The first of many pre-concert selfies taken on tour
In August 2015, we embarked upon our first tour. Many months of planning went in to organising ten concerts over nine days across the South and West of England, starting with a concert in Southgate in North London on the 20th of August (only one day after finishing our recording!). We were really excited to start sharing our music with new audiences across England but it was also lovely to see some familiar and friendly faces in Southgate. We performed a wide selection of music for five voices on the tour, including Byrd’s amazing Mass for five voices. Remaining in London overnight, on Friday the 21st we performed in St. Andrew’s Church in Surbiton, South London, close to where baritone Michael Craddock lives. Here we performed a different programme built around Tallis’ wonderful Nine Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter, the third of which contains the theme that Ralph Vaughan Williams was to use 300 years later for his famous Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis. St. Andrew’s is a lovely church to sing in and we enjoyed performing in different parts of the church.
The group find something very thought-provoking in the score during rehearsal for the second of our tour concerts in St. Andrew’s Church, Surbiton
The first two concerts in London under our belt, next morning we headed west to Bristol, hometown of our director Owain, for a Saturday double-bill starting with a lunchtime concert in Christ Church, City Centre. Here we performed a selection from Flemish mass settings by composers including Ockeghem and Josquin des Prez. After an afternoon with Owain’s family in Bristol we performed a concert that Saturday evening in Westbury-on-Trym Parish Church, including two sets of fantastic works by Poulenc, including the five fun songs of Les Petites Voix, originally set for three-part children’s chorus, performed by Hiroshi, Mike and Owain.
With Sunday intended as a rest-day we headed in the morning to Dursley, 20 miles north of Bristol, and the hometown of our countertenor Guy James. It was a lovely opportunity to perform a shortened programme in St. James’ Parish Church to our largest audience to date. Afterwards there was a delicious tea in the church and the group enjoyed the opportunity to explore the area’s beautiful walks and local establishments.
The view south from Stinchcombe Hill in Dursley the day of our concert in St. James Parish Church, on the 23rd August
We were now halfway through our journey and it was time to head into the wilds of Herefordshire! Monday evening saw us performing in the beautiful and ancient St. Clydawg church in Clodock and it was a testament to how friendly and enthusiastic our reception was that we saw so many of the Monday night’s audience at our concert the next day in the stunning setting of Dore Abbey. There were many personal highlights for us all over the course of the tour, and the enduring silence after the end of Gesualdo’s madrigal Sparge la Morte is one that will stay with us all for a very long time. It was great to perform an extended programme in Dore Abbey and this set us up well for the remaining concerts. Following the Dore Abbey concert we continued what had become a habit of eating late by driving what felt like rather fast down tiny country lanes in the pitch black to a very welcoming restaurant where we were able to share a much-required bottle of wine. The scenery in and around Clodock where we were staying was absolutely breathtaking and we were glad to be able to explore a little during the day.
Jonny with Offa’s famous dyke in the background, very near where we were staying in Herefordshire
Wednesday morning saw the group decamping to Cheltenham for a concert in Cheltenham College Chapel. We really enjoyed performing in the chapel, which is one of the largest school chapels in the country. The afternoon saw most of the group on the college lawn practising our cricketing skills! The pitch is home to a cricket festival in the summer and is also used by Gloucestershire Cricket Club to train and relaxing on the grass with the chapel and picturesque college dining hall in the background was a real treat. That evening saw a post-concert reception in the Beehive local pub and after a night staying in Dursley we set off to Salisbury for a concert in the St. Martin’s Church there. The acoustics of the church were absolutely enchanting, making Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah particularly special to perform. Tenor Joseph Wicks is a resident of Salisbury and his family were very kind to set up a BBQ and accommodate us all. A few rounds of the addictive dice game Perudo and a delicious late dinner followed our concert and the following morning the Six were travelling again, heading to Boxgrove Priory for our final tour concert. On the journey the group stopped by the beautiful Cathedral in Chichester for some afternoon tea under clear blue skies. Somehow we had survived 12 days of continuous recording and performing. As Owain put it at our concert in Southgate, “Some people would describe it as ambitious. We think it’s insane.”
Sometimes the best concert preparations happen outside
We were very lucky to sing in some incredible churches over the tour, and Boxgrove priory certainly didn’t disappoint for our final venue: Situated in a beautiful part of the world, the priory really is a hidden gem, providing the perfect setting for an emotional end to the tour. After the last set of folksongs from all around the British Isles, we invited our tour manager Hannah King to the front in order to recognise and thank her for her continued work and support for the group. Hannah’s level-headedness and willingness to put up posters, go in search of lights, water and/or power sockets, often in the rain or at the end of a long day was a constant inspiration and we are all very grateful to her and indeed to all those who came and supported us to whatever extent over the tour. The Gesualdo Six would also like to specifically thank all those who welcomed the members of the group into their homes during the tour. A lovely variety of family and friends, old and new! We are very much looking forward to exploring more of the country in the future. Watch this space!
The tour team in Boxgrove Priory after our last concert, feeling a strange mixture of exhilaration, sadness and relief