Winter’s passing

IMG_2544With Christmas well forgotten and the revels of a significant birthday now just a hazy memory, it seems strange to look back over the festive music making of last year. Suffice it to say, there was rather a lot of singing – and not too much of the usual ‘stuff’. The highlights for me were definitely singing with Ex Cathedra again in two programmes; An Elizabethan Christmas with the viol consort Fretwork, as well as their annual Candlelight programme. This included a piece by my Minster Choir colleague Ian Colson – A Cause for Wonder, which was received enthusiastically by singers and audiences alike. I would definitely recommend checking out his music which is published by Boreas Music.

IMG_1694In January, I was asked by The Opera Group (now The Mahogany Opera Group) to take part in a workshop with the composer Emily Hall. I first came across Emily’s music when I heard her piece Rest – A Secular Requiem performed by the folk group Lady Maisery. It is evident that Emily approaches much of her work as song writing in the way a pop songwriter might, and the results are absolutely beautiful. She has been commissioned to write a concept album opera for TOG (currently being called Folie a Deux) which will be released and toured in 2015. During the workshop, I worked with Emily and the Group’s Director Frederic Wake-Walker exploring ideas of psychosis through movement and the voice. Emily is also keen that there is an electronic element to the piece, so we had fun experimenting with various electronic voice modifications. It was a fantastic day, and I learnt so much. Unfortunately my involvement in the project ended with the workshop, but I look forward to seeing the results when they appear.

IMG_2001Since January, I have been working regularly with Robert Hollingworth and his MA Vocal Ensemble (Voices of York) at The University of York. The group’s tenor was unable to complete the course, so I have been drafted in as a singer and assistant coach. It has been fascinating working with some very accomplished singers with a cathedral singing background getting to grips with some very unfamiliar repertoire. This term’s focus has been the madrigals of Monteverdi. It is absolutely sublime music, and Robert’s insights are very illuminating. However, singing in Italian has proved a challenge. We are starting to overcome this though and really beginning to make a pleasing noise as group! The fruits of these labours can be seen in VoY’s second assessed recital in April.

As well as this, the coming months’ activities include singing a predominantly improvised piece by Craig Vear in The Late Music Festival, a concert and workshops in Birmingham with the Binchois Consort and a concert in London with The Brabant Ensemble. I will also be joining the Chapter House Choir as the Evangelist for their performance of Bob Chilcott‘s St John Passion and John Potter, Rogers Covey-Crump and I will be meeting to record the final instalment of the Conductus project.

glassesOn an unrelated note, I bought a beautiful pair of Andy Wolfe glasses while in Amsterdam for my birthday in January. As beautiful as they are, the best part of getting them was the experience of actually buying them from Eye Respect on Herenstraat. Wilfried could not have been more helpful, and his after-sales care has been second to none. We are in email contact regularly now! If you are in Amsterdam, please go and visit this store. It is an experience just to browse, and the customer service is top class.

Binchois in Birmingham and Gabrieli in Glasgow

ImageI had a fantastic weekend at Birmingham University singing with the Binchois Consort. As previously stated, we revisited the Brumel programme that we sang in Hautecombe last year. This really is some of the most sublime music ever written and it was fantastic to sing it again, though in a very different setting this time. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts has a fantastic and intimate concert hall, however there is little resonance there. We therefore missed some of the implied polyphony which is often created by a more resonant acoustic. This was of course not detrimental, and just provided different performance challenges. We also had the opportunity to coach and sing with the Birmingham University Singers (BUS), a mixed group of predominantly undergraduate students. They were a charming and enthusiastic bunch who really responded to our suggestions. All in all, I think we put on a very good show. It was also fantastic to meet some members of the audience afterwards, one of whom had just purchased a copy of Conductus Vol I! I hope you have enjoyed listening to it!

I’m preparing to go to Glasgow on Friday for a concert with the men of the Gabrieli Consort. We will be singing a programme of spanish music constructed around the Morales Requiem. We’ll be performing in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which looks to be a spectacular space. I’ll post some photos over the weekend.

Cambridge

ImageA slightly belated thanks to all the wonderful people at Cambridge Early Music Festival who made our Conductus gig such a wonderful experience. The audience endured the show admirably and were fantastically enthusiastic afterwards! I think I also managed to avoid being eaten by the horse in the film, so results all round!

I’m off to Birmingham this weekend to sing with the Bichois Consort at the University of Birmingham (where Andrew Kirkman is the Head of the Music Facualty). We will be re-visiting the Brumel programme that I sang with them in Hautcombe last year. We will also be taking some time to coach one of Andrew’s student groups who will then take part in the concert on Sunday afternoon. It promises to be a very rewarding weekend.

The Binchois Consort at Hautecombe

Recently, I was lucky to spend a long weekend singing with the Binchois Consort directed by Andrew Kirkman in the beautiful Abbaye d’Hautecombe in France. We performed a programme based around Anton Brumel’s parody mass on Josquin des Prez’s chanson Berzerette savoisienne. Brumel was employed as a musician in the Court of the Savoy around 1500 and it seems likely that the court spent time at Hautecombe  during his employment.

Although I have sung Brumel’s Et ecce terrae motus with the Ebor Singers, I was unfamiliar with any of his other work. Philip Weller (who prepared the editions for these concerts) explained that while Brumel wrote a number of masse, mostly in four parts, only a handful have been edited and fewer are performed regularly. This seems a shame, since the quality of this music was so exceptional. Singing it with an ensemble of six solo voices was also an outstanding experience.

The experience of making wonderful music in this stunning setting was certainly enhanced by the generous hospitality we received from the Abbey’s current occupants who are all members of the Chemin Neuf Community. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to return in the future.

.