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Baroque music in 415 Hz: Rameau & Co

Priory Nieuw Sion, Diepenveen, Netherlands, Sunday 13 - Saturday 19 August 2023


The programme

The former monastery of Nieuw Sion in the Salland forests near Deventer in the Netherlands is the venue for this year's seven-day baroque course. This course has two aspects: on one hand, a program of small ensembles of singers and players of 'early' instruments, both vocal and instrumental separately or in combination. On the other hand, there is a joint program with grandmasters of the French Baroque. All singers and instrumentalists participate in this program.

Jeroen van Bergeijk: "The ideal holiday spending: many days of hard work in a monastery, immersed in music, with an inspiring group of music lovers"

Chamber music

Chamber music ensemble performing
photo: Cassandra Luckhardt

The most important part of the course is working in small ensembles. Everyone is part of two different pre-arranged ensembles, both of which are treated equally. The ensembles work most of the time under the intensive supervision of the teachers. The ensembles present themselves to the other participants at the end of the course; in mutual consultation a number of ensembles can participate in the final public concert. This year the focus is on French Baroque. but this is optional for chamber music. Feel free to play or sing English, German or Italian music in the small ensemble program.

Frederiek Muller: "Beautiful venue, beautiful music!"

All formations from quartet upward are possible. The ensembles will be assigned very soon, so you can prepare at home. That is why quick registration is essential. Within the possibilities of the course, wishes for pieces and instrumentation are taken into account. The course is open to individual participants and permanent ensembles. There is also time for occasional combinations in the evenings.

Lea Schuiling: "Nice of course, doing a piece like this for choir, soloists and orchestra. But the chamber music is really an asset! Singers and instrumentalists, one to a part, with coaching by all teachers ... Something you rarely get the opportunity to do! And when the teachers sometimes contradict each other, .. well, .. that gives space"

Rameau & Co, programme for all singers and instrumentalists

Every afternoon, all singers and instrumentalists work together on the programme 'Rameau & Co' for all, which is performed in the final concert of the course. Of course, there are first sectional rehearsals for the choir and orchestra, and correpetition for the soloists. Later in the week, all groups are joined together to create a colourful and diverse ensemble, in which everyone has their own challenges. The programme includes the following works:

Jean Gilles - Messe des morts

Central work of the La Pellegrina baroque course 2023 is the Messe des morts, or Requiem, by Jean Gilles (1668-1705). This 1705 work was very popular in France for a long time and was used at the funerals of Rameau and Louis XIV, among others. On first hearing, this may seem a bit strange, because for a mass for the dead, this is at times rather cheerful, smooth music without the atmosphere of fear and doom heard in later Requiem compositions. Pathos, on the other hand, is plentiful and the work does not sound superficial by any means, witness the Offertory and the Communio. The long Introitus has a dance-like character and the Sanctus possesses a resilient rhythm.

Gilles began his career as a ten-year-old choirboy at the Saint-Sauveur in Aix-en-Provence, as a pupil of Guillaume Poitevin and later of his pupil André Campra. In 1693, he succeeded Poitevin as chapel master of Aix. In 1697, he became chapel master at Saint-Etienne in Toulouse. There he remained for the rest of his career, even when in 1701 he was offered the position of Kapellmeister of Notre-Dame des Doms in Avignon.

The prestigious positions in cathedrals indicate that Gilles quickly became known in the French musical world. Until the end of the ancien régime, he was famous throughout France. This was mainly due to his masterpiece, the Requiem (published as Messe des morts in 1764 by Michel Corrette): "... of all the Requiem masses, Gilles' has always been considered the best". After the ancien régime, Gilles was more or less forgotten, but from around 1950 he was rediscovered. Thanks in part to the growing popularity of historically informed performance practice, there are now quite a few recordings available. 

Gilles' music manages to reconcile supposedly typically French qualities such as elegance and refinement, with more southern elements such as emotional intensity and melodic richness. His music is certainly not sombre: even in his Requiem, dance rhythms are present; he also uses fewer dissonances than, say, De Lalande. His craftsmanship is undeniable. Structurally, his music is always well constructed. He writes sophisticated fugues for choir, for instance. Moreover, the deliberate alternation of homophonic and polyphonic passages shows a very French sense of balance.

Marc Antoine Charpentier - Motet pour les trépassés H.311

Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) dominated the French musical 17th century because of the scale of his production and the power of his compositions. He tackled all genres, but he is above all a composer of vocal music for whom the expressive possibilities of the text are always central to his works. Charpentier is a musician of exuberance and lyricism, but also of inwardness, practising dissonance, chromaticism and modulation with unparalleled audacity. Contrasting music, traversed by pathos, sensuality and silence. He is the musician of all paradoxes. In his swan song H 474*, he says he wanted to "... heal, purify, sanctify so that they can hear the sacred concert of the angels!

Marc-Antoine Charpentier began his career with a trip to Italy, where he came under the influence of Giacomo Carissimi and Domenico Mazzocchi. He remained marked by the Italian style and was the only one, along with De Mondonville in France, to write oratorios. From 1670, he was employed as music master (composer and singer) by the Duchess of Guise. After the death of Mlle de Guise in 1688, his patroness for 18 years, Charpentier was employed by the Jesuits in their Paris branches. He became a music teacher at the Collège Louis-le-Grand and then at the Church Saint-Louis, rue Saint-Antoine, near the Bastille. It was during this period that he composed most of his spiritual works.

Although Marc-Antoine Charpentier held prestigious positions throughout his career, few accounts have survived from his contemporaries and the man remains surprisingly enigmatic. Eighteen years in the service of the Duchess of Guise do not change this. Although his music echoes in all high places of the kingdom's artistic and intellectual life, a precise biography remains impossible to compile to this day. We lack testimonials. Two presumed portraits, only a few dates and two signatures is all there is. He seems to have wanted to disappear behind his work, like Shakespeare or Zelenka. At his death, he fell into complete oblivion. The fact that most of his works remained in manuscript contributed to this. It was only in 1953 that his Te Deum H.146, was discovered. Its Prelude is still used as the Eurovision tune.

The Motet pour les trépassés H.311 is subtitled "Complaints of souls in purgatory". It is based on a paraphrase of a text from the Bible book of Job, combined with antiphons and other liturgical poems read during evening vigils and metts for the departed. This piece is presented as a rondeau, whose refrain is entrusted to the SATB-SATB double choir: "Miseremini mei". The verses are sung by soloists.

Jean Philippe Rameau - Chaconne from Les Indes galantes

Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) was one of the most important music theorists in Western music history, the founder of the theory of harmony. But he was also an important composer whose influence on the development of opera cannot be underestimated. For the first 40 years of his life, Rameau led an obscure existence in the provinces, working as an organist. In 1722, he leaves for Paris where he publishes his treatise Traité de l'Harmonie. Rameau is recognised as an important music theorist and teacher, and soon also as a composer of harpsichord music. But his ambitions extend further. He wants to become an opera composer. His operas Hippolyte et Aricie, Castor et Pollux and his opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes hit like a bomb. The music is harmonically so much more complex than what opera audiences are used to, less natural but more dramatic and expressive. Rameau receives the support of the wealthy financier La Pouplinière and ties with the court are good. By 1750, he is at the peak of his fame. His works are performed all over France. Gradually, however, he loses the support of Enlightenment philosophers and after his death in 1764, his operas fall into oblivion. Rameau proved too much associated with the Ancien Régime to be honoured by his countrymen after the French Revolution. Only in recent decades has he regained the attention he deserves.

In the course, the orchestra works on Rameau's famous chaconne with which he concludes the opéra ballet Les Indes galantes. In Baroque music, the chaconne is used in the suite of instrumental dances. It is also often used as the closing piece of French tragédies lyriques and opéra-ballets. A good example is that chaconne from Les Indes galantes. Initially, towards the end of the sixteenth century, the chaconne was a popular dance song, in a lively three-part time signature, originating in America and introduced to Spain by sailors. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the style was transplanted to other European countries, where it became a dance of noble character and was performed with orchestra. It is then a somewhat larger piece, in three-part measure, slow and solemn, based on the repetition and variation of a bass theme that usually comprises 4 or 8 bars and is repeated many times. At this stage, the chaconne is indistinguishable from the passacaglia, as the names seem interchangeable between composers: Louis Couperin called one of his pieces 'chaconne or passacaglia'; François Couperin did the same in his first suite for violin (passacaglia or chaconne) and seems to have avoided the problem by calling one of his pieces for harpsichord 'L'amphibie'; according to Mattheson, the chaconne is slower than the passacaglia, but d'Alembert says the opposite. However, the chaconne often begins with an upbeat on the second beat, unlike the passacaglia in which this is rarer.

Feuillet notation for a chaconne

Extras: Baroque dance and Tai Chi

French Baroque music cannot be separated from French Baroque dance as it was practised at court. Thanks to sources with dance notation from the period, such as the writings of French dance masters Feuillet and Lorin, we can get a good idea of how dance was practised. The major innovations in dance in the 17th century originated at the French court under Louis XIV. The same basic technique was used both in social events and in theatrical dance at court ballets and in public theatres. Characteristically, on what musicians call the 'heavy counts', dancers go on their toes, i.e. upwards, making the dance infinitely light and graceful. A musician who has experienced this immediately plays differently, lighter and with more grace. Our teacher for the low strings, Ricardo Rodríguez Miranda, besides being a gambist, is also a dancer and teaches baroque dance at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. He will teach a workshop in the course and provide a warm-up with elements of Baroque dance each morning.

Teacher Mitchell Sandler is not only a singer and all-round musician, but also a certified Tai Chi instructor. Every morning before breakfast, he does a Tai-Chi session with anyone who wants to join in.

For whom

rehearsal in the castle hall
Soprano in action


There is room for up to 20 experienced singers. To qualify you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are a good sight reader and able to study parts independently
  • You are experienced with ensembles for early music in small ensembles (quartet, quintet)
  • You have a trained voice suitable for ensemble and solo singing
  • You are interested in historical performance practice, tuning systems and ornamentation


The maximum instrumental group size is 20. For instruments we can place baroque strings, viola da gamba, traverso/recorder, baroque oboe, baroque bassoon, possibly baroque trumpet, harpsichord/organ, theorbo; period instruments only, tuning pitch 415 Hz.

To qualify you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are used to playing period instruments. Modern string players are welcome, but are required to fit their instrument with gut strings and play with a baroque bow. It is possible to borrow baroque bows via La Pellegrina.
  • You are experienced in playing in small ensembles.

Harry Kragt: "I melted for the music, not because of the extreme temperatures. I have got the taste for more"

Staffan Rudner: "I think it was great that the tutors also took part in the music as players. Marco Vitale in particular, who dared to play the baroque oboe despite not being professional on that instrument"

Week programme and daily schedule

Week programme

  • Sunday morning August 13: arrival at Nieuw Sion, 10:30 course opening and first rehearsal
  • Friday August 18: public concert with the programme 'Rameau & Co' in the monastery refectory
  • Saturday afternoon August 19: final internal presentation of the chamber music ensembles, followed by drinks and departure

Annelies Jans: "Each morning two rehearsals, each afternoon two rehearsals, and what we do on our free evenings? Right, make music as much as possible...!"

church concert
Church concert

Daily Schedule

Staffan Rudner: "The tutors were able to adapt to the potential of all of us. After the course a new energy has come to our practicing and playing at home."


Monastery Nieuw Sion has existed since 1890 and was a Trappist monastery until 2015. The last monks then closed the door behind them and found a new place on Schiermonnikoog. Since then, a wide range of spiritual, as well as cultural and musical activities have taken place. More information can be found here (in Dutch):

Roeland Gerritsen: "To make music on a high level (with qualified teachers AND students) at a unique location in Europe in a fantastic atmosphere, I can heartily recommend this to anyone"

With whom

tutors at a party
The tutors giving a toast to a successful concert

The tutors of this course are passionate specialists in their fields: Dirkjan Horringa, Femke Huizinga, Hanna Lindeijer, Ricardo Rodríguez Miranda, Mitchell Sandler and Edoardo Valorz.

How to register

In order to register, please fill out this form and pay a deposit of EUR 300 (which of course will be refunded in case you cannot be placed).

Frederiek Muller: "So wonderful that it is already music from the first moment!"



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