We’ve had a brilliant year – here are some of our highlights from 2015.
A series of concerts to start the year
We began the year with four concerts in Cambridge Colleges, performing in the chapels of Jesus, Caius, St John’s and King’s. Our one-year anniversary concert of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responses for Maundy Thursday in King’s Chapel was given a five-star review:
“…what Owain Park and the singers have managed to achieve is an ensemble with extraordinary potential, who stand head and shoulders above any other vocal group in Cambridge, and who surely have a promising future ahead.”
It was a rather lovely experience to perform in Kingston Parish Church, the first concert in living memory for the audience! This varied programme inspired our tour concerts later in the year. We then returned to Trinity College Chapel for a ‘Nachtmusik’ concert, performing madrigals and motets by candlelight to a late-night audience.
SJSS Young Artists
In May, it was revealed that we were to be St John’s Smith Square Young Artists for the 2015-16 season. Richard Heason, the director of SJSS said that “as a concert hall it is crucial that we don’t just give voice to established artists but that we also invest in future talent. Through our Young Artists’ Scheme we are able to select musicians who have shown themselves to have enormous talent and energy and help them as they shape their careers.”
Last summer was a fantastic time for the group, first appearing on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune programme with Sean Rafferty, talking about our tour and recording, and singing three pieces live on air. We then gathered in the Chapel of Trinity College Cambridge to record our first disc. It was very exciting to be working with John Rutter, who produced our recording, and David Hinitt, who was engineering – our sincerest thanks to them. Our debut CD featuring Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday will hit the shelves next year, so watch this space! We then immediately headed to London for the first of ten concerts of a Summer Tour, which took us all across England (read more here).
We were delighted to make the final of the London International A Cappella Choir Competition in September. Comments from the judges included:
“The Jackson, with the soloist stood above and behind the group, was confident with a lovely sense of style. The Gesualdo had great beauty of tone with a nice fluidity, whilst the Clemens Non Papa had great control and shape. The Claude le Jeune was vivid, and the Harold Arlen had some lovely close harmonies.”
“The Gesualdo Six had impressive ensemble, and he felt they were a mix of the Hilliard Ensemble and the King’s Singers” – high praise indeed!
Final concerts to round off the year
It was a real treat to perform our Madrigals Old & New programme in St James’ Piccadilly in October, before trying out a new programme of Schütz Italian Madrigals and Flemish sacred renaissance works in Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall.
Our last concert with Jonny as our resident bass was in the intimate setting of Grange Wellington Chapel in Vincent Square. We were performing as part of the Brandenburg Choral Festival of London’s 2015 season to a sell-out crowd. It is always sad when a member leaves, but we wish Jonny well in his exciting new post, and know that we’ll see more of him yet!
Our new bass
Right at the end of the year, it was announced that we had appointed Sam Mitchell to take over from Jonny. Sam gave an outstanding audition, and we can’t wait to get to work with him. It was a nice coincidence that we announced his appointment on his birthday!
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Plans for 2016
We will perform three times in St John’s Smith Square as their Young Artists, and also appear as part of the Cambridge Early Music Festival of the Voice. Other plans are still in the making, but include several performances abroad, as well as more closer to home. Concert dates will be announced on our website.
Particular highlights from this year include performing Joanna Marsh’s captivating work, Fading. We are looking forward to programming this work, as well as others by Marsh in 2016 and beyond. We have also explored the work of other contemporary composers this year, including Gabriel Jackson, Paweł Łukaszewski and of course, György Ligeti. As ever, we have enjoyed performing works by Owain, including his Fantasia on English Children’s Songs, an absolute audience favourite!
Final thought: a numbers game?
This year we have appeared as a five-, six- and at times seven-part ensemble. Mark Williams came up with a memorable suggestion as to why this could be…
“After the interval there was another vocal ensemble, the all-male group The Gesualdo Six, director Owain Park; though there were only five of them, and afterwards Mark Williams suggested that in true Gesualdo fashion they had murdered their sixth member.” [Planet Hugill]