Cambridge Early Music Summer Schools 2015

RENAISSANCE MUSIC: Italia Mia, 9-15 August 2015

Philip Thorby and Friends

Philip Thorby, David Hatcher, Emma Murphy, Lynda Sayce, Frances Eustace

A musical Grand Tour of the city states of sixteenth century Italy

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  • Philip Thorby (course director & choir)
  • David Hatcher (viols)
  • Emma Murphy (recorders)
  • Lynda Sayce (lutes)
  • Frances Eustace (wind)

Course description

Cosimo I de' Medici as Orpheus, by Bronzino
Cosimo I de' Medici as Orpheus, by Bronzino

Join us on a musical Grand Tour of the city states of sixteenth century Italy, exploring the unparalleled riches of their courts and chapels. Our inspiration is the music and verse written for a Medici wedding celebrated in Florence in 1539: between the motet which welcomed the bride and the Bacchanalian chorus which ended the celebrations, tributes were sung to the noble couple by (amongst others) the city of Volterra, the rivers Tiber and Arno, and the nine Muses.

Another sequence of madrigals for voices and instruments describes a day in the eternal summer of the Age of Gold, from the birdsong at dawn to the stillness of nightfall, by way of Silenus accompanying his song (according to the stage directions) on a viol disguised as a turtle, with a bow disguised as an asp!

We will not be restricting ourselves to Tuscany and the Medici, however: other highlights of the tour will include a boat journey from Venice to Padua, and playing in a viol consort with Lucrezia Borgia...

Each day of the course will be divided between sectional rehearsals and ensembles, both large and small, directed by our specialist tutors. The after-dinner sessions might include informal performances of works covered in the day, as well as exploring early dance and working on large-scale pieces in which all course members will take part.

Typical schedule

  • 09.30 sectionals
  • 11.00 coffee
  • 11.30 ensembles (organised by the tutors)
  • 13.00 lunch break
  • 13.30 free time / self-organised groups
  • 16.00 tea
  • 16.30 ensembles (organised by the tutors)
  • 18.30 dinner
  • 19.45 tutti session for large-scale works

The tutors will offer coaching and workshops on all aspects of renaissance ensemble performance. Music will be provided, but you are also invited to bring your own sets of parts and scores if you wish.

Is the Renaissance course for me?

We welcome applications from competent singers, and from players of renaissance instruments at A=440 including viols, lutes, renaissance recorders and flutes, cornetts, sackbuts, crumhorns, shawms and curtals.

Recorder players should be familiar with all instruments in the descant to bass range, unless offering another instrument or voice as well; renaissance recorders are strongly preferred.

Viol players are encouraged to bring renaissance as well as baroque instruments but it might be possible to borrow renaissance viols during the course.

All applicants should have a good standard of sight-reading and be able to hold a line confidently on their own. Singers may be encouraged to take solo parts as well as singing in ensembles. Those applying as instrumentalists will also have opportunities to sing if they wish. Non-singing/playing observers are welcome if we have space.


The course begins with a recital by Philomel at 4pm on 9th August. The Intrepid Academy, directed by Philip Thorby, will give a full-length concert on 12th August. On the final evening (14th August) course members participate in a public concert, in which we will perform a selection of the pieces studied during the week.

Dates and times

Participants should arrive in time for the concert at 4pm on 9th August. The course ends with breakfast on Saturday 15th August.


We make every effort to assist with part or full bursaries where appropriate. Please enquire for details.


Study group

Please apply as early as possible, as places are limited. Applications will be acknowledged but may not be accepted until April, by when we hope to have a workable balance of voices and instruments. You will then be informed if your application has succeeded, and your deposit will be returned if not.

Course fees are detailed on the application form.

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Contact: |  tel: +44 (0) 1223 847330
Christopher Roberts, Administrator
Cambridge Early Music is a registered charity, No. 1127932, and a private limited company registered in England and Wales,
No. 6463812     Registered office: 5 Tunwell's Lane, Great Shelford, Cambridge CB22 5LJ, UK