We’re pleased to have released a new edition of our podcast. Episode three is our Isolation Special: Bringing you all the news and views from the members of The Gesualdo Six and their friends in isolation. Featuring a discussion about the voice and acoustics with countertenor duo Guy and Andrew, Sam baking some bread, and Josh seeing a giraffe on a bicycle.
“Combining Tallis and Gesualdo with modern/contemporary composers such as Sarah Rimkus and Gerda Blok-Wilson and the late Veljo Tormis can be tricky for an ensemble, but The Gesualdo Six and Owain Park are fearless and have shaped a programme that almost plays out as a composed sequence. The singing is impeccable… A wonderful recording.”
We were delighted to be featured on BBC Radio 3’s Record Review this morning with our third album: Fading.
Anna Lapwood was discussing our recording with Andrew McGregor:
“I think The Gesualdo Six and Owain Park are just incredible at this ingenious programming, so there’s this melding of renaissance polyphony with contemporary choral music.
“I feel it’s a very classy way to look at music by female composers that people might not know… It’s just extremely good all woven together with this thread of music for night-time, music for compline.
Blend and intonation really are [impeccable]… You can tell this is a group that work together almost constantly, they know each other’s voices so well… solo singing with a really clear sensitivity of ensemble.
“A beautiful recording.”
It was lovely to hear the title track by Joanna Marsh being played nation-wide and our own Owain Park’s Phos Hilaron. Keen fans might notice that we were reviewed alongside The Marian Consort’s Singing in Secret featuring Michael and his fiancée Helen and also De Profundis’ Esquivel: Missa Hortus Conclusus which Guy is singing on also, so quite a bumper week!
You can listen again to the broadcast by clicking here, and hear our segment by playing from 2:02:00 in.
We very much enjoyed performing live on Radio Three on this Tuesday’s edition of In Tune with long-time friend of the group Sean Rafferty. We performed works by Rutter and Eleanor Daley alongside Angelus ad Virginem and group favourite Gaudete, ahead of our Advent and Christmas concerts. You can listen again for the next month by clicking here.
Hello from us all at The Gesualdo Six! As we await the start of Advent and our festive concert series, it feels like a good opportunity to talk about a few of the wonderful projects that we enjoyed this autumn before we look ahead to a few of the exciting things that are coming up towards the end of this year!
It so happened that autumn would take us to all the constituent parts of the UK, starting with St. Asaph in North Wales. The cathedral there is stunning and proved to be a perfect acoustic for our Mother Earth programme. We enjoyed a delicious cream tea in the sun overlooking the graveyard, which includes the last resting place of organist and composer William Matthias, who’s music all the members of the group have performed in other guises.
We had a wonderful time in early October working with the fantastic trumpeter Matilda Lloyd. These type of collaborations are a really wonderful way to refresh ourselves musically: allowing us both to explore new repertoire and to learn from and grow with fellow musicians. So it proved working with Matilda, and with her it was a delight to revisit some past venues in Wells and Clifton in Bristol. On our way back to London we performed at Hurstbourne Tarrant, at the kind invitation of some of our patrons.
We revisited a further three venues in the middle of this October: St Mary’s, Warwick with Leamington Early Music performing Music of the Heavenly Spheres, some English Motets at the Little Missenden Festival (followed by some karaoke!) and Passion and Polyphony at North Luffenham (after some cricket nets).
A few days later including rehearsals and preparation in London, we boarded a long train to St. Andrews to continue our tour of UK nations. The rail journey was stunning, especially along the Firth of Forth. We were very excited to work with the choir of St. Salvator’s Chapel and their director Claire Innes-Hopkins in a joint evensong as part of the St. Andrew’s Voices Festival. More collaboration here in Scotland too, as we performed live alongside light shows by LuxMuralis.
We were particularly pleased to run two workshops over a very busy few days! It was brilliant to work alongside two very talented young Scottish consorts: Cantus Firmus and a group formed from St. Salvator’s choir. We also ran a come-and-sing on Haydn’s Creation giving us a chance not only to meet lots of keen local singers but also to perform a few short solos from this great work!
In between singing we managed to play a little cricket on a windy Scottish beach, much to the bemusement of locals, tourists and golfers! Our last engagement in Scotland was a lovely chance to sing Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices to a packed St. Salvator’s Chapel as part of the Festival Eucharist.
Our final stop on our mini-tour of the UK was the Derry International Choir Festival, a first visit to the Emerald Isle for some of the group! It was a real pleasure to learn a little about the history of the beautiful maiden city and wonderful to meet so many international musicians at our concert there.
Looking ahead to Advent, we were very excited to release our second CD Christmas in early November, and recorded some videos with the wonderful David Hinitt to go alongside the CD, which will become available through advent.
Returning to the Belgian town of Verviers for a second time on the Eurostar, we were excited to present a small amuse-bouche of advent works at the end of our Passion and Polyphony programme. After travelling from Verviers to St. Pancras we headed to Muswell Hill and Owain’s kitchen for a planning meeting, in which we conceived this little round-up. So there you are! You’re up to date!
Keep tuned for Part II of our November Update, which will look forward to some of the coming events and projects that we’ve been busy planning!
After a busy and rewarding two weeks performing in Cambridge, Germany’s Black Forest and the now familiar rolling green hills of the Herefordshire borders, Joseph and I set off early for Bristol airport to meet up with our Italian friends Odhecaton in Naples. In-between rehearsals and the performance in Wagner’s garden in Ravello, we managed to sneak in a little sightseeing in Campagna… Odhecaton’s concert featured music by contemporary Italian composer Mirco di Stefani and Carlo Gesualdo alongside works by Tallis and John Tavener, and was very pleasing it was too to see a little British influence on our European friends’ repertoire!
A spare morning provided an opportunity to visit Carlo’s house and tombstone at Gesù Nuovo in Napoli. I was particularly keen to visit Carlo Gesualdo’s hometown in the hills near Avellino and the morning after the concert Joseph and I jumped in a tiny Neapolitan hire-car and headed for the hills, weaving through the infamous Italian traffic. We stopped first in Pompeii, having driven around the foothills of Vesuvius, and we enjoyed a flying visit of the Roman ruins, including Joseph’s impromptu debut in the amazing acoustics of the Amphitheatre.
Feeling a little toasted by the midday Mediterranean sun, we hopped back in our battered Toyota and whizzed past the Amalfi coast to Salerno for a spot of lunch. Spurred on by what may well have been acute sunstroke, it occoured to us to hire a little boat from the nearby marina and (once Joseph had been satisfied that our rental acquisition had an impressive enough turn of speed) the next three hours we spent very happily dipping in and out of the Mediterranean just below the cliffs that supported the concert venue the night before in Ravello. Finding the bluetooth connection on the way back to Salerno, we skipped across the waves to Joseph’s choice of a mix of Supertramp and Gerald Finzi.
Taking encouragement in rumours of a festival happening in the small town of Gesualdo, we plumped for the more direct, much more winding road from Salerno. We were both completely astounded by the journey. Rounding one of many breath-taking corners, we finally spotted a sign for the town and, looking that way, saw the hill-top castle of our namesake. Our first stop under the setting sun was the Cappuccin Monastery which we had been told housed the only known portrait of Carlo, Il perdono, which he commissioned near the end of his life. Seeing the small chapel from afar, we were very pleased to find it still open at 8pm and it was particularly moving to see the dark portrait above the main altar in the dim light from the doorway.
Having read a few things about the man and his life it was very moving to see his image and feel so connected to the over 400 years since the picture was painted. Charging back the short distance to the castle, we saw that the Saperi e Sapori festival was getting into full swing. We were amazed to find a drama taking place in the gardens of the castle, and a man being referred to as ‘Principe’, in renaissance garb plucking a lute.
Gesualdo is normally a quiet town of around 3000 people, but we learnt that the weekend festival attracts over three times that number. Wondering the castle’s exhibitions of reconstructed instruments and outfits from Carlo’s time we met the extremely helpful and friendly Alberico, who very kindly adopted us for the evening and showed us round the town. We were treated to davvero Southern Italian hospitality! It was amazing to see the Castle’s ruined chapel, and see the space that the Carlo’s famous Tenebrae Responsories were first performed in.
Having sampled a few of the festivals many culinary delights and feeling extremely fortunate and more than a little overwhelmed, it was soon time to get the car back to Naples. A flying visit this time, we hope to return to the town to stay and hopefully perform one day!
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.
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!
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
— In Tune BBC Radio 3 (@BBCInTune) 16 March 2018