CRMSS Ontario 2023 Course Description

Tutor Team

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Greg SkidmoreMatthew LongTom CastleSharang SharmaLucas Harris, and Dr. Kate Helsen.


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CRMSS Ontario 2023 Theme

The theme of CRMSS Ontario 2023 is A Double Bill: 150 years of English Polyphony.

2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd. Byrd's fame and influence are difficult to overstate and many consider his work to be the best of the entire English Renaissance. While there is certainly competition for that title, Byrd's music defintely resonates with modern audiences as emblematic of the high Renaissance in England as a whole.

100 years before Byrd's death another important English composer died, also a leader of his generation. At CRMSS Ontario 2023, we will also commemorate the death of William Cornysh the Younger, a prominent contributor to the so-called "English Florid Style" typified by the music found in the Eton Choirbook. Cornysh's music was written before the English Reformations that so characterised the music of Byrd and his contemporaries and is in places more mysterious to our modern ears, requiring dazzling virtuosity and a commitment to its almost-symphonic scale.

Our two "Bills", therefore, represent the beginning and end of an incredibly rich era of music composition in England, including other notable geniuses such as John Taverner, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, and Thomas Weelkes (who also died 400 years ago this year) and so many more. At CRMSS Ontario 2023, we will explore this repertoire in all its breadth and variety, touching on familiar music as well as pieces which will hopefully be new to you.

What types of singing will happen at CRMSS Ontario 2023?


A major focus of the week's work is singing together as one choir, exploring larger scale, mainly sacred a capella music of the Renaissance. The specific repertoire chosen depends on the distribution of voices amongst the course participants, and the repertoire selections will conform with the theme of the course.

We will also divide the participants into two smaller chamber groups which work separately, and look at repertoire different from what is covered in the tutti group.


While the majority of our time is spent preparing ensemble music in choral and small group contexts, good solo vocal technique is of course essential for good singing. This applies to music written in any style and during any time period, including the Renaissance.

Matt Long will lead the solo singing side of CRMSS Ontario 2023. Solo singing and good vocal technique are core parts of CRMSS and we believe that solo and ensemble singing can sit comfortably side by side, one informing and enhancing the other.

Participants are enthusiastically encouraged to bring their own solo repertoire written by English composers before 1630.

As we have been since our first course in 2018, we are lucky to have Lucas Harris, one of Canada's most prestigious lutenists, on our tutor team in 2023. Lucas will again lead Lute Day at CRMSS Ontario 2023, and will be available to work with solo singers at the beginning of the week, accompanying them on the lute in lessons and repertoire coaching sessions. Lucas needs to take a few days away from the course this year in order to fulfill commitments in Toronto, but will return to accompany soloists during our final public concert at the end of the week.

There was so much wonderful solo repertoire written in England during the Renaissance and we look forward to building upon the strong tradition of solo singing we have established at our previous CRMSS courses.

Consort singing: one and two per part vocal chamber music

Any serious amount of time spent getting to know the music of the Renaissance must include small-ensemble singing. The tutors will chose groups and assign them repertoire before the week begins, sending out scores and reference recordings so participants can prepare in advance and come with one or two pieces already learned.

It is in these small group settings that we can best explore secular repertoire from the English Renaissance. We believe it is of particular importance that the secular music of this period be covered, as it provides a more vivid picture of the sorts of musical lives these musicians actually lived, be they composers or singers or both.

As with solo repertoire, there will be opportunities to work on small ensemble music that participants bring themselves.

The pre-formed small groups will all be at least two-singers-per-part. Everyone will be allocated into one of these small groups, and perhaps more than one if numbers allow. There will be more time set aside for even smaller, one-per-part consorts to form and experiment with other repertoire, both on an ad hoc basis and under the direction of a member of staff.


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Latin Choral Vespers at St Peter's Seminary

Thursday, May 18th 2023
Open to the public

St Peter's Seminary

In both 2019 and 2022, a special highlight of the course was singing a Choral Vespers service at St Peter's Seminary. We are excited to be returning again this year! This service, conducted entirely in Latin and using the Tridentine Rite, involves a large amount of Gregorian plainsong interspersed with polyphonic motets and psalms. The story of Catholic religious practice in England during the Renaissance offers us at CRMSS Ontario 2023 a rich and exciting well of repertoire from which to draw in planning this service, and as it falls precisely on the Feast of the Ascension, we will be observing this important Catholic festival in grand style.

Choral Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral

Friday, May 19th 2023
Open to the public

St. Paul's Cathedral

In 2019, we sang both a Vespers service and an English Choral Evensong over the course of our week together. Since then for a few reasons we've been unable to repeat that - until this year! We'll be travelling to St. Paul's Cathedral in downtown London to perform an English cathedral choir style Evensong service on Friday, May 19th. There is such a wealth of English Renaissance music that would be approriate for such an event, but our goal will be to sing the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis from William Byrd'sGreat Service, one of the masterpieces of the English cathedral choir repertoire. We will of course also perform Responses, a psalm, and an anthem.

Final course concert

Sunday, May 21st 2023
Open to the public

St. Paul's Cathedral

The culmination of any CRMSS week is the final public concert given by the participants. It is during this concert that we showcase all the different sorts of music that has gone on over the course of the week, including all of our different ensembles: tutti, chamber choirs, small groups, and soloists. We are overjoyed that St. Paul's Catherdal has agreed to host us this year, and look forward to offering this concert to the public.

More information about all of the events that are open to the public is available at our Public Events page, and information on how to purchase tickets to this concert at the end of the week can be found here:

Buy tickets

Daily evening church services

Throughout the week, at the end of each day, we will sing Compline in Huron chapel. Our Compline service is simple, sung in English, and is largely made up of plainsong, with a few simple motets for contrast. It is designed not as something pressured or necessarily to be worked towards, but rather as a way of bringing our day together to a peaceful close - precisely as the service was designed to do in its original monastic context. These services mainly serve as a way for us to come together as a course and to experience the daily rhythm of liturgical music making that formed the wider context for most of the music we will be studying.

Internal 'sharing' concert for CRMSS participants

Everyone who participates in CRMSS Ontario 2023 will have a chance to perform any of the music they work on over the course of the week, be it in their pre-formed smaller groups or in groups they form themselves or the solo repertoire they work on or music they bring themselves... or anything else! This event will take place on Saturday, May 20th at Huron and will not be open to the public.

A Typical Day

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We are always in the process of tweaking the daily schedule to get things just right, and pacing our time together is very important to us. At CRMSS Ontario 2023 we will follow this basic outline, but the schedule below is very much subject to change. Special events happening throughout the week will mean any given day's schedule may deviate from this significantly.

Full course warmup
Full course choral rehearsal - 2.5 hours, including a 20 minute tea break
Small group work and/or solo sessions, including a 10 minute break
Lecture / Symposium / Round Table / Masterclass, including a 10 minute break
Continued small group work, ad hoc, or solo sessions, including a 10 minute break
Full course choral rehearsal - 1 hour, including a 10 minute break
Full course choral rehearsal - 1 hour, including a 10 minute break
Compline rehearsal (approx. 45 min)
Compline (approx. 30-45 min)
Pub / Home / Sleep / Late night singing!

Soft launch

New for CRMSS Ontario 2023 will be a 'soft launch' to the week. The course will begin on the afternoon of Saturday, May 13th 2023 with a longer registration period and time for you to find your feet at Huron. The singing that day will only consist of a tutti rehearsal, followed by wine and nibbles (that might perhaps extend well into the evening!). We will sing Compline on the evening of the 13th, but this service will be simple and not contain the more sophisticated polyphony we will incorporate into Compline later in the week. More information on this 'soft launch' will be available soon.

The right pace

We received some very positive feedback after CRMSS 2022 suggesting that the pace of the week was much improved relative to previous years. The week is a busy one and it's important that everyone gets enough down time.

Attendance at Compline each evening will not be compulsory, but is greatly encouraged! The feedback we've received from those who did attend every night in previous years has been that it is a wonderful way to bring each day to a close, but we also understand that some of you may need your sleep! You will also be entirely welcome to attend Compline and not sing if you need some vocal rest.

Attendance at the talks will also not be compulsory, but encouraged - if for no other reason than to give your voice a break and get your brain thinking about something other than all that sight reading.

Of course, if you feel at any time that you need a break, you are welcome to approach any tutor and ask.

Lectures, Symposia, and Round Table discussions

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The course will include some sessions in which we - don't - sing! These discussions will provide context for the practical music making which is the focus of the course, and highlight the importance of scholarship in performance, and, crucially, visa versa.

At CRMSS Ontario 2023 we are delighted to be presenting the following two talks:

  • Our CRMSS 2022 Guest Artist, Robert Hollingworth, gave a talk entitled Method to the Madness in which he outlined the history of his group I Fagiolini, as well as its performance philosophy.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen secured special access for us to rarely viewed manuscripts and prints from the Renaissance held in the archives of Western University.
  • Dr. Aaron James gave a talk about how musicians in the time of Josquin des Prez actually learned music as students, using a system known as the Guidonian Hand, and entitled A Helping Hand: Guido, Hexachords, Solmization, and Musicianship in the Renaissance.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen showed us how Josquin des Prez was actually a pretty slippery character to pin down - who was he, actually? How many 'Josquins' were there? Her talk was entitled Josquin: Choose your own adventure.
  • Dr. Patrick Murray took us through the process of preparing a piece of Renaissance polyphony for modern day performance in his talk entitled Anything but ‘Ordinary:’ Bringing a Renaissance mass to life in contemporary performance.
  • Sharang Sharma took us through an introduction to some practical methods we can use to help learn the required musical skills to sight-read Renaissance music and chant effectively.
  • Dr. Roseen Giles gave a paper entitled “‘Don't worry, this will sing itself', and other musical fictions" about the practice of musica ficta.
  • Andrew Pickett presented “‘Drop the beat’ - Introduction to the theory and practice of vocal ensemble intonation”.
  • Dr. Kate Helsen introduced us to some of her fascinating new research in “What's in a Riff - Chant DNA in modal polyphony”.
  • Greg Skidmore, Matt Long, and Emily Atkinson took part in a round table discussion led by Dr. Giles entitled “Being a Professional Singer in the UK”, taking questions on every aspect of their professional lives in the UK.
  • Lucas Harris gave a lecture entitled “Musica Transalpina: The madrigal in Italy & England, c1600”
  • Dr. Kate Helsen gave us a crash course in Renaissance musical notation with her workshop entitled “Partly Useful: Renaissance notation”
  • Dr. Troy Ducharme of the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University wrapped our heads around Gesualdo's wild sounds with “Beyond Rules: Counterpoint Technique, Musical Meaning, and Style in Selected Works of Gesualdo.”

CRMSS Ontario 2023 Lute Day

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A mini-CRMSS course just for lutenists!

Following on from the success of Lute Day at CRMSS in 2021 and 2022, we will be offering Lute Day again as part of CRMSS Ontario 2023, on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The day will begin in the mid-morning and finish around dinnertime, the exact start/finish times to be determined according to input from the participants.

Lute Day at CRMSS Ontario 2023 will again be run by Lucas Harris, and he will be in touch with participants about the content, which will center around England c.1600. Possibilities include:

How to participate

If you’d like to come to Lute Day at CRMSS Ontario 2023, please fill out the form at this link.

The cost of attending Lute Day at CRMSS Ontario 2023 is $125.

On our contact page you can also follow us on social media and fill in a web form that will send us a quick email if you want more information.


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(with some bursaries available)

In this time of increasing financial uncertainty, we are proud to be able to keep the cost of attending CRMSS Ontario 2023 the same as the cost of CRMSS 2022.

$525 is the standard rate for a singing participant at CRMSS Ontario 2023. We regularly offer bursaries to students, other younger participants, and those experiencing financial hardship. These are offered as the need arises and our resources allow.

Lute Day

The cost of attending Lute Day in 2022 was $125 and we are glad to keep this price the same in 2023.

Travel and Accommodation

If attending either the full course or just Lute Day, you will need to cover your travel to London Ontario and your accommodation, if required. While CRMSS doesn't bear these costs, we do try to help as much as we can with your logistics, including arranging for you to be picked up and dropped off at local bus or train stations or London International Airport.

We can also help you find your accommodation, either through making a group booking to use the student accommodation at Huron University College or by helping arrange the sharing of Airbnbs or similar.


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CRMSS Ontario 2023 will be held primarily at Huron University College in London Ontario.

The address is: 1349 Western Roadd, London Ontario, N6G 1H3

You can find directions to Huron on our conact page.