Let’s look back shall we?

DSC_01942015 has been an extraordinary year. It was the year in which John Potter, Rogers Covey-Crump and I took the Conductus project on the road. We sang concerts and led workshops in Bratislava, Beverley, Durham, Brussels, Radovlijca (Slovenia), and Brighton.

It is also the year in which I joined Cantabile – The London Quartet. This is a group with whom I sang back in 2012 and thought it unlikely that I would get the opportunity again. Since September, I have done 13 shows with them in Belgium, Germany and the UK including a charity concert for Bloodwise in the Royal Albert Hall in front of c. 6,000 supporters. And there was that trip to California in May…

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Photo by Jonathan Knowles during a Cantabile – The London Quartet photo shoot.

I have also had the privilege of singing with Gothic Voices this year! This is a group whose recordings were always a first port of call for me while studying medieval music at university. And in 2015 I was offered the opportunity to sing with them. Extraordinary!

I also had the pleasure of performing and recording with The Brabant Ensemble and Ex Cathedra singing diverse music by the likes of Pierre de la Rue, Carl Orff (Carmina Buranna), James MacMillan and Alec Roth. And I made my first visit to Dartington with Ex Cathedra in the summer – what an amazing place.

I won’t bore you any further, but you can see that it has been a very exciting year and 2016 promises to be similarly so. We expect the final instalment of the Conductus series to be released by Hyperion on 26th February, and are looking forward to more concerts and workshops in Cambridge and Besalú (Spain). We also have plans to explore new repertoire so watch this space for more news on that. Cantabile’s diary continues to fill up with engagements in Europe, the first of these on New Year’s Day in Bad Kreuznach in Germany. I have also been invited back to sing with Gothic Voices again and will be travelling with the Brabant Ensemble too. There are also tentative dates for Ex Cathedra so a busy year ahead.

Which just leaves me to say that I am constantly overwhelmed by the unerring support that I receive from my family, friends and colleagues while undertaking these singing activities. I know every day that I am very lucky to be pursuing this career and am extremely grateful for the constant love and support!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

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As the days begin to draw in…

IMG_3514…it is great to be able to reflect on some of the extraordinary ‘summer’ singing experiences I’ve had this year! The Conductus Ensemble (as we are now referring to ourselves) has performed in Beverley Minster (Beverley Early Music Festival), Durham University’s Music Department, Église de la Cambre in Brussels (MedRen2015 Conference) and Cerkev vs. Petra in Radovlijca, Slovenia (Radovlijca Festival) You can see some images of this concert here. For each of these, we have led a workshop offering the audience an insight into this amazing repertoire and our unique approach to performing it. Although the structure of each of these sessions has been roughly the same, the results have been surprisingly varied with each group taking us in many different directions depending on their specific interests. This has been fascinating for us, and we look forward to continuing this exploration. We have two more Concerts/Workshops this year in Nieder-Olm (11 September) and the Brighton Early Music Festival (19 September). We also have a couple of shows booked in for 2016 in Cambridge and in Besalú, Spain and are in discussions about further events. Watch this space!

IMG_3395I have also been performing with Ex Cathedra. Firstly, we spent a week performing Orff’s Carmina Burana in the Birmingham Hippodrome with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Unlike our shows in the Colosseum in London earlier in the year, this was performed in the two piano and percussion scoring which is amazingly colourful – I think I prefer the immediacy of this instrumentation compared to the orchestral version. Having never sung the piece before these runs, I don’t think I’m going to be able perform it again without the beautiful choreography which added so much to the experience. I would love the sing the Swan sometime though… As well as Carmina, BRB performed a new piece called the King’s Dance with a score by Stephen Montague which was absolutely stunning.

IMG_3394The Ex Cathedra Consort has also been active with concerts at Douai Abbey, St John’s Smith Square and the Dartington Festival. As well as an English/South American programme In a Strange Land, we also performed a French Baroque programme of music written for the diva Marie Fel with the amazing Carolyn Sampson. The Hyperion recording of this music has just won a Gramophone Award! Well worth a listen.

I was also lucky to be asked to take part in a performance of new music written by Bill Brooks, Stef Connor, Jonathan Brigg and Michael Parkin during the York Late Music Festival. The programme was based on texts by (or related to) WB Yeats – 2015 being the 150th anniversary of his birth. I have known and admired Bill’s music since my time as an undergrad at York but have never had the opportunity to perform any in concert. This was an extraordinary experience! His approach to setting these amazing texts is exceptional and beyond description here. I will hopefully be able to upload some audio excepts of the show soon. In the meantime, you can listen to Stef Connor’s equally wonderful piece, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, and John Brigg’s Three Vachel Lindsay Poems! It should also be said that the ad hoc Everlasting Voices group were superb: Elsbeth Piggot, Ana Beard Fernández and Robin and Graham Bier.

Finally, I have been spending more time rehearsing with Cantabile – The London Quartet and may have more to tell you about that very soon!

California dreamin’

As the wind and rain batters my study window, I can’t help but think back to the glorious time I had with The London Quartet in Ventura, CA just a few days ago. We performed in the Community Presbyterian Church which was packed with a very appreciative audience, and were also put through our paces during a Q & A session with the Patrons and VIPs of the festival beforehand. The thing I love most about the TLQ experience is that they make a real effort to interact with the audience at every possible opportunity; before, during and after the show. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to talk to so many interesting people afterwards.

It was also great to meet Nuvi Mehta, the Artistic Director of the Ventura Music Festival and to hear how the festival has expanded, as well as his plans for the future. We are grateful to him and his team for looking after us so well, especially to Rose and the wonderful tech team at the venue. I hope we have the opportunity to visit again!

I leave you with Nuvi Mehta’s TEDx talk from earlier this year:

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The London Quartet meet Miss Kansas

For the past 5 weeks, I have had the pleasure of touring with Cantabile – The London Quartet in the American Midwest. The tour encompassed 19 dates in different cities across 7 States (with a brief jaunt back to Germany for a show in Wunsiedel). As you can imagine, this means we covered several thousand miles in the car (6,700ish) as well as racked up 8 flights worth of airmiles.

Our programme was a celebration of harmony groups from the twentieth century through to the present day. This included songs by groups such as The Mills Brothers, The Manhatten Transfer, The Beach Boys, Billy Joel, The Comedian Harmonists and Prelude to name but a few. We also performed arrangements that have recently been published in TLQ’s Great British A Cappella Songbook!

The several challenges for me of performing this music began with having to memorise the majority of it. This is not something I have had to do very often and I found the thought rather daunting. However, after sever hours on my own and several more in a hugely supportive rehearsal environment with the group, I was able to crack it. Even with a dress rehearsal though, nothing can quite prepare one for the first performance off copy. It was an extremely exhilarating moment for me, and one that continued from show to show as we settled into it.

The show in Germany was a showcase for Peter Martin Jacos’ A Cappella Nacht where we shared the stage with the German group SixPack and The House Jacks from America who are credited as being the first a cappella rock group to use a beatboxer. Both of these groups were amazing; fantastic musicians and really brilliant entertainers. It was also really interesting to hang out with The House Jacks afterwards and find out about their various other musical activities. These are all very busy and influential guys, and it was a pleasure to meet them.

For me, the highlight of the whole touring experience was the people I was able to meet and work with along the way. It was fantastic to get to know Richard, Mark and Mike over an extended period and I look forward to drinking with them again in the future. It was also great to meet so many interesting and knowledgeable members of the audience, many of whom have followed The London Quartet for a number of years. I hope some of those who were newly introduced to the group will continue to support and follow them too. I certainly look forward to keeping in-touch with them and seeing what gems they have in store for the future. You can follow them on twitter @thelondon4tet and via their blog.

While on the road, I was also able to dream up some new projects of my own that I will talk about in more detail in due course. Do keep a regular eye on this news page and my twitter feed (@cpogorman) for some exciting announcements soon.