The track you are hearing is from the Orlando Consort’s most recent CD, Mantra. The project begins from an historical event: the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries in Goa. We know that they brought their own music with them and even their own instruments (the most popular instrument in India remains the harmonium and its import is down to these Christian visitors). Interestingly, rather than imposing their music on the native culture, they invited the locals to bring their instruments along and join in. Absolve, the track to which you are listening, is our take on this, a piece by Pedro de Escobar c.1465- 1535) with an improvised vocal line by Shahid Khan. The album can be purchased here.
Forde Abbey was where the Orlando Consort recorded their first album, way back in 1989, a disk of muisc by Phillipe De Vitry. Coincidentally, we are giving a concert there later this year, specifically on Thursday 19th September. The programme is very much a crowd-pleaser and at the same time an acceissible, broad survey of a variety of medieval musical styles. Entitled Food, Wine and Song, it features music from seven countires and spans more than three centuries. There are elegant chansons from France, bawdy villancicos from Spain, austerely beautiful organum from England and downright smut from Italy, and all the music is introduced in an informative fashion and with deft wit. The final German drinking songs are not to be missed. Tickets can be obtained at www.fordeabbey.co.uk, or you could ring the office on 01460 220231. Why not make a day of it and come and picnic in the grounds beforehand?
The following day, 20th September, we perform the same programme for the Cranbourne Farm Music Society, not far from Basingstoke in Hampshire. This small music society is very much a cottage-industry and we would urge you to show your support. Tickets can be obtained by writing to this email address:
The Orlando Consort is 25 years old this season. To celebrate this extraordinary event, we've compiled a video of interviews with the four current members. They discuss the formation of the group and future plans, including a new collaboration wtih Hyperion Records, further details of which be announced in due course. Please take a look.
Incidentally, we're all rather intrigued that an upload our recording of Machaut's Rose liz has received 22,000 views on YouTube. For reference, any such upload can, at the request of the record company or the group, be removed, but we're too flattered to do any such thing. Just search for Rose liz when you're on YouTube and add to the numbers. Oh, and don't forget to look at the new video. which is the real purpose of this post.
A very positive review here about the concert we gave on March 16th in Hove. (Note that Matthew Venner was unavailable and his place was taken by David Gould)
Martin Randall Travel
Martin Randall Travel, for whom the Orlando Consort has given many concerts over the years, are organising tours in both Spain and, more locally, in Yorkshire in 2013 and have invited us to appear. Details of each can be found bly cliking on the names above.
Recently we performed our programme related to the theme of gardens and gardening in medieval and renaissance music. The venue was College of St Hild and St Bede Chapel in Durham and we received a very positive review. The reviewer kindly picked all four of us out for mention and also noted that "each section of music was introduced by a member of the consort, all four of them having the gift of being able to combine erudition and wit." For the full review, click here
We're flying to the States for two concerts at the end of February and the beginning of March 2013. The first concert is at Wesleyan Univerisity in Miiddletown, CT, the second at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. See the Concerts page for more details.
The Orlando Consort is now on Twitter. Go to @orlandoconsort and follow us. We'll be posting the odd comment, trailing concerts, reporting on events and generally keeping you informed about our work. Matt Venner, the youngest of us and thus the one most in touch with 'modern' trends, will be running the account. Do join in the discussion and direct message any questions you have.
Goodbye to 2012...and hello to 2013
Well, 2012 is over and with it another busy year for the Orlando Consort. The year began with a run of concerts and residencies – at Nottingham University and Durham University. We always enjoy working with students, be they composition students, as at Durham, or keen all-rounders such as we meet at Nottingham. There followed a quick trip to Ourense where the wonderful Conchi Da Silva runs a lovely little festival with the help of her husband, Juan. Further overseas concerts in 2012 included a return to Castelo Branco (with Mantra), Slovenia and various concerts throughout the UK, including a return to our friends at the Brighton Early Music Festival.
But we have also been back in the recording studio. The results of that will be announced with due pomp and ceremony in 2013 which, incidentally, marks the 25th anniversary of the group. So, yes, there will be a new Orlando Consort CD in 2013 and many more to come. Indeed, we will be back in the studio again in January and February of this year, and again in September. We also have two trips to the USA lined up, residencies in Bangor, Nottingham and Durham, concerts in the UK, Germany and Spain. And we’re still talking with promoters about other concerts. Keep an eye on the concerts page and try and catch us in 2013.
Happy New Year to all.
Striking new photographs
Recently the group had some new photographs taken by Eric Richmond. They will be available to promoters for publicity purposes, but in the meantime do have a look at a couple and see what you think.
The Anonymous Monk in Oundle and Sheffield
Over the years, The Anonymous Monk programme, a sequence of beautiful 12th- and 13th-century music introduced by readings, has proved to be a wonderful opportunity for amateur singers to get a taste of singing medieval music. It has been an equal hit with audiences.Two recent concerts are the proof of that.
At Oundle, The Orlando Consort worked with a group of singers brought together by the Oundle Music Trust. The Church Times wrote that ‘the singing of the Orlando...was beyond compare: rhythmically vital and pliant, delicate in the lower-voice trio.’ It also singled out Matt: ‘[T]he glory of the evening was the countertenor Matthew Venner,with his impeccable intonation and stylised French forward vowels. Honed by Ex Cathedra and already gathered in by The Sixteen, Venner is a singer of breathtaking talent and artistry. His three solo a cappella items, were delivered with such delicacy and relaxed confidence that one could happily have listened to him all evening.’
In Sheffield Cathedral, The Orlando Consort were ably supported by The Abbeydale Singers (click the name for link), the Songmen and Giirls of Sheffield Cathedral Choir. The Sheffield Telegraph spoke of the 'subtle shading and variance of dynamics by the massively accomplished Orlando Consort' and suggested that Matt's solos '[cried] out for specific mention.' Many thanks to the extra singers for their hard work and to Music in the Round for inviting us.
Matt's ears must be burning.
Matt and Don gave a workshop yesterday to The Diversity Choir, an LGBT community chamber choir. The choir were enjoying an annual weekend retreat and the members decided they'd like to understand a bit more about medieval music and the demands and rewards it offers small groups. They took to plainchant, anonymous C.14th English music and Dufay like proverbial ducks to water. A great choir that made us feel very welcome. Pictures to follow.
If you're interested in workshops given by members of The Orlando Consort, then contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
A novel idea
Visitors to this website might well be interested to know that Don has written a novel. And it's being published. On Septebmer 1st, to be exact. Entitled Time Will Tell, it's set in the modern day and in the late medieval period and concerns a musical manuscript written by a C.15th composer. The true story of its genesis is told in a C.15th memoir by Ockeghem's right-hand man while the modern day story tells of its discovery by an American musicologist and his attempts to convince a British early-music group called Beyond Compère to give the piece its first performance. 'It's a serious subject,' Don says, 'but it's treated lightly with obvious elements of farce and a few codes along the way that need to be cracked. If you're an academic then there may well be historical details that will amuse you, but it's writtten for the lay reader and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of both academia and concert life.'
The following endorsements will offer you some further clues and, if you're interested, then you can buy it at Amazon in the UK and the US, as well as through bookstores and other retailers worldwide.
‘A fascinating double glimpse into the world of modern singers and medieval music’ - Terry Jones (Monty Python and author of Chaucer’s Knight)
‘A delightful romp through the passions and pretensions of the early-music world.’ - Sarah Dunant (Author of The Death of Venus and Sacred Hearts)
‘Funny, sharp and oddly compassionate, full of [Greig’s] experience of the world of early music performance and [his] deep knowledge of music history.’ - Charles Saumarez Smith – Secretary and Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Arts
‘This is one for lovers of The Name of the Rose and Possession ...and lovers of early music. Donald Greig's antihero lives in a thoroughly plausible academic world as he attempts to fit in with the equally plausible singers of the group Beyond Compère. The results are often hilarious as the story hurtles to its unexpected climax.’ - David Fallows - Emeritus Professor of Musicology at the University of Manchester and author of Josquin (2009)
We have just returned from Slovenia, where we gave a concert in the Radovlijca Festival, the oldest early-music festival in that country. Sadly Mark Dobell was unavailable, but we were delighted to have Steven Harrold (of The Hilliard Ensemble, amongst many others) with us.
Don was asked to do an interview for the television, the results of which can be viewed here. It also includes excerpts from the concert
Tim Thurston hosts a weekly show called Gloria on RTE, an Irish radio station. The brief of of the programme is a survey of "a millennium of sacred music from Gregorian Chant to contemporary Choral works". He has recently made a list of his top ten vocal ensembles, which includes The Orlando Consort. His suggested CD is THE ROSE, THE LILY AND THE WHORTLEBERRY - HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907398. For more, see here
2012: Old friends
2012 has seen the Orlando Consort back on familiar territory. The year began with concerts, workshops and more informal sessions at both Durham and Nottingham universities. We will be back there next year, again with the extraordinarily generous help of the Radcliffe Trust, which allows the group to give concerts and work with university students around the United Kingdom.
March saw us back in Ourense at the small, intimate Ourense Festival organised by Conchi da Sliva and Juan. The Orlando Consort sang at the very first concert in the first series back in 2008 and it was an honour to be there again, not just to perform there, but to spend time with Conchi and Juan, and the many other supporters of the festival.
More recently we have been back to Castelo Branco to see another old friend, Carlos Semedo, who runs the theatre in Castelo Branco, an enterprising venture which showcases local music and musicians, theatre, and film. The Orlando Consort were there performing Mantra.
Later this year will see us appearing in the UK, Holland and Slovenia
East Neuk Festival: Highlight of 2011
This from The Scotsman. The various critics were asked for their personal highlights of this year and this is how Claire Black responded:
Candles flickered beneath leaded windows and the chill night air inside St Monans Parish Church stilled. The Orlando Consort began to sing Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame, a 14th century polyphonic mass, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. This is what the East Neuk Festival does quite brilliantly – filling tiny, historic venues with world-class musicians for the benefit of a devoted – and growing – audience. It was my first year, but it won’t be my last. Next year’s starts on 27 June.
And so say all of us. Svend Brown, the artistic director, always comes up with brilliant programming ideas and places them in extraordinary settings. We wish him and Festival well for next year and thank him for inviting us to participate.
Florence and Singapore
We've visited a couple of extraordinary places in the past few weeks. First of all: Florence. As any casual lover of the Renaissance will know, this is a place full of wonderful churches stuffed to the gunnels with art. And music, of course, was an equally important part of that world; the sounds may have been lost, but they can be recreated. As part of Martin Randall Tours, we were invited to perform three concerts. The first was in the beautifaul Chiesa da Santa Trinita where we sang music of Dufay and other composers associated with the city. The following day we performed two concerts in the Tuscan countryside, specifically at the Villa La Ferdinanda in Artimino, some forty minutes from the centre of Florence. As ever, we were happy to meet our audience and mingle with them at lunch and, Florence being a small city, we also tended to bump into them on other occasions.
In November we jetted off to Singapore where we were performing two concerts of Mantra. Kuljit and Shahid were waiting for us - they had been visiting India - whilst the singers and Jonathan flew directly. Singapore is a real melting pot of cultures - Indian, British, Malaysian, Chinese - the perfect place then for a crossover project. The concerts were at the invitation of the National Museum of Singapore (see left) and took place in the Gallery Theatre on consecutive nights. The Orlando Consort also conducted a workshop for the music department of the University of Singapore. (see left).
Pictured below is the group and our hosts in the famous Raffles hotel. Many thanks to Lee Chor Lin for inviting us, to her staff for looking after us so well, and to Goh Ching Lee for taking care of all the details.
Left to Right: Angus; Goh Ching Lee - the Orlando Consort's new South East Asia agent and founder of CultureLink; Ms Lee Chor Lin - Director of the National Museum of Singapore; Shahid; Kuljit; Jonathan; Matt, Don; Mark.
Recently the Orlando Consort has been in
Wroclaw where we performed two concerts. The first was wiith a collection of local school choirs, some sixty in all, who were coached and conducted by Matt in the art of plainsong. The children's choir then accompanied the Consort in a performance of mainly thirteenth-century organum, with the adults performing the poilyphony.
The pictures above show Matt conducting the massed choirs, and the finale to the concert when the five teachers who instructed the children prior to Matt's arrival came up to the stage to receive their bows.
The second concert took place in a local restaurant which can trace its existence back to the fourteenth century. The programme was of medieval music with common themes of food and drink, the first half performed in a small hall, the second in the restaurant itself where the Consort performed shorter sets which interspersed the courses served to those lucky enough to have bough tickets. Mark doesn't always end up on the floor. Usually he's very good at holding his drink....
Matt and Venner
This spotted in a newsagents in Norway recently. We are assured that Mat and Venner means "Food and Friends" which is a comforting thought. If it had meant "Young and Forgetful" we wouldn't have been surpriised.
It’s been a busy summer for the Orlando Consort and an enjoyable one. In June we joined forces with Kuljit, Jon and Shahid for a collaboration with the Waltham Singers under their dynamic conductor Andrew Fardell. The first half featured Victoria’s Missa O Quam Gloriosum sung by the choir interspersed with motets sung by the four of us. The second half featured music from Mantra with the choir singing the choral parts with gusto and obvious pleasure. Andrew, incidentally, was at Kent University shortly after Don left his alma mater and, though they didn’t know each other at the time, has been a great supporter of the group. It was as Head of Music at New Hall School that Extempore II had its very first airing only a few days before we went into the studio to record it. We thank him and the Waltham Singers for their gracious hospitality.
In July we returned to East Neuk to sing two concerts. The first, featuring Stephen Burrows as the extra countertenor, was of the Ockeghem Requiem and related motets, an extraordinary work and one we much enjoy performing. The following day, Matt and Stephen flew home and Rob Macdonald joined Angus, Mark and Don to perform motets by De Vitry and the Machaut mass in the wonderful small church in St Monans, the venue at which we featured two world premieres by Tarik O’Regan and Giles Swayne three years ago. Whilst there, we paid our now-traditional visit to the Himalayas, the eighteen-hole putting green at St Andrews (Angus won, as he always does) and to a fantastic off licence with a fine selection of microbrewery ales from which Rob and Don had to be dragged away
Later in July we sang music by Dunstable and contemporaries in the famous York Early Music Festival, the concert broadcast by the BBC. It’s always great to be back in York; it feels very much the spiritual home of early music, not least through the efforts of Delma Tomlin, Director of York Early Music Festival and the National Centre for Early Music, who was awarded an MBE in 2008.
Then it was on to the Gower Festival and a performance of The Rose, the Lily and the Whortleberry in the church of St Mary, Rhossili on a spectacular summer’s day.
Shortly after that we were on the road to Schwäbisch-Gmund, a small Bavarian town which hosts an annual music festival. This was the second visit for the Orlando Consort and the first outing of Mantra in Germany. A late-night concert audience, initially unsure how to react in a church, led by Shahid’s robotic dancing, were by the end stamping and clapping.
August will see us all on well-deserved holidays and on the first of September we will be heading to Poland and the Wroclaw festival.
Mark Dobell: Star of stage and screen
Keen-eyed viewers of last week's Royal Wedding might have noticed a face familiar to those who have attended Orlando Consort concerts or studied this web site. Yes, your eyes weren't deceiving you: that was Mark singing in the Westminster Abbey Choir. It might surprise some of you. Was he moonlighting? The truth is that no man can live by medieval music alone; we're professional singers and appear in a variety of situations. Many of the faces you see in the early-music scene have benefited from training as choristers and are currently supported by paid Church work. Both Matt and Don were choristers at Westminster Abbey (Don having sung at the wedding of Princess Anne back in 1973) and Matt is now a vicar choral at St Paul's. Rumours that Matt is not talking to Mark because the Abbey 'got' the Royal Wedding and St Paul's didn't are exaggerated.
If you missed Mark's appearance, you might want to check out this video on YouTube. Mark was clearly popular with the director, making notable appearances at 0.54, 1.46 and 3.17. Also present was Robert Macdonald, the bass who has appeared on several Orlando Consort recordings and in concert with us.
February 2011 Tour Diary
"We often feel, when stranded out by a freeway in a hotel, that we have very little access to cultural activities. I would argue, however, that dining at a Waffle House is in itself a fascinating cultural experience....and if you want to experience cultural difference, try explaining to the regulars that you are over here to sing medieval music…"
Read Mark Dobell's wry, witty and entertaining report of our recent trip to the USA here
..as the England '66 World Cup Squad put it. Safely back in England after a visit to the USA for three concerts in Columbus, OH, Stockton, CA and New York, NY. Mark has been writing a diary so check back soon to discover about the the fire in Columbus, Sunday morning in Stockton, and our debut at Carnegie Hall.
All went very well, particularly the concert in New York which was a buzz for us all. Allan Kozinn, esteemed critic for the New York Times, had flagged the concert ahead of time ("a fine British quartet") and also wrote a review which referenced "the tightly blended sound that has long been its trademark". The full review can be found here.
Pictured right, Jennifer Flores - who took such good care of us at Carnegie Hall - holding the poster for the concert.
The picture below shows Argo curled up reading the New York Times review. From the baseball and the violin we can surmise that he's had a busy morning. Argo, incidentally, belongs to Robert Besen, our redoubtable US agent.
Medieval Song Network
Keen readers of this website may have noted that the Orlando Consort will be giving a concert as part of the Medieval Song Network, a research group based at the Institute for Musical Research. We're proud of our involvment with this project and invite you to visit their website which can be found here.
Radcliffe Trust residencies
It's been a busy start to the year. We've been working hard giving lectures and workshops in three universities - Bangor, Durham and Nottingham - as part of a residency scheme funded in part by a generous donation from the Radcliffe Trust. This has seen us advising on productions of The Marriage of Figaro and The Coronation of Poppea as well as music closer to our chosen period, that of the medieval era. As well as working with specialist ensembles and choirs, we have also worked with composition students informing them of the expectations that performers might have and the sometimes very real difficulties of realising their dreams in vocal form. As part of the residency we have also given concerts at each location and, well, experienced some of the local ale, only for reasons of research you understand. Our visit to Durham saw us working with the Egglescliffe Senior Girls Chamber Choir led by their inspirational teacher Matthew Haworth. We worked with them last year when we presented Mantra at the Sage in Gateshead. It was, as the Mantra collaboration proved to be, an inspirational afternoon and we encouraged them to trust in their (excellent) ensemble skills and ditch the conductor. They took to the idea with alacrity and had no difficulty at all in performing without Matthew's guidance, something which will stand them in good stead and help them to listen to each other in performance situations.
Well, what does 2011 bring for The Orlando Consort? January sees us busy in academic mode with three residencies at Bangor, Durham and Nottingham. In Bangor we will present workshops and seminars on medieval compositional techniques, the relationship between text and music, as well as more performance-based workshops with various university choirs and consorts. In Durham, as well as working with a local school choir, we will address and assess compositions by young composers offering insights into the difficulties they pose for performers and making suggestions prompted by their work. In Nottingham we will work with ensembles and also provide musical examples in teaching contexts. At all three universities we will give concerts. This work, an important part of our profile as an ensemble, has been made possible by the generous funding of the Radcliffe Trust whose mandate is to promote and encourage music.
February sees us heading across the pond for one of our short but intense tours. We will visit Columbus, OH were , in addition to giving a concert of music inspired by the theme of love, we will also present a small concert for local schoolchildren. Then it's across to the West Coast for a concert at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA, before returning to New York to give our first ever concert at the prestigious Carnegie Hall (see concerts page for full details).
Later in the year sees us giving more performances of the successful Mantra project in London and Germany, a collaboration with the Waltham Singers which will draw on the approach advanced with Mantra, as well as more mainstream concerts in Sheffield, London, and return visits to East Neuk, York, and the Gower peninsula.
There is also one further project which has now begun in earnest, namely our role as associate performing ensemble to the Leverhulme Trust-funded project, The Works of Guillaume de Machaut, led by Yolanda Plumley at the University of Exeter. The Orlando Consort will work alongside a team of scholars - Yolanda Plumley, Anne Stone, Jacques Boogaart, Barton Palmer and Uri Smilansky - to create the first modern-day edition of the complete poetry and music of Guillaume de Machaut. The resulting volumes will be published in print and online by Medieval Institute Publications and TEAMS/METS. A Digital Research Environment, a truly multimedia website, will host recordings made by The Orlando Consort, together with performers from Le Basile, of key musical examples and options to enhance the edition.
Matt and Julia's wedding
It's not often that we feature really personal news on this website, but we thought that Matt and Julia's wedding was worthy of comment. On Saturday 17th July Matthew Venner and Julia Hodges were married in Dulwich College Chapel. The choir, in which Angus and Don sang, was brilliantly conducted by Matt's dad, Jonathan Venner. The reception was held at Dulwich College where Matt teaches voice, and Matt's speech was delivered with applomb. Not once did he fumble with the microphone or drop it (a sometime feature of his announcements in Orlando Consort concerts) and no-one croaked out the immortal line heard in New York: "Your voice isn't loud enough!"
Suffice to say that Angus, Don and Mark would like to congratulate them both and wish the married couple every happiness.