undefinedBill Carslake

This course for chamber choir, baroque strings and continuo explores Cavalli’s magnificent collection “Musiche Sacre”, which includes splendid eight-part double choir pieces with instruments, several smaller scale vocal pieces, and some excellent instrumental canzonas.


Resident: £453 Non-Resident: £345 (25% off for under 27s) Code: 21/342

Booking for Members opens at 9am on Monday 12 April 2021. 

Non-Member and online booking opens at 9am on Monday 10 May 2021. 

For details on how to become a Member to take advantage of early booking, see here.

What is the course about?

We will explore large and medium scale pieces for choir and instruments by Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) from his collection, Musiche Sacre Concernenti (Venice, 1656). The cornerstone will be the double-choir Messa Concertata à 8 in which there will be some opportunities for solo singing, although there is no pressure to be a soloist. Alma Redemptoris Mater forSSATB and continuo is more intimate, though never losing the sense of space that characterises the work of this lifelong employee of St Mark’s Venice who studied with Monteverdi and composed over 40 operas. There may be further possibilities for one-to-a-part singing in smaller-scale items for voices and instruments. Please indicate on your application form whether you would like to tackle any solos but please note that we cannot promise to give everyone solo opportunities.

We require an instrumental ensemble of baroque strings and continuo and can accept up to six violins (please also bring violas if you have them), two violas, and four cellos, bass violins or bass viols. One of the string bass instrumentalists will be accepted as the principal continuo player although all will be given opportunities for one-to-a-part playing and will be allocated further basso continuo parts wherever possible. In addition there will be places for two keyboard players on harpsichord or organ (who should be proficient in reading figured bass) and two chitarrone players. Although the Messa Concertata is officially scored for violins with three trombones, given the historic line-up of strings for this particular vocal/instrumental course we will replace the trombones with violas and cellos (or bass viols) on this occasion. Please note that whilst the course is open to string players of baroque instruments with gut strings we will be working at A 440, given that the pitch in early 17th century Venice was high(considerably higher than A 440!). There should be no problem in tuning up your instruments but if you have any qualms you could consider putting on slightly thinner strings.

We are able to offer a few scholarships to student or professional singers interested in furthering their knowledge of baroque vocal music: they will have the opportunity to take some solo parts and assist with coaching.

Tutor websites: http://www.canzona.org.uk/theresa.html www.billcarslake.com

What will we cover?

Sacred music by Francesco Cavalli (1602 – 1676) from his Musiche Sacre Concernenti (Venice, 1656) including the Messa Concertata à 8 (with instruments) and Alma Redemptoris Mater à 5 (with basso continuo).There may also be the opportunity to include some small-scale works for solo voices with two violins and continuo. Instrumental music will include canzonas from the same collection in three to twelve parts.

What will we accomplish? By the end of this course you will be able to…

You will be introduced to the sacred music by this internationally renowned composer who was most likely a pupil of Monteverdi, held a succession of posts at St. Mark’s, Venice and was certainly the most important figure in the Venetian operatic scene, writing over thirty operas. We will work in depth on the principal pieces so that we can give an informal performance on the final afternoon.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?


Singers should be confident in holding a part in a small choir with up to five per part and be a competent sight-reader. String players preferably should play on baroque set-ups but modern instruments with gut strings and baroque bows will be accepted. Keyboard and theorbo players should be confident in reading figured bass.

How will the course be taught, and will any preparation be required?

Most sessions will be with choir and instruments together, conducted by Bill Carslake with Theresa Caudle giving added guidance from the violin. Some sessions will be taken with Bill directing choir and continuo instruments alone, whilst Theresa directs the instrumentalists in instrumental items. We will send copies and/or details of the music some weeks before the course and singers, in particular, are expected to prepare the pieces in advance. 

Will music be provided in advance of the course?

We anticipate using the Early Music Company’s edition by Clifford Bartlett of the Messa Concertata. Benslow Music will purchase copies and send them out to you but will make a charge for this. Alma Redemptoris Mater is available on CPDL and we ask that singers and continuo players print out this out prior to the course. (If you have any problems with this please contact Benslow.) Prior to the course we will let you know if there are any smaller-scale vocal pieces that might involve you and would ask you to print these from CPDL too. All instrumental parts will be provided.

Is there anything I need to bring?

Singers and continuo players should bring their own music for the course pieces. If you would to bring other things to explore in the afternoon you may. Also Benslow has a well-stocked library.  

What previous participants said about this course…

“Excellent for learning new repertoire and how to approach early music.”

“Excellent choral instruction and instrumental direction from both tutors. Attention to detail presented in a hugely enjoyable way. Good camaraderie amongst course participants and tutors.”

“One of the most enjoyable courses I've ever attended at Benslow. Both tutors are superb, not only utterly on top of the material with which they were working, but outstanding at jollying along those who needed that.”

“Friendly and patient. Inspiring!”