Chamber music summer school
Patron: Trevor Pinnock CBE
Queen Anne’s School, Caversham, Berkshire 11–18 August 2019

Dates and times

Registration will be from 2.30pm on Sunday 11th August 2019. Tea/coffee and cake will be available in the common room from 3.30–5.30pm. There will be an explanatory meeting for newcomers (or those who haven’t been for a few years) at 4.30pm, including a tour of the campus, and then an initial course meeting for all before dinner, which is followed by an organised playing and singing session. The course finishes with lunch on Sunday 18th August.

What to expect at Baroque Week

Whether you are an amateur, student, semi-professional or an emerging young professional musician this course offers an wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in baroque music for a week with guidance from knowledgeable, inspiring and encouraging tutors, all leading specialists in the performance of baroque music on period instruments. There are a few full or part bursaries available to those who could not otherwise afford to attend — please see the Bursaries page.

The emphasis is on chamber music and thanks to the extensive Baroque Week library of nearly 3000 works there is always something interesting to play, whatever the line-up of your ensemble. On the first full day chamber music sessions are prearranged; for the remainder of the week participants organise most of their own groups and choose the music, although expert help is at hand from the tutors to arrange groupings and suggest repertoire if you find empty places in your playing diary. You will have the chance to take part in many different ensembles during the week as, apart from the tutor-led projects, you are likely to be playing with a different group in every session.

In recent years we have had participants from Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. We make every effort to ensure that newcomers feel welcome, and have a “buddy” system where a long-standing course participant will help to explain how the course works and help to make sure that you are fully involved, particularly in the chamber music sessions.

“It must be the friendliest course in the country”

Each day begins with a talk or a practical workshop concentrating on various aspects of baroque performance, followed by the first main session, in which we offer tutor-led projects related to the year’s theme for all who wish to join in. This year this will include several glorious cantatas by J S Bach and an orchestral suite by Fasch. Some of these projects will be included in the informal concert on Saturday evening.

In the second session each day we largely separate the singers and instrumentalists so that the singers have a chance to work in small consorts with some basso continuo players or a few other instrumentalists.  On some days singers will study solos in a masterclass format.  This gives the chance for players to concentrate on instrumental music.   After lunch you are free to do what you like, whether it be playing, resting or exploring places of interest nearby.  In the fourth session, after tea, singers and players are encouraged to make up groups together to explore vocal and instrumental repertoire of their own choice.

Every day there is an informal concert before dinner, where participants can perform some of the music they have particularly enjoyed during that day’s sessions.  After dinner all are invited to take part in the choir — this year Steven Devine will be directing  J S Bach's wonderful motet Jesu Meine Freude and this will also be performed in Saturday’s final concert.

On Thursday evening there will be a concert given by the tutors which will centre around this year’s theme.

“The tutors’ concert was a highlight”

Is Baroque Week for you?

For players, the course is principally for those with baroque instruments at A415. However, we are also very happy to accept string players on modern instruments tuned down to A415 and using gut strings. If you do not own a baroque bow we may be able to loan you one for the course. Wind players will need at least one instrument at A415 although some music may be played at A392 or possibly A440. Keyboard players will have opportunities to play from and be coached in either figured bass or realisations. Plucked continuo instruments are also very welcome. Many participants play more than one instrument and the format of the course gives plenty of opportunity for this.

For singers, the course offers a rare opportunity to sing solo music with instruments as well as working in a small consort of voices and we recommend that you prepare and bring arias, cantatas or motets that you would like to work on with small groups of instrumentalists. In the weeks before the course we will send details of which Bach cantatas are programmed and allocate solo parts in some to appropriate singers. We can only accept a maximum of eight specialist singers, but instrumentalists who also want to do some solo or one-to-a-part singing should indicate this on the application form. (Everyone is encouraged to take part in the Choir each evening after dinner.)

Playing and singing is mostly one-to-a-part and you should be a competent sight-reader and able to hold a part confidently in a small ensemble. A reasonably high level of musical ability and technical competence is needed in order to benefit from detailed coaching in stylistic matters even if you have just seen the music for the first time! If you are new to Baroque Week please tell us something about your experience on the application form.

In order to help us achieve a balanced distribution of voices and to allocate solo parts we also ask new singers to provide a short recording when they apply. Due to the limited numbers we cannot allocate places to singers on a purely first-come, first-served basis and may not be able to confirm your booking until 1st March. However please still apply as soon as possible as some places are likely to be allocated sooner — as well as securing you an ensuite bedroom! We will of course refund your deposit in full if we find we are unable to accept your application.

“Excellent teaching and friendly, helpful tutors”

A typical day at Baroque Week...

45-minute talk or practical workshop on various aspects of baroque performance; followed by:

Session 1 — Tutor-led instrumental and vocal projects or instrumental chamber music
Session 2 — Instrumental chamber music; singers work in small consorts or in a masterclass format
Session 3 — Free time or untutored chamber music
Session 4 — Chamber music for singers and instrumentalists

Pre-dinner informal performance of some of the day’s music

Choir or untutored chamber music

“Tutors manage to achieve such wonderful results in such a short time”


This amazing, long-standing course was started by Walter Bergmann, who was a seminal figure in the early music movement as a recorder player and enlightened editor of baroque music. Peter Collier took over directorship of the course and ran it single-handedly for over thirty years; happily he continues to come with his instruments, library and wealth of knowledge. In the spirit of Walter Bergmann we continue to explore lesser-known repertoire alongside the more familiar — there is still so much to discover.

We are delighted that Trevor Pinnock agreed to become our Patron in 2016 and are honoured that he is giving his support to Baroque Week.

Tutors: Theresa Caudle (Artistic Director), Ann Allen, Amanda Babington, Clare Beesley, Steven Devine, Satoko Doi-Luck, Jane Francis, Kate Semmens.
Registered Charity No. 1161774