Margriet Tindemans (1951–2014)
Obituary, January 4, 2015
Margaretha E. Tindemans was born March 26, 1951, in Nederweert, the Netherlands, the fourth child of Wilhelmina Coenen and Henricus Tindemans. She died December 31, 2014, in Seattle.
Margriet’s childhood in post-World War II Europe, in the village where she was born, grounded her in the values that defined her life. Her father was an elementary school teacher at a time when his pupils often showed up hungry or cold. Her mother taught “domestic arts,” grew the family’s vegetables, took outcasts of various stripes into their home, and found ways to support her children’s talents as soon as they emerged.
Music was Margriet’s talent from early on. She remembers tapping her toes inside her shoes to the rhythm of kyries and swaying in her pew as the priest droned. She began violin lessons at age ten. By age 14, she was named first violin in the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands. The group gave concerts throughout Holland—“our postage stamp of a country,” she called it.
Traveling with the youth orchestra developed Margriet’s taste for communal music-making. After Conservatory studies in Maastricht, then Brussels, Belgium, and Basel, Switzerland, which she completed with highest honors, her virtuosity led to an international career as a renowned performer and teacher of early music. At various stages in her career she performed on and taught, among other instruments, recorder, harp, mandolin, viola da gamba, vielle (medieval fiddle), and baroque viola. For over a decade Margriet was a member of the distinguished early music group Sequentia, performing throughout Europe and North and South America, India, Asia, and Africa.
In addition to Sequentia, Margriet has performed with, among other groups, the Royal Dutch Opera, the Newberry Consort, King’s Noyse, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Pacific MusicWorks, Gallery Concerts, and the Folger Consort. She was from the beginning in 1980 one of the pillars of the “Oude Muzick Festival” in Utrecht, the Netherlands, which has grown into a world-renowned center of early music. Her performance of the Cantigas of Alfonso el Sabio was the official gift of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on the occasion of a state visit to Denmark.
Margriet has recorded for Harmonia Mundi, Erato, Wildboar, Musica Omnia, and others. Her recording of Handel arias with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Stephen Stubbs was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2006.
After she moved to Seattle in 1986, from Cologne, Margriet was named Artist in Residence at the University of Washington and became active in the Early Music Guild. In an EMG Discovery Series performance for children in 2009, she invited small hands to examine her collection of medieval fiddles, then juggled bananas and oranges: a squealingly successful finale. For eight years she served as music director of puppet operas at the Northwest Puppet Center, including performances of Don Giovanni, The Dragon of Whatley, and The Magic Flute. More recently, she joined the music faculty at the Cornish College of the Arts.
In 1990 Margriet taught medieval chant and other early music forms to a group of twelve women, through the Northwest Center for Early Music Studies. The group eventually expanded to 60 and became the Medieval Women’s Choir, a non-audition performing ensemble now in its 25th season. Open to women of all levels of musical skill, the MWC is Margriet’s proudest accomplishment and the dearest to her heart. Her friend and colleague Nancy Zylstra will take over directing the remaining two performances of the Choir’s 2014-15 season, including a multimedia show of Cantigas de Santa Maria in March 2015 and a semi-staged performance of Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum in May 2015.
At the Choir’s 2014 Christmas concert, Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas declared December 20 Margriet Tindemans Day in the City of Seattle, for, among other accomplishments, her “virtuostic and deeply informed playing […which] has opened new worlds of beauty and history” to her audiences and students. The Mayor’s proclamation describes her as “a towering musical artist, mentor, and leader, beloved and admired by a wide community.”
Margriet is survived by her spouse, Judith Suther of Seattle; her sisters Jeanne Tindemans and Annemiek Tindemans and her brothers Peter Tindemans and Jan Tindemans, all of the Netherlands; her nephews Simon Tindemans of England, Arthur Tindemans and Bas Mulders, both of the Netherlands; her nieces Mirjam Mulders of the Netherlands and Ingrid Mulders of England, and all their partners; her great-niece, Nisha Tindemans of England; and her all-time best student and musical soulmate, Shira Kammen of Berkeley, California. Margriet was preceded in death by her parents and her late husband, Richard Templeton.
Ben Bagby, January 2015
Sequentia joins the early music world in mourning the passing of a great musician, teacher, instrumentalist and mensch, Margriet Tindemans, who left us in the last days of 2014. Her long and brilliant career can hardly be summarized here, but I thought I might recall a bit the ‘old days’ during Margriet’s years with Sequentia, when she lived in Maastricht, then in Belgium just across the border from Aachen, and finally in Cologne.
Sequentia was founded in Basel in 1977, as Barbara Thornton and I were finishing our diplomas in medieval music performance at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. In fact, it was our joint diploma recital in February 1977 that marked the beginning of Sequentia, followed in March by the first concert given under the Sequentia banner, in Brussels. In those final student days, the medieval fiddle players of the group were Alice Robbins, Sigrid Lee and Dana Maiben—an astonishing array of talent. When the decision was made to establish the ensemble in Cologne after graduation, only Barbara and I were interested in making Germany a new home, so we were looking for new colleagues in the area. In the meantime, we had met up with a great young lutenist from Cologne named Paul Shigihara Haltod, who was a student of Michael Schäffer. We had already heard from one of our teachers, Thomas Binkley, about a ferociously talented young fiddle player from the Netherlands, Margriet Tindemans, and we resolved to go hear her play with Syrinx, a Dutch ensemble of five women very active at the time. We met her after one of their concerts in Germany and proposed that we get together to ‘try some things’. Our first meeting with her in Cologne was so much fun, a real revelation, and we hit it off right away! But she was already a player much in demand in those days, while also finishing her viola da gamba solo diploma with Wieland Kuijken in Brussels. We had some concert commitments in late 1977, but since Margriet was not yet available, for those first concerts in Geneva and Göttingen we were joined by Rosamund Morley (studying then in den Haag) on fiddle. In early 1978 we finally had a chance to work with Margriet, usually going to her place in Maastricht for rehearsals—our first performances with her and Paul were in Belgium and Germany, with a program called ‘Tradition and Avant-Garde in the 13th Century’. During the course of that year Paul decided to abandon early music and lute in favor of jazz guitar (he’s still the lead guitarist with the West German Radio Big Band), and then, as if by magic, Crawford Young literally walked through the door. We all met up on the shores of Lago Maggiore in Switzerland that summer for intensive rehearsals and a first performance, and began performing in a quartet formation that would remain stable for the next three years (see photo, ca. 1980). Margriet shared a small house with Crawford in the Belgian countryside near Aachen, where we used to rehearse. At some point she needed to take time off to prepare her gamba diploma recital in Brussels, and during that period Mary Springfels replaced her for a residency in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. We performed all over Europe, especially in Italy, Germany and France, did a lot of radio work, and beginning in 1980 we began to tour extensively under the auspices of the Goethe Institute, with concerts in India, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, and Sudan. On these long tours, Margriet was always in her element: curious, open, fun loving, hard working and dependable. We all worked hard and partied hard (ah, to be young again). It was at this time that we made our first recording, ‘Minstrels and Clerics’, and later the ‘Trouvères’ set of three LPs (joined by Wendy Gillespie), for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.
When Crawford left the ensemble in 1981 we were able to convince David Hart to come to Germany and join us, and there followed a period of intense activity and many important projects: the first Hildegard von Bingen recordings, the first staging and TV film of ‘Ordo Virtutum’ (joined by Sarah Cunningham), the recording of German ‘Spruchdichter’, and more tours with Goethe Institute, including a memorable one-month tour of Brazil, and a first big tour of the USA. Margriet and David became very close (and bonded over their many shared cigarette pauses) and their playing together was sublime. But David was not happy in Germany and returned to NYC in the fall of 1982—it was a sad farewell. The memory of that period is even more bittersweet as I realize that I am now the only surviving member of that quartet. This was when Sequentia became a trio, a formation with Margriet that was to last for several more years. We made new programs which really featured Margriet’s unique gifts (especially the German program called ‘Der Wanderer’), and we found that this tighter formation was also more suitable for long tours (six weeks in South America, the first of many Vancouver Early Music Festival courses in 1984 (where we realized that she was an amazing teacher as well as performer), many tours of the US and Canada, and finally, a first tour of Japan. Margriet was as solid as a rock and as brilliant as fireworks on all these long tours—it was a real pleasure and inspiration to share the stage with her. Margriet was an integral part of several staged productions of Hildegard’s ‘Ordo Virtutum’, in North America and Europe, and recordings such as ‘English Songs of the Middle Ages’, ‘Philippe le Chancelier’, the new staging of a Marian laments, the Cividale ‘Planctus Marie’ (a project for which Shira Kammen joined forces with Margriet), and songs from the late medieval Rheinland women’s tradition, accompanying Barbara’s women’s vocal ensemble ‘Vox Femine’, numerous radio and TV appearances in Germany (it seemed like we were in West Berlin every other week). Looking back, we all now see that the 1980s and early 1990s were a ‘golden age’ for musical performance.
On one of our US tours, she was hosted in Seattle by a charming fellow named Dick Templeton, and the rest is history. Margriet’s move to Seattle was gradual, but by mid-1987 we could no longer sustain the long-distance collaboration—an era had come to an end. Those were nine huge years in the history of our ensemble, and Margriet’s contribution was an essential part of everything we did, her strong musical and personal presence a constant and supportive force, her generosity and charisma an inspiration. She had the highest standards for herself and inspired us all to do the same. All of us who knew her from those times remember her dynamism, her effortless musicality and instrumental mastery, and we are grateful to have traveled that part of our lives together with her. She will be missed and remembered lovingly by all of us who survive her.