director of the Young Performers String Orchestra of Walnut Creek, writes, "Please let your wonderful recorder orchestra know how very much the students and families of YPSO enjoyed our collaboration last May at the Dean Lesher Regional Arts Center in Walnut Creek. Everyone expressed great delight at the sound and style of your group. The students were very impressed with the historical and cultural perspectives of the music you presented. This was truly a rare opportunity for them to hear an important part of our musical heritage. Thank you, again, for all your hard work and dedication in sharing such a memorable musical experience." I too wish to express my thanks and appreciation to all the members of the orchestra who, through their personal efforts and exceptional playing, made MPRO's 1999-2000 season so successful and extraordinary.

Fred Palmer