Workshop at Springhead, Dorset
March 8-12, 2015

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“John Eliot has an extraordinary ability to inspire and communicate the exact emotions and demands of a piece. The main points I took away from the Dorset workshop were to know the text inside out so that the music flows effortlessly; to be more daring with interpretation and to always be nimble when approaching a piece. 

- Angharad Rowlands, Soprano

At the beginning of March, the eight Monteverdi Apprentices spent 5 days in the idyllic rural surroundings of Springhead. They were joined by regular members of the Monteverdi Choir, Gareth Treseder and Lawrence Wallington, and former apprentice Oliver-John Ruthven, harpsichordist in the English Baroque Soloists. The house and grounds of Springhead are now run by a Trust, led by Edward Parker, with the aim of maintaining a rural centre for creative and sustainable living.

The workshops sessions looked at canons, rounds, duets, folksongs before moving on to intensive ensemble work on works by Monteverdi, Schütz, Purcell and Le Jeune. The Apprentices had two three-hour sessions a day, working alongside those members of the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, and led by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. During the course of these sessions, they received vocal coaching and German language coaching from Sir John Eliot and Italian language coaching from Lady Gardiner.

Outside of the intensive daily musical work, the Apprentices benefited from yoga sessions each day, with particular focus on posture, breathing and support. There were also bracing walks in the surrounding countryside and trips into the nearest village, the charming and beautiful Fontmell Magna. The Apprentices were also given a tour of Sir John Eliot’s farm by the owner himself, a particular highlight being meeting new-born lambs that were only a day old. We were also treated to a very delicious dinner at Sir John Eliot’s house in the middle of the week.

The workshop culminated in an informal recital at St Andrew’s Church of Fontmell Magna, performing the repertoire that had been worked on throughout the previous five days. Before the concert, Sir John Eliot spoke of his musical upbringing in the around the village and the pleasure of returning to the surroundings to work with such a talented group of young musicians. The recital included ensemble works by Monteverdi, Brahms and Schütz, duets by Purcell and Rossini (the famous cat-duet going down a storm!), with the central item of the evening being the Credo from Bach’s Mass in B minor. The concert was a storming success, at turns moving, thrilling and inspiring.