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.

Advertisements

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.

Dutch dash!

IMG_1651Last week, Mrs O’G and I were able to take a little time out and travelled to Amsterdam for a short ‘city-break’ where we were able to indulge our love of great food, cycling and (interior furniture) design. The city is stunningly beautiful and unlike many other capitals, is relatively compact and extremely laid-back. The city has so much more to offer than the sex and drugs for which it is infamous. And 2013 is a particularly bumper year too as the city celebrates several anniversaries; particularly 400 years of their canals, the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum and the 40th anniversary of Van Gough Musem to name but a few.

IMG_1638Although the Rijksmuseum and Van Gough Museum were closed due to extensive refurbishment (and will both re-open as part of these celebrations later in the year), we were struck by just how much other culture is available. Away from the large national galleries and concert venues are hundreds of quirky and unexpected experiences to be had. What was more refreshing was the lack of embarrassment in promoting this culture either. There was no hint of elitism, or any perception that this could ever be possible. Art seems to be for all who want to consume it, in whatever capacity. The dutch are proud of their heritage (as are most nations), but also recognise that the present is just as important. While history is preserved, this is not used as an obstacle in allowing the city (or the arts) to progress and adapt to changing times, tastes and fashions. There is also a spirit of adventurousness that is so lacking (in the arts particularly) in this country; there seemed little sense of a project having to make a financial return, but rather a mentality of being allowed the space to take risks for art’s sake.

IMG_1725Although we did not experience any live music while there, I imagine this excitement and spirit of adventure is evident in all art forms including music. A random-sample look at some local groups’ websites shows some very innovative and daring programming – particularly in the juxtaposition of early and contemporary music (and not the sort you plug just to get bums-on-seats) – as well as the public and private financial support offered. I do hope to be able to experience this sense of adventure from a performers point of view sometime in the future – hopefully I can find a way into the Dutch music scene!

Holiday over, it’s time to get back to work. The schedule for the Minster Choir is accelerating towards Easter. This year, as well as the build up to the wonderful music of Holy Week and Easter Day itself, we will also be performing Bach’s St John Passion for the first time in a long while. The soloists have recently been announced as:

  • John Mark Ainsley – Evangelist
  • Iestyn Davies – counter tenor
  • Judith Cunnold – soprano
  • Neil Griffiths – tenor
  • Benedict Nelson – Pilate
  • Roland Wood – Christus/bass

Further details can be found here.

The Ebor Singers also have a busy month as Easter approaches. They will be performing a Passiontide programme in the Minster’s sublime Chapter House on the 20th of March, and their now traditional performance of Stainer’s Crucifixion will take place on the 27th. They will also be participating in a hand-full of Lenten Compline services. Further details can be found here.

2013-Conductus-222x-01In April, John Potter and I will be performing the two-voice Conductus programme as part of the Cambridge Festival of the Voice. This will take place in the Emmanuel United Reform Church on the 13th and will feature similar repertoire to our YEMF appearance last year, as well as some new material from the forthcoming second disk. They will also be showing Mick Lynch‘s film which accompanies the programme, and John will be giving a pre-concert talk about the whole project. It should be an action packed weekend!

Conductus Vol II and Britten

DSC_0095The New Year has been filled with recordings so far. In early January, in this year of Benjamin Britten’s centenary, I was in London recording Britten’s War Requiem with the Gabrieli Consort. This disk will be the third in their Wratislavia Cantans Oratorio Series in collaboration with the festival of that name as well as the Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra and young singers who have been involved in the Gabrieli Young Singers’ Scheme. With such vast forces involved, one can image that the loud bits were pretty loud! However, Paul McCreesh also coaxed some exquisite quiet singing from the assembled masses. Although I have sung the piece before, I had forgotten how exciting Britten’s orchestration is. The brass fanfares in particular during the Dies Irae are mind-blowing – such evocative writing. The only downside to the sessions was that we didn’t get to hear much of the stella array of soloists; Susan Gritton, John Mark Ainsley and Christopher Maltman. I can’t wait to hear the final outcome!

NCEM3Then last week, John Potter, Rogers Covey-Crump and I returned to the National Centre for Early Music to record the second disk of the Conductus project for Hyperion Records. It was an intensive few days, but I think the results will be wonderful. Having made one recording already and performed the music live, we have definitely developed a collective sense of style. We have also got to grips with the editions which provide the performer with a mix of standard notation and clips of the manuscript. While I was sceptical about the time involved in preparing these scores for performance over the convenience of standard chant notation, I am now convinced that the results during performance are significantly different and worth the time spent with the manuscript. We could not have got the results we have without the amazing production and engineering skills of Jeremy Summerly and Julian Millard, and of course Mark Everist who was on hand to clear up any musicological questions. Thanks also to Mark’s team of musicologists in Southampton who prepared the editions.

conductus recording photoJohn and I will be performing the two voice version of the programme with Mick Lynch‘s film at Trinity College, Cambridge on the 13 April during their Festival of the Voice. The first outing of the three voice version with Rogers Covey-Crump will be in Southampton in September with the video. Both programmes are also available as full length concerts with an interval but without the film and the repertoire will continue to develop for both as we prepare for the final recording. Further details are available on my Conductus page, or from Robert White (RWhiteAM@aol.com).

Finally, thanks to Stephanie Puzey Broomhead for braving the cold and snow with me this weekend to take some new promo pics which you will see popping up on the website soon.

December 2012 – Christmas is almost upon us!

After a few days rest following the London Quartet America tour, the busy run up to Christmas has begun. This was kick-started by my favourite service of the year at York Minster – The Advent Procession. The Cathedral begins in darkness, and as the evening progresses with readings and music, candlelight is spread from the west to the east of the congregation. It really is a magical experience. This stop motion film of last year’s service gives a sense of the effect.

The musical highlight for me was Sandström’s Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen which was new to me. This is only the second piece of his that I have come across, the other being his completion of Purcell’s Hear my Prayer, but on the strength of these his work is definitely worth exploring further.

DSC_0076Our Minster commitment continues with the second of our Carol concerts taking place on Friday the 14th, two Nine Lessons and Carols services on the 23rd and 24th as well as the special services of Christmas Eve and Christmas day. For a full list of the Minster’s Christmas activities, visit their website.

I have also been singing with Ex Cathedra this month. They have a busy schedule of Christmas Music by Candlelight concerts, which are an inventive combination of words and music in several venues in and around Birmingham. As the name suggests, these are lit solely by candlelight, which can present a challenge when trying to read new pieces by the likes of Stephanie Martin, Panufnick, Esenvalds and Runswick. This clever programme not only conveys a beautiful sense of the meaning of Christmas, but also also manages to provide a retrospective of the choir’s activities of the past 12 months. Jeffrey Skidmore’s programme note sums this up perfectly. I am singing the programme four more times in Hagley (11th), St John’s Smith Square (13th) and St Paul’s, Birmingham (18th and 19th).

In addition, the Ex Cathedra Consort (solo voices) also had two concerts in York and Birmingham. These explored the rich Christmas repertoire of the South American Renaissance in the first half, and juxtaposed this with more familiar French and early English repertoire in the second. Both concerts were sold out to very appreciative audiences. In Birmingham, we had the opportunity to explore the incredible facilities of the new Bramall Music Building at the university with it’s stunningly flexible Elgar Concert Hall. This place really sets the president for departments where students are expected to pay up to £9,000 in tuition fees.

20121212-105823.jpgStill to come, The Ebor Singers will be performing their Ceremony of Carols programme in the Chapter House of York Minster on Saturday 13th. This year the Britten will be accompanied on the harp by Melanie Jones. The programme will also include the premier of Ian Colson’s Angelus pastores as well as new pieces by Campkin and Campbell. Tickets can be purchased via the Minster Box Office.

Finally, as light relief from all the Christmas stuff, John Potter and I met yesterday to rehearse the new music for Conductus Vol II which we will be recording in January 2013. It was fantastic to get back into the mindset of reading from manuscripts and it all felt surprisingly familiar. With the experience of the last recording as well as singing the Conductus live, I think the second recording experience is going to be a real pleasure. We also heard this week that there are a couple of concerts in the pipeline for 2013. I’ll post more details once they are confirmed!

As I said previously, I am still working on a new programme idea, so keep an eye on this new page for more details soon.

Conductus reviews

I am delighted to say that the Conductus Vol. 1 recording which was released by Hyperion in September has begun to receive some rather favourable reviews. Unfortunately not all are available online, but I have included some extracts below along with links to those that are.

Gramophone

There have been remarkably few recordings of the conductus repertory – those marvellous settings of mainly accentual Latin goliardic poetry from the years around 1200 … John Potter is one of the most experienced singers in the world for this kind of music and he is magically balanced by the glorious voice of the much younger Christopher O’Gorman. For the three-voice pieces the still impeccable Rogers Covey-Crump joins them … These are seriously classy performances.

The Observer

What is, or are, conductus? The body of anonymous medieval songs, usually sacred but not liturgical and mostly forgotten, flowered in France in the mid-13th century around the time of the Notre Dame school. This new Hyperion disc … should reawaken interest in this beguiling repertory. The poems are about life, death, salvation and, naturally, the frail virtues of women. (“He who strives to keep and lock in a roving young woman/Is washing a brick.”) Three tenors – John Potter, Christopher O’Gorman and Rogers Covey-Crump – deliver these explorations with unerring skill and conviction

Classical Music Magazine

I found Christopher O’Gorman’s tenor, with a tonal spectrum wide enough to hold the interest without gilding the lily, very pleasing.

Musicweb International

The tenors, Rogers Covey-Crump, Christopher O’Gorman and John Potter eschew effect, reverberation and atmosphere in this hour of highly satisfying singing. They favour substance. In the first place, every word, every syllable, is clear. Distinct yet gentle French Latin pronunciation is employed. They simply trust the honest exuberance of the conductus … and it works.

John Potter, Rogers Covey-Crump and I are heading back to the NCEM In January to record Volume 2 and will therefore have a substantial amount of material under our belts ready for live performance. If you are interested in booking a two or three voice programme, please contact Robert White Artist Management on RWhiteAM@aol.com.