In 2011, Angus and Don arranged to meet with Simon Perry, the managing director of Hyperion Records, at their offices in Lewisham, South London. We knew Hyperion well, having recorded with them over the years in our different capacities as singers with Westminster Cathedral Choir and Gothic Voices, amongst others. And their reputation as a high-end recording company, with a keen eye for detail, a zealous championing of arcane repertoire, an excellent website, and a commitment to early music, made it our obvious first choice.
Simon received us graciously and was, as he always is, down-to-earth and direct. That in itself is refreshing. So often in such meetings it is easy to get bogged down in high-flown ambition and mutual congratulations, while this conversation was characterised by straightforward questions and equally straightforward answers. Simon perused the proposal that Angus had crafted, and admired some of our recordings, that we had brought with us. Angus' ideas all in one way or another drew on our earlier work and furthered it. His last item, almost buried at the bottom of the page, was a project that we had long held dear but feared might be beyond any recording company in the digital age, when sales of compact discs are so low and costs so high: recording all of Machaut’s polyphonic chansons, together with selected solo items. David Fallows, Professor Emeritus of Manchester University, had reviewed our first CD of Machaut’s chansons, Dreams in the Pleasure Garden (recorded for Deutsche Grammophon Archiv) and suggested that the group was now in a place to record all of the chanson, so it wasn’t really a new idea. But Dr Yolanda Plumley and her Leverhulme Trust team, who were working on creating the first modern edition of Machaut’s chansons (see here for more), had approached us with a view to creating a CD to accompany that project. We knew, therefore, that we would have access to the best possible editions.
‘What about this?’ Simon asked.
‘This Machaut idea. That looks interesting. How many CDs would that be?’
I looked at Angus. Angus looked at me.
‘Er, maybe twelve?’ one of us ventured.
‘Yeah. I like that idea.’
‘But we’d also like to continue to record other repertoire – Dufay, Compere, fifteenth-century English repertoire.’
And, almost as simply as that, the deal was struck and a template for our recordings established: two recordings of Machaut interleaved with a single disk of other medieval repertoire.
It sounds incredible, almost mythical, but that really is how it happened. And since then the relationship has deepened. We’re always very happy to see Simon, who will often jump on his motorbike and visit us at the recording venue, snapping photographs (see here), drinking coffee and eating cake, catching up on news and, well, telling jokes, of which he has an unending supply.
And if all of this summons up the image of a benevolent fifteenth-century patron, then the comparison isn’t that wide of the mark. Machaut remains an acquired taste, and it is ours and Hyperion’s aim to help you to acquire it, so please investigate it further and show your support for the arts by purchasing one of our CDs. Or, come to that, any of Hyperion's CDs.