We are looking forward to returning to Herefordshire to give two concerts at the end of July. We will be performing two different programmes at two historic venues: St Clydawg’s Church in Clodock on 30 July, and Dore Abbey on 31 July. We hope you can join us for our fourth visit to this beautiful part of the world.
Clodock: Tuesday 30 July at 7.30pm
Mother Earth The natural world has always proved to be a plentiful source of inspiration for composers. ‘Mother Earth’ brings together many of these delightful works, featuring music by Palestrina, Monteverdi, Vaughan Williams and Alison Willis.
Passion and Polyphony Exploring a relationship between old and new, sacred and secular, ‘Passion and Polyphony’ is an exhibition of some of the finest consort works from renaissance and modern-day composers.
We are looking forward to giving our debut performances in three European countries this month. We begin in Lausanne, Switzerland with our Passion and Polyphony programme, followed by a concert of atmospheric Fading music in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Finally, we will visit Italy to perform our English Motets programme in the beautiful city of Belluno.
Owain Park, Director of The Gesualdo Six, writes: We were all thrilled with the standard of the entries, 307 in total, which arrived from six continents in a variety of interesting styles. Singing through the pieces has been an immensely enjoyable experience, and it is heartening to see composers writing so well for the ensemble’s specific requirements. Alongside the winners, the judges decided to award two further prizes in each category. We are delighted to reveal the results of our 2019 Composition Competition.
22 years and above winner: Alison Willis (UK) 22 years and above highly commended: Ryan Malone (USA) and Karen Lemon (Australia)
21 years and under winner: Jacob Beranek (USA) 21 years and under highly commended: Aleksander Jan Szopa (Poland) and David Nunn (UK)
‘The Wind’s Warning’ by Alison Willis and ‘Abendgebet’ by Jacob Beranek were premiered by The Gesualdo Six at Cadogan Hall on Thursday 7 March 2019.
In addition, ‘Evening Prayer’ by Ryan Malone, ’Abendgebet’ by Karen Lemon, ’Ave Regina Caelorum’ by Aleksander Jan Szopa, and ‘Da pacem Domine’ by David Nunn, will be performed by The Gesualdo Six in their 2019-20 season.
Young Composers’s Workshop
We look forward to running two composition workshops for entrants in the 21 years and under category with composers Cheryl Frances-Hoad and David Bednall later in 2019.
Feedback from the judges
Cheryl Frances-Hoad It is incredibly heartening to see such interesting choral writing from all over the world in 2019! The winning and highly commended entries stood out for us because of their idiomatic word setting, excellent command of vocal line, harmonic colour, and suitability for the Gesualdo Six’s voices and programming style. As judges, we were delighted with the huge number of entries this year, many of which we think could easily garner many performances by choral groups all over the country and beyond. Read More The composers of the winning and highly commended pieces have obviously taken great care to think carefully about the text before setting words to music, and we would urge all the composers who entered the competition to do the same: we felt that occasionally the rhythmic stresses of the text were ignored, leading to an awkwardness in the music that no amount of melodic invention or dynamic interest could hide. Whilst very grateful to see a wide range of harmonic language in the submissions, we would also urge composers to combine innovative choral writing with a real command of melodic and harmonic line: too often interesting chords were arrived at in a way that seemed unprepared or unthought about, which lessened the intended impact of the material.
Nigel Short I was very impressed with the overall standard and quality of the writing. I would ask composers to try and make their scores as easy as possible to read: whenever possible, include key signatures rather than relying on the notation software to add in all the accidentals. If you include a piano reduction, make sure that the notes are the same as in the score – otherwise it’s impossible to tell which is correct! It saves musicians a huge amount of time if they can assimilate information quickly when they pick up a new score. Read MoreI’d also encourage composers to think about the journey before they begin composing. There were numerous good ideas but in too few cases were those ideas really explored and developed, which led to many pieces lacking some sense of structure. Rather than simply stopping a piece altogether to start up with a new idea, whether it be harmonic or rhythmic, try to create something that carries the listener and performer throughout.
Kate Johnson It was greatly encouraging for the future of choral music to know that there were over three hundred entries for this year’s Gesualdo Six Composition Competition, supported by Music Sales. A generous number of the submissions were of a high enough standard to be seriously considered: they encompassed a real effort on the part of the writers in one or more of the areas of composing to the brief, faithful text setting, thoughtful development of compositional ideas, clear and accurate presentation on the page and a promising grasp of harmony and counterpoint. In particular I felt that the entries in the ‘21 years and under’ category showed aptitude in originality of style. I hope that the winners can learn a great deal from the live performances given by the group.
John Rutter CBE I thought the standard of presentation of the entries I saw was higher than I ever remember in any comparable competition, and there was plenty of imagination in evidence as well as great stylistic diversity. Most of the composers got to the heart of their texts and showed a real understanding of writing for The Gesualdo Six. The winning entries ‘worked’ especially well, being memorable for the performers and audience alike.
About the winning pieces
The Wind’s Warning – Alison Willis
The composer writes: “The Wind’s Warning is a setting of what is believed to be the last poem – ‘The Wind’ – written by Ivor Gurney. According to the editor of the collection in which the poem appears, it was written on the back of an Oxford University Press letterhead dated 6 March 1929 and signed ‘Valentine Fane’ by Gurney. (He frequently used different names on his later manuscripts.) The poem is a bleak reflection on the passing of time and lost opportunities. Musically the piece uses vocalisations to create the sound of the wind against which are set gently dissonant clusters. Melodic motifs drift in and out until the middle section, ‘At dawn a thin rain wept’ which becomes more lyrical and tonal. The piece finishes with a return to the opening soundscape.”
Abendgebet – Jacob Beranek
The composer writes: “While setting ‘Evening Prayer’ by the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I realised that these words were not only a prayer for the evening, but also the prayer of one in the evening of his earthly life. Bonhoeffer, who had been imprisoned for plotting the assassination of Adolf Hitler, wrote this prayer in jail, only months before his execution. Therefore, as I wrote the end of the composition, I wanted to conclude it in a manner fitting Bonhoeffer’s own perspective on death and life. It occurred to me that a powerful yet peaceful ‘Amen’ was necessary to complete this image, and the idea suddenly struck me to set the ‘Amen’ to the tune of the Lutheran chorale ‘Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott’ (A mighty fortress is our God). For me, this allusion would perfectly represent Bonhoeffer’s hope amidst death and strength amidst evil. It was not until later that day that I happened to learn the circumstances before Bonhoeffer’s death: the day before his execution, Bonhoeffer conducted his final Sunday service inside the Flossenbürg concentration camp. As the Gestapo entered to escort Bonhoeffer to his ‘trial’, Bonhoeffer concluded the service and led the congregation with one last hymn: ‘Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott.’”
About the winners
Alison Willis – winner, 22 years and above
Alison Willis (b.1971) is an award-winning composer whose works have been performed and broadcast internationally. She studied composition with Alan Bullard (Colchester) and George Benjamin (RCM).
Her music has been described as, ‘Intensely moving’, ‘Beautiful yet pragmatic’ and ‘Saying what you have to say and then stopping’. She finds particular inspiration in historical sources and events, social issues and enjoys working collaboratively with both young people and adults. Alison is also an experienced pianist, organist, folk musician and Musical Director, enjoys composing music for theatre and is a Trustee of the Martin Read Foundation, supporting young composers.
Recent works include ‘Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep’, released on Blossom Street’s album ‘This Day’ (January 2019), ‘The Ballad of the Harp Weaver’, released on Juice Vocal Ensemble’s ‘Snow Queens’ CD (December 2018) and ‘Non Omnis Moriar’ premiered by the BBC Singers (September 2018). Her work for Hampshire County Youth Choir, ‘Pax Vobis’ was performed as part of the Remembrance service at Winchester Cathedral (June 2018) and ‘A Light Not Yet Ready To Go Out’ for the London Concert Choir, raising awareness of and money for Breast Cancer Now, premiered at Holy Trinity Sloane Square in March 2018.
Jacob Beranek – winner, 21 years and under
Jacob Beranek (b.1998) is an American composer and pianist. He currently serves as the first-ever Composer-in-Residence of the Midsummer’s Music Festival, which has commissioned two new pieces to date, Death’s Door (2017) and Partita melodica (2018). Other recent performances of Jacob’s music have occurred in Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, as well as the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
His work has garnered national recognition in several competitions, including the Edwin Fissinger Choral Composition Prize, Steven Stucky Young Composers Competition, NFMC Jr. Composers Competition, and Project 21 Prize; honorable mention in the ACF NextNotes Competition and American Prize in Composition; and Finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Besides self-publishing, Jacob has eight works published by Alliance Publications, Inc. (distributed by Hal Leonard).
In addition to composition, Jacob is a serious pianist and devotee of Czech music due to his heritage. He has had the privilege of studying music in Prague during visits in 2015 and 2017, and returned in November 2018 for the European premiere of his Památník at Prague Castle by the Band of the Castle Guards & Czech Police.
Jacob has served as a Composition Fellow at the Talis Festival & Academy in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and has also studied at the Curtis Institute of Music Young Artist Summer Program. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Composition at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. You can learn more about Jacob and his musical endeavors at www.beranekmusic.com.
Ryan Malone – highly commended, 22 years and above
Ryan Malone (b. 1976) is music director for Herbert W. Armstrong College (a four-year liberal arts college) and Imperial Academy (a private K-12 institution), both sponsored by the Philadelphia Church of God in Edmond, Oklahoma. Read MoreThere he has written and produced four full-length musicals, two oratorios, plus he has produced eight inspirational vocal/choral albums that included dozens of original works, arrangements of traditional hymns and show tunes. Throughout his composing career, Malone has also composed a variety of works, including instrumental works (three commissioned for weddings), art songs for his wife, soprano Paula Malone, as well as compositions for his many students and ensembles that he teaches. In 2010 he served as composer in residence for the Norman High School string quartet. His transcription of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs for soprano and piano trio was premiered by the Eroica Trio along with his wife in 2011 and recorded in 2018 on the Xolo label by Tess Remy-Schumacher, Hong Zhu and his wife Paula.
Karen Lemon – highly commended, 22 years and above
Karen Lemon is an Australian composer and musicologist whose qualifications include a PhD in Musicology from the University of Sydney (on Schoenberg’s post-tonal music c.1910) and a License in Dalcroze Eurhythmics from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. Read MoreThough a pianist by training, in performance she has been most active as a chorister and vocalist. Despite studies in composition in her undergraduate days, it has only been in recent years that Karen has focussed more intently on composition; her works have received small international performances and have been prizewinners in composition competitions. Karen has worked as a lecturer in Musicology at the Universities of Sydney and Tasmania. She currently divides her time between Australia and France.
Aleksander Jan Szopa – highly commended, 21 years and under
Aleksander Jan Szopa is a Polish-American organist, pianist and composer. He started composing at the age of 15 and has amassed a portfolio of over sixty compositions, focusing on writing for organ, piano, a cappella choir, and orchestra.
David Nunn – highly commended, 21 years and under
David Nunn is a London-based composer studying with Helen Grime at the Royal Academy of Music, having previously studied with Julian Anderson and Christian Mason. Read MoreHe has recently completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. His music is often characterised by textures which seem to revolve and rotate as if in a kaleidoscope, and a rich, vivid harmonic palette. Recently, his projects have included a work for a mixed quintet drawn from the BCMG, a concert of new music for chamber orchestra by a collective of Cambridge undergraduate composers, and a work for the choir of St. John’s College with live electronics. Upcoming projects include an installation at The Hepworth Wakefield and collaborations with The Hermes Experiment, Psappha, and ensemble recherche.
The astronomer who saved his mother from being burned as a witch.
In January 2019, we visited the beautiful university town of Tübingen in southwest Germany to perform excerpts from Kepler’s Trial alongside a new work written for us by British composer, Tim Watts, ‘Kepler-Motetten’.
In 1615, when Johannes Kepler was at the height of his career, his old, widowed mother Katharina was accused of witchcraft in a Lutheran town in Germany. The proceedings led to a criminal trial, with Kepler conducting his mother’s defence to fight for legal justice – assisted by Tübingen University.
Premiere of Kepler-Motets and the presentation of a book about Kepler’s mother at the Pfleghofsaal. By Martin Bernklau 19.01.2019
“…the phenomenal a cappella ensemble Gesualdo Six who, inclusive of two countertenors, represent the best in English singing.”
“Not only was Tim Watts’ music framed by historical pieces sung by the Gesualdo Six – such as a drinking song by Johann Hermann Schein or a wonderfully intoned motet by Orlando di Lasso – but sound world and techniques of the Renaissance and Early Baroque have also been incorporated into the Opera and the Motets.”
“Excerpts from the Opera, sung by Cerys Purser and accompanied by the Gesualdo Six and, at times, by the composer on the piano, were highly impressive and dramatic.”
Since we first performed this repertoire in 2014, we knew that we wanted to make it into a CD recording. Over the past few years, we have been developing the tracklist, cultivating a unique and exciting festive album that explores the mystery and joy of the Advent and Christmas seasons.
We plan to release this CD in November 2019 on Hyperion Records, and would be incredibly grateful for any support, no matter the size.
To thank those who support this project, we have a series of rewards which you can see listed on our Crowdfunder page.
In February 2019, we will be touring a programme of music inspired by the ancient service of compline, Fading. Concerts will include atmospheric works by Nicolas Gombert, Thomas Tallis, Sarah Rimkus and Joanna Marsh.
15 February 2019
Leeds | Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall
Start time: 1:05 PM More Information
17 February 2019
London | St James Sussex Gardens (Paddington)
Start time: 8:00 PM Ticket Link
18 February 2019
Cambridge | Trinity College Chapel
Start time: 8:00 PM Ticket Link
19 February 2019
Boxgrove | Boxgrove Priory
Start time: 8:00 PM Ticket Link
Concerts will feature Abendlied, a beautiful work by German composer, Josef Rheinberger, written when he was just 15.
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.
To mark the centenary of the Armistice that ended World War I, we present ‘Sequence: In Parenthesis’.
About the project
‘Sequence: In Parenthesis’ is a composition by Owain Park, inspired by David Jones’s epic poem, ‘In Parenthesis’, which narrates the experiences of Private John Ball during World War I.
Based on Jones’s own experience as an infantryman, events include the assault on Mametz Wood during the Battle of the Somme.
Earlier this year, we travelled to Mametz Wood with a soldier’s uniform borrowed from the National Theatre to video on-location.
‘Sequence: In Parenthesis’ uses many of the melodies found in David Jones’s work, ‘In Parenthesis’, in conjunction with a narrator who quotes short passages – sometimes related, but often distanced from the choral parts. The original vision for the piece was a dream-like fantasia, that uses melodies quoted in David Jones’s work: English and Welsh hymn tunes and village hall songs are intermingled with trench songs – from both sides of the conflict.
The piece was premiered by Opus Anglicanum, with Zeb Soanes narrating.
Exploring the events of ‘In Parenthesis’ at Mametz Wood and across the Somme with Owain and Sam was fascinating and deeply moving. I feel that a project such as this can only make a light impression on a work as complex as ‘In Parenthesis’, and indeed in our music, the journey of the protagonist, Private Ball, is only a transparency through which we can see darkly, individual experiences of the Great War.
Songs frequently crop up in David Jones’ writing. In Owain’s composition, these melodies are brought in and out of focus, conveying a spectrum of meanings that are unique to each listener. We have found that the resulting effect has been similarly profound wherever we have performed in concerts around the UK and abroad.
My experience, of both listening to and performing the piece, is that it transcends many of the dichotomies of the Great War and our project intends to reflect this: The historical perspective that is clearest to us as young British singers in 2018, especially given the events currently unfolding around us, is one of reconciliation, cooperation and a sense that the bonds that hold us together are far stronger than the forces that seek to pull us apart.
As we commemorate the centenary of the November Armistice, we remember the lives and sacrifices of a whole generation from all corners of the world, and we rededicate ourselves to working towards a time where we will be able to say with confidence: Never Again.
Samuel Mitchell on location in Mametz Wood.
Revd Jim Craig – Chaplain of Guy’s Chapel, King’s College London
The National Theatre – Costume Hire Department
Jamie Wright – Loan of camera equipment
Mair Park – Design of titles
Hafren Park – Production Assistant
The Friends and Patrons of The Gesualdo Six, especially: Margaret Clark, Jean Hackett, Helen Hudson, Lynn James, Jean & Philip King, George Lewis, Chris Lovell, Jan Montague, John Pastor, John Rowlands-Pritchard, Susan Vinther & Karen Constable.
Music featured in the work
Listed by order of appearance:
– Goodbye, Dolly Gray
– Bring me my harp/David of the white rock (Dafydd y Garreg Wen)
– Oh dear! What can the matter be?
– Sosban Fach
– Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
– Casey Jones
– Old soldiers never die
– The Spaniard that blighted my life (If I catch Alphonso Spagoni, the Toreador)
– Oh I do like a s’nice s’mince ‘spie!
– Onward, Christian Soldiers
– I want to go home
– Jesu, lover of my soul
– We’re here because we’re here
Please contact us if you would like to know more about the project.
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!
Rehearsals for Les Petites Voix in full swing in Holy Trinity Church, Ripon.
After concerts in the beautiful towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Elora, we were almost taken aback by the towering architecture as we approached the bustling metropolis of Toronto. A highlight of this tour has been the personal connections we have made along the way, but here was a connection already forged, in the form of our founding second tenor, Robert Busiakiewicz, who is now director of music at St James Cathedral. Having someone who knows the area so well was invaluable – Rob picked out some of his favourite sites, including an amazingly packed bookshop with a seemingly endless supply of fascinating titles. After the usual re-caffeination, we headed to the cathedral to try out some of our repertoire, with the aim of answering the perennial question of where exactly to position Sam.
Having failed in that task, we headed to an Indian restaurant a short walk from the cathedral, where we were treated to a delicious array of dishes, paired with Canadian beer and wine (and yes, Mike, it’s fine to have wine with a curry.) Naturally, the next day got off to a dozy start, but with our final performance within our sights, we courageously ploughed on and finished on a real high, with our seventh standing ovation of the tour. On our final day in Canada, Joseph visited a really big organ, Mike stayed in bed until after midday, and Josh was left behind. Miraculously, we all made it on the last WestJet flight of the day, and arrived at Gatwick the next morning, red-eyed and bushy tailed.
Our first international tour was fantastic for so many reasons, but none more so than the wonderful people we met; those who came to concerts, and those who kindly let us stay in their homes. I knew Canada would be a great place to tour with this group, but I think the tour exceeded our expectations on all fronts – so we are looking forward to the next with great anticipation!
~ European update ~
After two weeks in Canada, we thought it would be a good idea to continue the fun, and found ourselves in the Netherlands for a concert at the Delft Chamber Music Festival. The Oude Kerk was one of the largest venues we have performed in, and it was fantastic to have a crowd of around 500 people at our concert. Our programme centred around ‘powerful love stories’, with works by Gesualdo at the fore.
I write this, thankfully, with my suitcase now returned, but when we arrived in Świdnica both Alex and I were without our bags. So, with iPads fully charged and a new set of concert clothes duly purchased, we gave our Polish debut in St Joseph’s Church, and with that, our summer adventure was complete!
There is plenty to look forward to in the coming months, as we embark on European debuts in Kosovo, Belgium, Switzerland and Slovenia. Elsewhere, Joseph is working towards the inaugural Boxgrove Choral Festival with his choir, The Beaufort Singers, which takes place in Boxgrove Priory from 26-29 August. He has kindly programmed several of my pieces, which also feature on the first album of my choral works, released next month by Trinity College Choir on Hyperion Records. Our next performance takes place at the Ripon International Festival on 8 September. All of our future dates can be found on our Concerts page, with further information and ticket links.
Joe Blogs… #5 about our time in Elora
The penultimate stop on our tour was the rather quaint riverside town of Elora. We were driven by the ever-delightful Al, who has taken us around Ontario in his Dodge Caravan, allowing us to relax and catch up on some much-needed sleep!
Elora is a place that several members of the group have visited before. It was particularly wonderful for Guy and Owain to remake their acquaintance with Stan & Elizabeth, their hosts from recent trips with Trinity College Choir. The whole group enjoyed two delicious meals at their quite amazing home – an old wooden cottage with modern extension – set in acres of diverse greenery and woodland a little way out of town.
The concert we gave was part of the prestigious Elora Festival, several events of which take place in a barn normally used to store road salt. Our concert took place at St John’s Anglican Church, which turned out to have a near-ideal acoustic for us. We enjoyed exploring its possibilities for processing to different spaces, something which lends particular bits of our programme an extra special aspect for both us and the audience.
I’m sure the group’s abiding memories of Elora will be two-fold. Ken, the son of Mike’s host, kindly took us out on the river in his very own punt, giving us a fascinating tour while telling us about the history of Elora. We had an amazing look at a coral reef that had been formed several millions of years ago and which contained an enormous number of fossils. Guy enjoyed sticking his hand out and tasting the rock as the punt hugged the shore…
…as well as tasting some truly excellent local produce at the Elora Brewing Company, another of our Elora highlights. Not only did we enjoy an excellent meal there on the first night, we also headed there after the concert with some wonderful members of the Elora Singers who were so welcoming and jovial. Thank you to them, and to all at the Festival for having us!
I write this from central Toronto, our final stop on this tour, and am not looking forward to leaving this country on Sunday evening. We have been welcomed so wonderfully and warmly by each and every place we visited, and it’s been a truly fulfilling discovery for me. I hope we will be back soon!
Tour blog #4 – Niagara-on-the-Lake by Josh Cooter
The second half of our tour takes place in Ontario, a province that is larger than both France and Spain combined. The first stop was the rather gorgeous Niagara-on-the-Lake, which just so happened to coincide with our first (and only) rest day of this tour. As Owain had visited this region previously he dutifully volunteered to be our travel guide.
In Canada, we’ve so far managed to travel in a variety of vehicles including planes, cars, ferries and even a canoe. Bikes would be our latest means of transportation, and led by our trusted guide we set off on our route of the local vineyards for tastings. My memory of the afternoon’s events is somewhat hazy, however personal highlights of the day would be my first experience of the local ice wines and the impromptu football match played amongst the grape vines.
The next morning we were treated to breakfast by one of our hosts at the the oldest golf course in North America, situated right on the shores of Lake Ontario. Enthused by the nearby sports, in classic G6 tradition we decided to go on a quest for somewhere to play cricket. It turns out, however, that Canadians are not as cricket mad as certain members of the group, and with the midday heat approaching we had to abandon our quest and head to a nearby café to source a well needed iced coffee and some shade before our rehearsal.
Our fifth concert venue was in St Mark’s Church, a lovely church built in 1804 which included 7 different keyboard instruments much to the delight of our keyboard enthusiasts Joseph and Sam. It also provided us once again with ample of opportunity for some more choraleography including at one point singing from both pulpits for a duet by Orlande de Lassus. We were really pleased with the turn-out and with another successful concert done we made our way back to one of our very kind hosts for a post-concert reception.
Next, we travel to the nearby town of Elora for our sixth concert, with the end of this tour sadly getting ever closer.
Tour blog #3 – Vancouver & Victoria by Mike Craddock
Arriving in Vancouver airport, we were met by our old friend, jetlag, having retreated back in time a further three hours. This meant that we were headed into town at what felt like midnight to meet our hosts. However, this did not dampen the incredibly warm welcome from PJ and co from St James’ Church, who we identified in baggage reclaim from the massive concert poster sign they were brandishing.
The next day brought with it a further journey westward; indeed, as far west as any of us have ever ventured. We got a bus to the Spirit of Vancouver ferry, a beautiful 2 hours spent criss-crossing islands in the balmy sun on placid seas. Our final destination was Victoria, and its fabulous Cathedral. Plenty of nooks and crannies for patented G6 choraleography®️, and a tremendous acoustic. Sure enough, the concert was both incredibly well attended and received, with the idyllic surroundings and friendly residents once again making us incredibly sad to leave after less than 24 hours!
Back on the ferry again the next morning, but not before GJ, OP and my host took us out for a little speedboat adventure. I was a terrible driver. Fortunately they didn’t let me at the ferry. In any case, straight from the bus depot to a rehearsal at St James’s in Vancouver, a very stylish Gilbert Scott-designed building with a similarly classy sound to it. The concert was a warm affair, but again was packed out, and it was a particular pleasure to meet Gerda Blok Wilson, and perform her piece to a hugely appreciative audience. It has been a truly wonderful discovery.
Our BC adventure comes to an end this morning, and has been far too brief. It will be nice though to have two days off, with some exciting plans being made for gastronomic adventures in Niagara-on-the Lake!
Tour Blog #2 – Our stop-off in Québec by Guy James
It’s a very great pleasure to be writing my first blog of our Canada Tour from 36,000 feet above the Great Lakes. We’re on our way to Vancouver tonight and Victoria early tomorrow, travelling between the two by ferry. Leaving the incredible Music Centre at CAMMAC on Lake MacDonald this afternoon was a wrench as we have had such a fantastic 24 hours there.
Picked up from our hotel in Ottawa in the familiar G6 tour sight of the 7-seater (albeit the capacious North American equivalent) we weren’t sure what to expect when we arrived at CAMMAC in Québec. CAMMAC is a former hunting lodge and for 8 weeks of the summer or so they host a selection of music courses with different specialities. We were greeted by the most friendly group of keen and driven musicians imaginable, and there was already quite a buzz about our performance. Settling into Counterpoint Week was a joy and the centre proved capable and generous hosts. The setting on the banks of the lake was picture perfect under clear blue skies and opportunities for swimming and some new filming locations soon crystallised and the fruits of these labours will be available very soon.
Leaving the warm waters of the lake barely half an hour before our concert, we were delighted to perform to a very appreciative audience in CAMMAC’s cool and resonant Lucy Hall. Enjoying dinner afterwards with the course attendees, it was wonderful to share our passions for music and its rich history and to learn more about the musical history and ‘set-up’ in the towns and cities of our Canadian friends. A workshop with the a cappella class in the picturesque CAMMAC boathouse followed dinner, which centred on ‘The Banquet Fugue’, a comic work about a restaurant by John Rutter. There was also a new discovery for the team in the form of a pair of Italian madrigals, featuring a cat, dog, cuckoo and an owl improvising over a figured bass. For reasons that may perhaps be apparent, as the sole participating countertenor, I was given the role of the owl.
Rising early the next morning, Mike and I went for a swift jog to the centre’s perimeter before meeting Owain for an early swim. A quick explore of the centre’s music library and shop later, we were sight-reading a motet from Mantua over cookies and coffee, before we headed corporately to put CAMMAC’s canoes to the test. Mike and I launched first, followed by the tenors. Having made it a few yards into the lake we were presented with the sight of the underside of the third canoe sinking slowly into Lake MacDonald and the further two (unnamed) group members scrabbling to recover personal belongings from the depths. That photographic evidence does not exist of this event serves only to highlight the intense will and efforts of those singers still afloat to aid their unfortunate colleagues, and should in no way be considered the result of a period of considerable mirth.
Belongings salvaged and canoe restored, the team spent a very enjoyable and relaxing morning exploring the lake and sharing stories with the course members over lunch. Well-fed and returned to the warm embrace of our trusty 7-seater stead we then headed back to Ottawa, and thence to where you now find us, bourne aloft over the Rocky Mountains.
I’m tremendously excited to visit the western seaboard of North America for the first time tonight; we have heard a lot of wonderful things about Vancouver and Victoria already and we can’t wait to explore ourselves between our two concerns over the coming two days!
Tour Blog #1 – ‘A whole lotta Ottawa’ by Sam Mitchell
We arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on a warm morning at Gatwick airport, making our British farewell known in the form of a Wetherspoons breakfast. After a most comfortable flight we arrived in Halifax to make our connection to Ottawa, a further 90 minutes of travelling. Despite a small matter of the bus breaking down, we soon made it to our hotel, where we were pleasantly surprised to find what can only be described as spacious suites – most of which dwarfed our own flats back home! After some R and R, our stomachs needed filling and Mike led us to Fraser Cafe – a restaurant which certainly did not disappoint with its eclectic menu and excellent wine – proving to be a great distraction for the oncoming jet lag.
Still getting used to the time differential, the next morning some of us rose early and enjoyed some swimming in the hotel pool before exploring the incredibly friendly city of Ottawa, primarily in search of breakfast. After fuelling up, it was time to meet for rehearsal in the very spacious (and very warm) church of St Matthew in the Glebe district. After a sweltering concert, we were grateful to welcome some incredibly refreshing Margaritas before heading for a feast in a heavily hip-hop themed restaurant. Later that evening, we paid a visit to the Canadian parliament and its historic ‘Northern Lights’ Lumiere display, which provided a perfect cultural end to the evening before we head off to neighbouring Québec.
Ottawa has been the perfect start to this exciting tour – the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming and I for one can’t wait to visit again one day soon.