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!

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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.