Peter was Chairman of the South West Early Music Forum from 2008-2012. Since 2000 he has been active in the UK network of Early Music Fora, running workshops covering a wide range of repertory.
With SWEMF his workshops have featured early anthems for the Chapel Royal by John Blow and Henry Aldrich, Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s eight-part Requiem, polychoral masses for two and three choirs by Joao Bautista Comes, Victoria’s Missa Pro Victoria, and many other stimulating programmes.
Workshop review excerpts
Border Marches Early Music Forum, Polish baroque music, 2010
On 9th October, I gave up a walk at Westonbirt Arboretum (autumn fruits and colour) to attend a joint BMEMF/SWEMF workshop for voices & instruments – and I‘m glad I did! The setting was splendid – Tewkesbury and its 12th century abbey; the music was splendid and unusual – Grzegorz Gorczycki’s late seventeenth/early eighteenth century polyphony; and the leader of the workshop, Peter Leech, was absolutely splendid.
In the Abbey Parish Room, we were introduced to Cracow in the 1690‘s where G., after studying music and theology in Prague and Vienna, ended up as Kapellmeister for 36 years. Travelling Jesuits had brought italianate polyphony to Bohemia, and, although this style was by now ‘old-hat’ in western Europe, G. brought it back to life by adding his own indigenous flavourings and writing many fine polyphonic works.
So why had so few of us (none of us?) heard of him? The fascinating story of Poland and the Second World War emerged, ending in the very recent freedom of Poland and the discovery of G.’s music.
But we weren‘t there for a history lesson. Peter managed to give us all this background and warm us up (with some very useful tips about relaxed tongues and shoulders) and yet in no time at all voices and instruments had sight-read G.’s Subvenite Sancti Dei quite convincingly! Ceremony, bells, echoes, exciting changes of time between duple and triple … perfect for a big ecclesiastical space … (watch this space). We then read through and worked on Libera Me Domine and Salve Regina and the a cappella Stabat Mater.
Lunch time arrived quickly, after which we moved into the abbey to perform the works in the type of setting for which G. wrote them – we could almost hear the bells and smell the incense. The bars of silence in the Libera were filled with the wonderful echo that rang round the abbey. And in the final piece, the Salve Regina, there was plenty of the ‘H’ word and we really swung it.
[‘H’ word … Hemiola … “In modern musical parlance, a hemiola is a metrical pattern in which two bars in simple triple time (3/2 or 3/4 for example) are articulated as if they were three bars in simple duple time (2/2 or 2/4)”. DUM di di, DUM di di, DA da, DA da, DA da. Just in case you didn‘t know.] Tricia Callow
South West Early Music Forum, 2008
Our chairman Peter Leech is well-known for his research on 17th Century Church composers, and he provided a fine collection of works related in interesting ways. A particular feature of the day was the use of an instrumental group of cornetts, sackbuts and curtals to support the vocal lines. Peter pointed out that while these instruments are more often associated with music of the earlier 1600s, they could perfectly well have been used in our set works. And the combination of voices and instruments was spectacular. We were provided with a feast of little-known and only recently discovered music of the highest quality. Many thanks must go to our Director for providing so much great music new to us, and to Simon Pickard and his able helpers for a comfortable and inspiring day. Edward James
Eastern Early Music Forum, Charpentier Requiem, 2007
Peter Leech’s energy never once seemed to flag, even when ours had to be restored by tea, chocolate biscuits and delicious ginger cake applied at fairly frequent intervals. Although it was hard work I feel very glad that I came on this workshop and definitely want to do another, soon. I met some old friends and hopefully some new ones, and we are all indebted to the energy, erudition and passion of Peter Leech who made the music, and the period, come so vividly to life for us. Miriam McMahon
Thames Valley Early Music Forum, Members of the Bach family, 2005
The day was very ably run by Peter Leech, who combined great musical skills and a well-tuned ear for the colour of the German language with fascinating glimpses of the local conditions in which many of these works were created. Firstly, Peter pointed out to us that Germany lost around a third of its population during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) through conflict, disease and famine, the population only recovering to its former size around the 1740’s. The ensemble was pretty tidy right from the start of the day, which earned compliments from Peter and promised well for the rest of the workshop. We managed to get through a great deal of music, and our thanks go to Peter for his excellent handling of our varied forces, his great sense of fun and his application of just the right amount of knowledge and musical wisdom. Geoff Huntingford
For further details of past and present activity visit the SWEMF website.