As autumn gathers around us we thought it would be a good time to think back to the summer and share some thoughts and thank-yous from our third Summer Tour.
We kicked off with a live appearance on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune. Our third visit to W1A got off to a glittering start when we realised they were filming for Strictly Come Dancing right in front of the famous façade! With Josh still air-bourne on the way back from Australia it was a real pleasure to welcome Gopal Kambo for his first performance with the group. Gopal is a choral scholar at St John’s College in Cambridge and so is very used to singing with Joseph and although we threw him in at the deep end by performing some difficult repertoire live on Radio 3, he did a fantastic job.
With Josh restored to England, the next day we travelled to Cambridge, with Owain picking up the now familiar 7-seater rented car on the way. It’s always special for the group to return to our spiritual home in Trinity College Chapel. We last performed in the chapel in May 2015 and it was wonderful to be able to perform in the space again, and see some familiar faces in the audience. We hosted a small gathering in The Mitre, one of the local pubs afterwards to catch up with some of the audience, many of whom have been following the group since its inception. The next morning, a mercifully relaxed start allowed us to enjoy a long brunch in team-favourite Hot Numbers Cafe.
Soon after, we arrived North Luffenham in Rutland for the second concert of the tour. The town is home to the beautiful St John the Baptist church. It was a happy return to the church for Owain, who had performed there earlier this year with the Cambridge Fundraising Choir. An immensely successful dinner with our home-stays in the local Fox Inn followed our concert, and again allowed us to thank in-person some of the local musicians and friends whose hard work helped us put on the concert.
Mike and Guy’s host emerged to be a great cricket fan, and head groundsman for the adjacent cricket pitch so a plan was quickly hatched play the next morning in bright sunlight. Alex Chance’s huge six into a neighbouring garden from one of Guy’s less-pitched deliveries would make the highlights, as would his catch to dismiss Owain from one of Guy’s better balls to leave the 1st’s three runs adrift of the 2nd’s total.
With the roof-rack packed and various baggage and headphones retrieved from the pub, we were ready to press on to Northampton for our third concert in All Saints’ Church. We were warmly received by the local vicar and Jem Lowther, in whose beautiful country house we were fortunate to stay following the concert. All Saints’ was a lovely setting for Owain’s ‘A Sequence in Parenthesis’, which sets a medley of tunes from a memoire about the great war and features Sam in the unusual role of narrator. Always a very emotional piece to be involved with, it struck a particular chord with the audience in Northampton.
The fourth day of our summer tour started with a quick tour around the grounds of Jem’s family home in more lovely sunlight. Guy was particularly excited to learn that scenes from the somewhat infamous ‘Biggles’ movie were shot in the mews in the 80s. With a long journey ahead we set off to Hampshire and another church for All Saints in Odiham. The local parish obviously value music highly and have gone to great lengths to make the church an effective concert hall. We were pleased to be able to explore using various different acoustics during our concert and in celebration, Joseph was let loose on the new organ in the church as an impromptu encore for those who had stayed behind to lend a hand with staging.
The penultimate concert in our 2017 Summer Tour was in Bristol, at the huge and resonant church of St. Mary, Redcliffe, where Owain spent his formative years as a chorister. None of us shall soon forget starting the concert from the back of the church with Ego Flos Campi by Clemens non Papa, and then processing to the front of the church through the plainchant of Tallis’s Loquebantur. Renaissance polyphony is one of our favourite genres of music to sing, either in concert, in services or simply in rehearsals, and Lobo’s sublime Versa Est in Luctum made a perfect triptych for us to remember lush acoustics for the concert in Bristol. This was also Joseph’s last concert of the tour with us as he had to start his duties at Truro Cathedral the next day.
Rejoined by the unflappable Gopal the next day and refreshed by some more yard-cricket near Owain’s house, we set off to complete our little pilgrimage to St. James in Dursley, where Guy was a chorister. Delicious stew (well remembered by Michael Craddock from our tour in 2015!) met us in the Cotswold market town, at Guy’s family house and he was especially pleased to see a packed church of musicians and supporters enjoying the last concert of our 2017 Summer Tour. Complimentary pilgrimages to the local Old Spot pub and Dil Raj restaurant complete, the familiar 7-seater could be seen whizzing seven very tired but elated young men back to London through the September rain.
We’d like to once again thank enormously everyone who worked so hard to help us make our third Summer Tour such a success. It’s hard to think back to how far the group has come since our first tour in 2015 and it’s been very much aided by the dedication of our supporters and the enthusiasm for music wherever we go. Here’s to the next one!
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!
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:
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.
We’re grateful to Andrew Benson-Wilson for writing this review of our first concert in Germany, given as part of Tage Alter Musik Regensburg in June 2017.
“The late night (10.45pm) concert in the Schottenkirche St. Jakob (with its extraordinary sculptures) was given by the young British a cappella vocal group The Gesualdo Six, directed by Owain Park, making their German debut with their programme Journey through the Music of the English Masters. With composers ranging from Dunstable to Tomkins they explored some of the finest music ever produced from the British Isles in a well-balanced and varied programme. They were particularly good at the distinctively English false relations heard in Taverner’s Quemadmodum and Loquebantur from Tallis, the master of such scrunchy harmonic twists and turns. His cadence on Alleluia must be amongst the most beautiful in the history of music, almost equalled by the final cadence of his Suscipe quaeso Domine. These pieces were contrasted by the relative simplicity of Sheppard’s Libera nos II and White’s Christe, qui lux es et dies. The emotional intensity and changes in volume in, for example, Byrd’s Vigilate, were well handled, sounding completely natural to the music. The two countertenors, Guy James and Alex Chance were very impressive. The audience response was particularly enthusiastic, and rightly so.”
Read the complete review of the festival here: https://andrewbensonwilson.org/2017/07/12/regensburg2017/
Leading up to the group’s third Summer Tour, Classical Events interviewed Owain covering everything from the early days to our most memorable performances. Read the full interview here.
Interviewer: What are your most memorable performances?
Owain: Performing Arvo Pärt’s ‘Passio’ with the composer in attendance will live long in the memory, as will our first concert in Germany, which was standing-room only – a surprise to us given as the concert kicked off at 10.30pm! We really enjoy bringing our music to rural venues in the U.K. and have sung in some beautiful places, including Clodock and Dore Abbey on our first two Summer Tours. Singing Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories in King’s College Chapel and performing Italian Madrigals in a room full of paintings by Caravaggio in the National Gallery are two of my personal favourites, but I also can’t forget the numerous cricket matches we’ve managed to play – that really is something the group can always agree on!
Guy James reflects on our first concerts in the North of England, CD recording and performance at the SJSS Holy Week Festival 2017.
An early start heralded the beginning of our Spring projects, with me meeting Owain, Joseph, and the familiar rented 7-seater just outside Cambridge on Sunday morning. Engineering works on the Great Western Railway, a hasty U-turn and three hours of driving later saw more of us than we were expecting arriving together in the car in Monmouth for a concert as part of Wye Valley Music’s 2016/17 season. Our programme spanned the whole range of our repertoire, featuring several pieces that would be recorded later in the week! The church and Monmouthshire were stunning and we really enjoyed performing there and seeing some familiar faces in the audience, many of whom had travelled down from Herefordshire. Being one of the members of the group who suffers from standing at a normal height, I then found myself in the familiar position of being pressed up against Josh and our luggage in the back of the car for the drive back to Cambridge to begin our much-anticipated recording in the beautifully sunny Trinity College.
We were very happy to be recording some of our very favourite repertoire, that of the English Renaissance Masters. The whole group have grown up singing and loving the works of such composers as William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, John Sheppard and Orlando Gibbons and it was a real privilege to be able to work intensely on their music with Adrian Peacock and David Hinitt in Trinity College Chapel where we gave our first concert over three years ago. This work completed we headed off to further our first ever Spring Tour with a concert in Kingston Parish Church on one of the most beautiful days of the year, preceded by tea and croquet kindly provided by our very generous hosts.
The following days saw our tour continue, for the first time headed northwards! One of several highlights for me included working with the brilliant Blackburn Cathedral choristers on Allegri’s Miserere as part of a concert featuring highlights from our tour repertoire. The cathedral is a wonderful modern building, perfect for some of our more ethereal pieces and I particularly enjoyed performing Lukaszewski’s Recessit Pastor Noster alongside two of Bach’s Passiontide Chorales in the warm acoustic. The next day brought a further personal highlight, a day in Bolton alongside the energetic and inspiring Bolton Music Service, enjoying performances by many local amateur choirs and ensembles before a workshop with the gathered company and a short performance by ourselves. It was marvellous to see local live music making in such rude health and to see so many people brought together by music and performance supporting each other. Long may this ethos and such friendships flourish.
The next week we concluded our spring projects with a return to St John’s Smith Square for their inaugural Holy Week Festival alongside Tenebrae and several of our other favourite artists. Our concert featured several modern pieces including the London Premiere of Owain Park’s Sequence: ‘In Parenthesis’. Requiring the unusual forces of 5 voices and a narrator I have had the opportunity to listen to this piece several times in churches across England and it has quickly become one of my favourite pieces in our repertoire. It was a perfect conclusion to our spring projects to hear it performed in London for the first time alongside Thomas Tallis’s Lamentations of Jeremiah in a very moving exploration of loss and lament for Holy Week.
Josh Cooter writes about Arvo Pärt’s Passio
We were incredibly honoured to be asked to continue our connection with St John’s Smith Square to perform Arvo Part’s ‘Passio’ in the opening concert of London’s International A Cappella Choral Competition on the 25th June. We were thrilled that the composer himself was able to attend to see us perform the parts of Jesus, Pilate and the Evangelist quartet, with Owain conducting the soloists and instrumentalists alongside Stephen Layton and the Holst Singers in this remarkable setting of the Passion story. It truly was a very special evening for all involved!
Alexander Chance on our performance at Raynham Hall
Early in June we made a trip past Cambridge on to King’s Lynn, and thence into the depths of the gorgeous sun-soaked Norfolk countryside, to Raynham Hall. This is the home of Lord and Lady Townshend, who host an annual summer concert series in its stunning marble Great Hall. We had been invited to perform by the series’ musical advisor, Michael Chance.
After a delicious lunch, we had a chance to test and delight in the concert hall’s marvellous acoustic for several hours, before our important pre-concert ritual of garden cricket, featuring, in a testament to the depths of the Townshends’ cupboards, the rare luxury of actual stumps and bails.
The concert programme itself seemed a fitting one for a sultry May evening – Italian madrigals by Monteverdi and Gesualdo, as well as lesser-known but equally joyous works by their contemporaries Gastoldi, Anerio and Giovanelli. We sang to a greatly appreciative audience, who had travelled from all corners of this glorious and often under-visited county (where I lived with my family for ten years); the packed room did nothing to dampen the acoustic. We are immensely grateful to the Townshends for hosting us so warmly and generously, and we hope to return in the future.
We are really looking forward to presenting Arvo Pärt’s stunning Passio in St John’s Smith Square with Stephen Layton and the Holst Singers on 25 June. This concert will launch the London International A Cappella Choir Competition 2017, which celebrates Arvo Pärt as its featured composer.
Completed in 1982, Passio is one of Pärt’s most popular works and employs his truly original tintinnabuli style.
Tickets can be booked here: https://www.sjss.org.uk/book?873571079.
Full competition details can be found at: liaccc.org.uk
We teamed up with Ely Cathedral to release five videos for Holy Week as part of their #LiveHolyWeek initiative. We really enjoyed getting to sing in the incredible acoustic of the Ely Lady Chapel, and we’re very pleased to be able to share the results with you.
We recorded pieces by Lassus, Tomkins, Byrd, Gesualdo and Łukaszewski, and they can all now be found on our new videos page.
Here is one of those videos. #LiveHolyWeek gave us the perfect opportunity to record for the first time all seven members of the group singing together, performing Vide, Homo by Lassus.