Vocal Sound and Style 1450 to 1650

This important conference, hosted by Brighton Early Music Festival and National Early Music Association, takes place at Brighton, United Kingdom, on 20th/21st October 2018. For details, including conference programme, fees, abstracts, locations and access to hotels, see conference website at https://bremf-nema-conference-20185.webnode.com/ . Note that reduced early bird prices in various categories are available until 1st September 2018. Please email any enquiries to richardbethell-at-btinternet.com.

Keynote speakers will be Laurie Stras and Richard Wistreich. Other presenters include Anthony Rooley, Robert Toft, Gerald Place, Gawain Glenton, Viviane Kubo-Munari, Greta Haenen, Joe Bolger and Muthuswami Hariharan. Conference Director Deborah Roberts will direct a workshop.

It will be the first in a series of three conferences, each around two years apart. All have common objectives, which are: 1. To generate fresh research on each period, 2. To stimulate innovative approaches to informed performance practice based on the research, and 3. To encourage the same training for both professional and amateur vocalists as that given to players of period instruments.

[original CFP follows]

Conference Date and Location

20/21 October 2018, Brighton, immediately before the Brighton Early Music Festival

Deadline for CFP

14 April 2018


This international conference will be run jointly by the National Early Music Association and the Brighton Early Music Festival. It will be the first in a series, each timed around two years apart. The 2nd and 3rd (possibly with different co-sponsors) are likely to be “Vocal Sound and Style 1650-1830” and “Vocal Sound and Style 1830-1920”. All would share common objectives, which are: (1) to generate fresh research on each period, (2) to stimulate innovative approaches to informed performance practice based on the research, and (3) to encourage the same training for both professional and amateur vocalists as that given to players of period instruments.

The first of these conferences will focus within the early modern period from roughly 1450-1650 which saw the performance of polyphony in both secular and sacred contexts, the increasing demands made of singers in the expression of text, the rise of solo song, recitative and opera, and the consequent development of new vocal techniques and ornamentation. This period covers some of the most exciting developments to have taken place in the history of vocal music, with the emergence of the first great vocal celebrities, both men and women, and some of the first treatises and accounts that deal specifically with vocal style, colour and technique.

The conference will be designed, not as a talk-fest for academics, but to appeal to the widest possible public, with workshops attracting solo and choral singers (both amateur and professional), students and the general musical public, as well as academics. It is expected that the conference will attract heads of institutions’ vocal studies as well as private singing teachers.

It is envisaged that draft papers, vocal illustrations and information on themed sessions will be disseminated a month or so before the conference, and public discussion invited on social media.

While it is not possible yet to indicate fee levels, there will be discounts for early booking, NEMA members, members of sponsoring organisations, and people registered to attend Festival events.

Types of Submissions Sought

The conference committee invites proposals for papers, workshops, lecture recitals and themed sessions such as round table discussions, of interest to amateur singers and instrumentalists, as well as professionals. Paper presentations will be up to 20 minutes, with 10 minutes for discussion. Lecture recitals will be up to 25 minutes for lecture and performance, leaving up to 10 minutes for discussion. Workshops, round table discussions and other themed sessions will be from 1 to 2 hours, of interest to amateur singers and instrumentalists, as well as professionals. Delegates might include Festival attendees, members of the National Early Music Association, the UK Early Music Fora, and members of sponsoring organisations.

Topics Sought

  • New research papers on renaissance and early baroque pedagogy, e.g. sources by Conrad Von Zabern, Francinus Gaffurius, Pietro Aaron, Gerolamo Cardano, Emilio Cavalieri, Hermann Finck, Giovanni Bovicelli, Giulio Caccini, Vincenzo Giustiniani, Giovanni Maffei, Michael Praetorius, Lodovico Zacconi, Luigi Zenobi and others.
  • Ornamentation technique and style, e.g. covering the trillo, messa di voce, rapid diminutions, tremolo (pitch and/or volume?), etc.
  • The modern singer: singing music from many periods.
  • Revisiting the past: Can recent discoveries about vocal function via modern technology enlighten our understanding of singing in the past?
  • Instrumental participation/substitution in the vocal repertoire, as well as volume and tonal balance between voices and instruments.
  • Singing recitative: rhythm, metre, text declamation, rhetoric and appropriate ornamentation.
  • Decisions on choral or ensemble (one to a part) realisation of multi-part compositions.
  • Tempo and the Tactus.
  • Dynamics and phrasing.
  • Lecture recitals covering any of the above, with illustrations from sacred and/or secular sources.
  • Workshops might feature music by Palestrina, Josquin des Prez, Cipriano de Rore, Giaches de Wert, Monteverdi and Michael Praetorius.
  • Round table discussion on the question—Where did aspiring singers learn their art; exclusively on the job or in acknowledged or less formal schola?

Submission Information

Send a proposal of no more than 500 words as an email attachment to BREMF Artistic Director Deborah Roberts (deborah@bremf.org.uk), with copies to Festival Producer Cathy Boyes at BREMF (cathy@bremf.org.uk), telephone 01420 86267, and NEMA Secretary Richard Bethell (richardbethell@btinternet.com), telephone 01293 783195, by 14th April 2018. Include in the body of the email the author’s name, paper title, institutional affiliation or city of residence, technical requirements, contact details including phone number(s) and e-mail address, plus a short biographical note of up to 100 words on the speaker. Indicate whether the proposal is for a paper, lecture recital, workshop or other group event. Submissions will be acknowledged by email only.