A Return to Radio 3’s In Tune

We had a fantastic time performing for our 5th (we can’t quite believe it either!) time on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune. We spoke with Sean Rafferty about some of our upcoming projects, including our Composition Competition, and performed My heart is like a singing bird by 2016 competition entrant Sarah Rimkus, alongside works by Tallis, Pärt and Phos Hilaron by our own very Owain Park.

You can listen again for a month on the BBC SOUNDS webpage by clicking here.

Quick ‘Live Selfie’ in the In Tune Studio.

Ripon, Kosovo and plans afoot

We have just had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend giving our Yorkshire debut at the Ripon International Festival. Our programme included several of our favourite English Motets alongside a second half of contemporary works including Poulenc’s Les Petites Voix. We are hard at work over the next few weeks, with WWI video filming ‘on location’ in France, preparations for our Kosovo debut, and the imminent announcement of our second Composition Competition!

Poulenc Rehearsals. Holy Trinity Church, Ripon.

Rehearsals for Les Petites Voix in full swing in Holy Trinity Church, Ripon.

CD Release – English Motets

 

Today is the day!

 

Our first CD, English Motets, is now available to download via the Hyperion website and iTunes! You can of course continue to order hard copies of our CD from our website shop.

We’re very excited to celebrate the release with our friends, patrons and supporters at our launch concert in St. Peter’s Eaton Square on April 7th at 3pm. Tickets for this concert are available by clicking here.


English Motets (2018)

£12.00

During the renaissance, musical composition flourished, but it was a time of great change, fuelled by religious division. The Gesualdo Six’s debut CD showcases the extraordinary journey composition took around the English Reformation, including works by Tallis, Byrd, Sheppard, Dunstable and Cornysh. Available to pre-order now – dispatched before 30 March 2018.

Category: Tags: , , , , , ,

Description

We are delighted to present our debut album, English Motets (2018).


About the CD

During the renaissance, musical composition flourished, but it was a time of great change, fuelled by religious division. This programme traces music written by some of the English renaissance masters over a period of two-hundred years, encompassing florid medieval-sounding works by Dunstable and Cornysh, intricately woven polyphonic works by Tallis and Sheppard, and the beautiful simplicity of Tomkins and White.

All of these composers were obliged to write in the musical style of the moment, which was constantly fluctuating in one of the most turbulent periods in English history. Lavish Catholic services required suitably elaborate music, with Latin words and rich sonorities. The Protestants did away with such excess, and as the walls were whitewashed so too was the music, with demands placed on composers to set English words as simply as possible, so that every syllable could be clearly heard by the congregation. Then, in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, came a kind of relaxed simplicity, a halfway house, in which the ideal was both that the words could be heard clearly and also that the music should be interesting.

The enormous contribution to this period by Thomas Tallis and William Byrd is represented by the inclusion of three works from each composer, showcasing the versatility of their writing. While all composers in Tudor England were flexible to the period’s shifting religious requirements, none was quite as skillful at reinvention than Tallis, whose musical quality remains absolutely consistent, even while his style changes dramatically. Byrd gave voice to the plight of Catholics in England through many of his compositions, utilising his royal favour to escape punishment for his beliefs, and in doing so wrote some of the most enduring and powerful music of the era.

The presented order is not a linear journey, but a grouping akin to a concert programme, where a balance of fast and slow, similarity and contrast is all brought into play. The incredible productivity of composers writing during this period, coupled with the advent of printed sheet music and licenses granted for its production has resulted in a wealth of material available to us – and, as such, selecting only a handful of works to reside under the banner of ‘The English Motet’ was by no means easy. But I hope that we have managed to showcase something of the extraordinary journey composition took around the English Reformation, and in turn reflect our immense enjoyment in performing the music we all grew up singing.


Track list

Suscipe quæso Domine Thomas Tallis (c.1505 – 1585)
Vigilate William Byrd (c.1540 – 1623)
Loquebantur variis linguis Thomas Tallis
When David heard Thomas Tomkins (1572 – 1656)
If ye love me Thomas Tallis
Libera nos I John Sheppard (c.1515 – 1558)
Christe, qui lux es et dies (I) Robert White (c.1538 – 1574)
O Lord, in thy wrath Orlando Gibbons (1583 – 1625)
Veni Sancte Spiritus John Dunstable (1390 – 1453)
Haec Dies Thomas Morley (1557 – 1603)
Quemadmodum John Taverner (c.1490 – 1545)
Ave Maria Mater Dei William Cornysh (dc.1502)
Deliver me from mine enemies Robert Parsons (1535 – 1572)
Ne irascaris Domine William Byrd
i. Ne irascaris Domine
ii. Civitas sancti tui
Libera nos II John Sheppard


Listen to our album on iTunes here


 

BBC Radio 3 ‘In Tune’ – Listen again – 16 March 2018

We had a great time returning to the BBC to appear on Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’ for our fourth(!) time yesterday. We spoke to Sean Rafferty about our upcoming CD release and Spring Tour and performed some works from our tour programme: Palestrina’s Io son Ferito and Put out into the Deep by friend of the group David Bednall, alongside three of Poulenc’s Les Petites Voix. Originally scored for children’s choir, these short adorable songs by Poulenc tell stories about a girl coming home from school with her bag, a small unwell boy and a little scared hedgehog.

The team arrive at the set of W1A

British audiences can listen again by clicking here. We joined the programme live from 1:25:00. There’s also a sneak preview of Josh’s favourite piece: Byrd’s Vigilate, from our very soon to be released CD English Motets, at 00:13:34.


Epiphany Concert Weekend

We have just enjoyed a busy weekend putting on our first-ever Epiphany concerts in Bristol and Salisbury! Both hometowns of group members, they were the perfect places to explore some exciting new repertoire for Epiphany alongside some more familiar favourites.

A very happy crew fuelling up with delicious vegetable soup and focaccia ahead of our rehearsal in Westbury-on-Trym.

As you can see, we were very generously looked after by Owain’s family in Bristol (including a gorgeous lasagna that I feel sure Joseph will remember with longing well into 2019) and we enjoyed a restful night before heading South East as a 3 car convoy to Salisbury. Stocked up with lunch and bag-fulls of tea, coffee and biscuits we entered the familiar Sarum St. Martin’s Church to see a glorious sunbeam illuming the incense from morning mass. We filmed a short video of a verse from Robert White’s ‘Christe, qui lux es et dies’ mid-rehearsal, in the most appropriate locus in which I have sung White’s bright homophony.

It was a real treat to return to St Martin’s in Salisbury to round off our weekend of Epiphany concerts. Here is a verse from Robert White’s first setting of ‘Christe qui lux es et dies’, capturing the light as it flooded through the church windows.

Posted by The Gesualdo Six on Sunday, 7 January 2018


Memento nostri Domine
In gravi isto corpore,
Qui es defensor animae,
Adesto nobis Domine.

Remember us, O Lord,
Who bear the burden of this mortal form;
You who are the defender of the soul,
Be near us, O Lord.


The concert over, it was lovely to have a chance after both concerts to talk to our fans, followers and friends over mulled wine, nibbles and tea and coffee. Meeting with and hearing from our audiences has always been a big positive for the whole group. It lets us gauge and develop our craft from the perspective of the onlooker, many of them being musicians and performers themselves. I find that this to be very helpful as I find the nature of performance requires utter concentration, which can sometimes leave me with what I later discover to be a skewed perspective of elements like atmosphere and the passage of time. It was very pleasing to hear how many people had seen our Christmas videos, and to introduce and take pre-orders for our debut CD ‘English Motets’. It is due to be released on the 30th of March and includes Robert White’s ‘Christe, qui lux es et dies’ alongside some of our very favourite pieces.

Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I was very excited for our first performances of ‘The Morning Star’ by Arvo Pärt on this tour. This we performed from the back of both churches as we processed through our concert’s narrative journey as 2 x 3 ‘wise’ men. ‘The Morning Star’ is a wonderful example of piece written in Pärt’s tintinabulli style, with voices sounding as tiny bell-chimes in a very sparse musical texture. It is the first piece by Arvo Pärt that the group has performed since working with the composer himself and the Holst Singers on his Passio. I certainly felt that that experience helped us to find the special sonority required in this much shorter work.

The programme was interspersed with Gregorian Mass Propers at Epiphany. While not the first time that we have used chant in concert, it provided a wonderful reminder of how effective it can be. We can use it as a way to introduce themes and also to maintain a reflective nature of the concert experience, while it also works as a musical ‘palette cleanser’, contrasting with the polyphony which we programme around it. Movement during chant passages enables us to experiment with different acoustics of the building without interfering with the flow of a concert and it provides individual singers short breaks in the programme. This can be a really important consideration, especially for concerts which lack natural intervals.

We shall be returning to the Bristol area as part of our Spring Tour on the 4th of April when we will be performing in All Saints Church in Clifton. I’m sure it won’t be too long until we return to Salisbury again either, especially after the fabulous dinner which the group enjoyed in the town following Sunday afternoon’s concert. All now safely back in London, we are looking forward to our next concert in Warwick on the 23rd of January, when we shall be performing a programme of Madrigals and Motets from Italy’s Golden Age in St. Mary’s Church at 7:30PM.

#aChristmasMiracle videos from Ely Cathedral

We’re very pleased to announce the release of the first of three videos for advent that we recorded under the octagon in Ely Cathedral as part of their #aChristmasMiracle Campaign. This release is Praetorius’ simple and beautiful ‘Es ist ein Ros entsprungen’, setting the words of an anonymous German author from the 15th Century. Keep your eyes peeled on our facebook page for the next two videos!

A Spotless Rose is growing,
Sprung from a tender root,
Of ancient seers’ foreshowing,
Of Jesse promised fruit;
Its fairest bud unfolds to light
Amid the cold, cold winter,
And in the dark midnight.

VIDEO: Allegri’s Miserere with Blackburn Choristers

As part of our Spring Tour in March of this year we were lucky enough to work with the choristers of Blackburn cathedral as part of our concert there. We’re now extremely proud to be able to bring you a recording of that delightful collaboration, in which we perform Allegri’s famous Miserere as the lower parts of the main SSATB choir with the distant SSAT quartet being performed by older choristers of the choir. It was such a pleasure to meet these young singers and especially to have the rare opportunity to perform one of our favourite works, with much larger forces than we are normally able to sing with!

Live in Regensburg on BBC Radio 3

We were very excited to hear that the concert we gave in Regensburg this June as part of the Tage Alter Musik Festival, which was recorded live for German Radio was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Early Music Lates with Simon Heighes. We’re really pleased that we can now share this wonderful programme with our followers in the British Isles. The programme features a journey through the Masters of English Renaissance Polyphony from Dunstable and Cornysh to Tallis and Tomkins, which was the central focus of of our recording sessions this summer, so it offers a sneak peak into our upcoming CD release. It’s available to listen again for the next month by following this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b093nqdn

BBC Radio 3 In Tune – August 2017

We had an awful lot of fun yesterday performing three pieces live on BBC Radio 3’s wonderful In Tune and speaking with Sean Rafferty about this year’s Summer Tour. We performed music from the whole range of our repertoire, including Thomas Tallis’ Loquebantur Variis Linguis, which will be appearing on our first disc sometime in the coming months. We also performed Ligeti’s wonderful Lobster Quadrille from his 6 Nonsense Madrigals and an arrangement of the Irish Folk-tune ‘Molly Malone’ by our very own Owain Park. You can listen again to our appearance for the next month on the BBC Radio iPlayer by clicking here.

Our tour kicks off today, Tuesday 29th August in Cambridge in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge at 7:30pm.