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N E W S A R C H I V E
Here's a look at some previous Orlando Consort news items...
Mantra in 2010
Recently we performed the concert for the City of London Festival about which Ivan Hewett, the Daily Telegraph critic, commented as follows:
[I]n the wood-panelled dignity of Merchant Taylor's Hall, we were whisked into a completely different culural climate, i.e. the tropical heat of Goa in the 16th century. At that time Jesuit missionaries were doing their best to win the locals to the universal church, and it seems likely that South Indian musical idioms were allowed to colour the sacred chants and polyphonic music imported from Portugal and Spain.
No-one has the faintest idea what this 'colouring' may have sounded like, which at least has the advantage of offering a completely open field for imaginative reconstructions. That's what we were offered here, by the The Orlando Consort, a male vocal quartet specialising in pre-Baroque vocal music, alongside the percussionist Kuljit Bhamra, the sitar player Jonathan Mayer, and the singer Shahid Khan.
We heard plainchants with ecstatic vocal lines superimposed by Khan, we heard rousing Indian melodies with new Latin words attached, and – most intriguing of all – we heard elaborate four-part Iberian polyphony with Indian decorations at the ends of phrases. What was striking was how Western orderliness was more and more subverted by Indian joyousness. By the end we were all clapping and waving our hands, while singing a wedding song. I wonder if those Jesuit priests had the same problem?
You can read the full article here
The album, Musical Conversations across the Indian Ocean is available from Amazon.co.uk.
This music has been featured in our Arts Council tour over the past year (see below) and all of the music featured in those concerts can be heard on this new release.
The premise for the project is the meeting between the Portuguese missionaries and the local Indian musicians in Goa in 1510. This, unlike other colonial impositions, featured a distinctly collaborative engagement: rather than forcing the locals to listen and learn, the missionaries invited them to contribute to - and presumably also to adapt - the music that they brought with them. Our project was very much in the same spirit, though the Orlandos were, we hope, considerably more open to understanding the ethos of Indian music and to experiment with it.
With no clear evidence of how the original project developed, we were thus provided with the liberating excuse to imagine how the music might have sounded. The pieces on this CD are a modern take on that first musical crossover, featuring new compositions and genuinely collaborative presentations arrived at in workshops through experimentation and discussion. Truly, then, new music for a new audience.
Mantra on BBC Radio 3
On Saturday March 5th 2010 at 13.00 there was a broadcast of a concert given last year in the Brighton Ealry Music Festival. It was described thus:
"Lucie Skeaping presents highlights of a concert recorded at the 2009 Brighton Early Music Festival. The Orlando Consort were joined by the tabla player Kuljit Bhamra, Jonathan Mayer on sitar, and the singer Shahid Khan, for a project called "Mantra". The project is inspired by an historical musical encounter 500 years ago when Portuguese missionaries settled in Goa, and introduced western instruments, plainsong and polyphony. In turn, the missionaries had chance to learn about eastern music, and this developed into a remarkable collaboration between the two diverse cultures. The music in the project and from this concert are a mixture of old and new; music by Escobar and Guerrero are examples of the sort of vocal polyphony that travelled East. As there is no precise account of the type of music sung or played during this collaboration in the 16th century, some works in this concert have been written by members of the Orlando Consort and Kuljit Bhamra, Jonathan Mayer and Shahid Khan to explore and imagine how their music-making may have sounded."
For further details go here. You can also listen again.
Year-end recommendation by The New York Times
Fancy treating yourself while shopping for others? Here's one of The New York Times recommendationns for you:
‘Scattered Rhymes’ - Orlando Consort; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Paul Hillier
Ancient and modern mingle in this beautifully sung program. The title work, by the imaginative English composer Tarik O’Regan, is a (mostly) Petrarch song cycle, built on themes borrowed from Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame. A velvety account of the Machaut original is included, too, along with other works by Machaut, Mr. O’Regan, Dufay and Gavin Bryars. (Harmonia Mundi HMU 807469; CD); $23.98.
By ALLAN KOZINN
Dunstable recording recognised by The Daily Telegraph
It's always nice when, out of the blue, someone remembers somethng you did and pays hommage. A bit like medieval music itself, I suppose. The Daily Telegraph has, in a recent survey of the 100 most important classical recordings - one of those exerecises that makes you ashamed of your CD collection - noted the recording of music by John Dunstable for which we won the Gramophone award back in 1996.
"2 John Dunstaple (Orlando Consort) Metronome £13.70, RRP £13.99
According to the liner notes, 'Dunstaple was the most influential English composer outside England before the Beatles’. The Orlando Consort lay out Dunstaple’s easy lyricism and inventiveness in a way that realises the truth of this statement. "
Composer's residency: 4 x4
A busy week for us recently comprising a concert at Ambleside Parish Centre, a contribution to Chris De Souza's lecture on the Marian Influence, and a Composer's showcase at Queen's Hall, Sedbergh School. This last was the culmination of a hard week of working with four young composers under the direction of composer John Casken on four new compositions written specifically for the Orlando Consort. It was a most rewarding exerience, certainly for us and, obviously, we hope for the four composers. The final pieces were performed in the following somewhat random order (reverse alphabetical if you must know):
Light through the Veil by Elizabeth Winters, Doubles by Edward Nesbit, Hymn to St Bega by Phillip A Cooke, and Prayer to Phoebus by Chris Birch. We look forward to including these compositions in our programmes in the future.
From left to right: Angus Smith, Andrew Lucas (Senior Executive Officer, Lake District Summer Music Festival), Elizabeth Winters, Donald Greig, Edward Nesbit, Mark Dobell, Phillip A Cooke, Matthew Venner, Chris Birch, John Casken.
The mantra project has now had three outings in York, Bury St Edmunds and Salisbury. This last produced the following review in the Salisbury Journal:
A night to remember
SHAHID Khan’s spine-tingling voice resonated around Wilton Church on Sunday night as the singer opened this fascinating and uplifting concert in processional style.
Early Music specialists, The Orlando Consort, in collaboration with the festival’s artist in residence, Kuljit Bhamra, sitar and sarod player Jonathan Mayer and the voice of Shahid Khan have created the perfect antidote to “fusion” music in their Mantra project. By giving a perfectly crafted “lesson” in how differing musical traditions can be integrated, the resulting concert captured the imagination of the audience, willingly participating in the final piece and leaving everyone smiling.
That this was achieved so effortlessly was down not only to the charisma of the musicians, but also to their outstanding camaraderie and musicianship as they effortlessly explained how music from 16th century Goa was inspired by earlier “fusion” of medieval Christian as well as Portuguese and Indian music.
From Francisco Guerrero’s stunning polyphonic setting from the Song of Songs by the Orlando Consort, Jonathan Mayer’s beautifully serene ragas to Kuljit’s explanation and demonstration demystifing Indian music, Mantra was truly a memorable event.
I shall never forget the Orlando Consort performing Tabla Tulum, a polyphonic chant setting of the tabla language, written by Kuljit – mesmerising.
- Anne Morris
The Orlando Consort is pleased to announce a national tour supported by Arts Council England, the National Centre for Early Music,
and the PRS Foundation for New Music. The inspiration for this new collaborative project is the sublime Iberian and Indian music from the early 1500s. Portuguese missionaries and Goan Indians joined together in music as churches, built in the exotic land known as the 'Pearl of the Orient', resounded to the extraordinary blended sounds of Europe and Asia. The Consort will be joined by award-winning musicians Kuljit Bhamra (tabla, Indian harmonium), Jonathan Mayer (sitar, tambura), and Shahid Khan (voice) to re-create this historic cross-cultural encounter and apply their collective experiences to create a radical and challenging new dialogue for the 21st century.
The rich heritage of styles in the Mantra project is also a wonderful resource for developing a wide range of musical skills and lends itself naturally to an important educational component. Musicians will visit each tour venue in advance of the concert to introduce young people to the
The project was officially launched at a private function in February. See this unofficial 'review' offered by Meurig Bowen, Music Festival Director of the Cheltenham Festival:
See the Concerts page for further details.fascinating and diverse traditions that form the basis of the project and will help them devise their own compositions and improvisations inspired by the music they explore. Participants will have the chance to perform their work and to sing and play with the full ensemble during the Mantra concert. Teaching resources created for this project - with a special focus on Key Stage 3 music - are available on the National Centre for Early Music website at www.ncem.co.uk. These include audio samples, fact sheets and activity ideas inspired by Western and Asian traditional and fusion music. Recordings of some of the music created by participants in the education programme will be added to the website as the project progresses. This will be an indispensable resource for all those interested in musical crossover in education for many years to come.
Latest Concert Reviews: USA 2009
We're recently been in the USA - Gambier, OH (Kenyon College), Birmingham, AL (a concert of Scattered Rhymes with our old friends, Jeff McClelland and the Independent Presbyterian Choir) and in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The last two concerts garnered great reviews, excerpts of which you will find below. And if you think that, as some are wont to do, we have culled only the best bits, then please follow these links (Birmingham News and New York Times) to read them in full.
"Surrounded by the choir in the organ loft at the front of the sanctuary, the Orlando quartet sang the "Caput" Mass, an anonymous work that weaved through a labyrinth of harmony and counterpoint. The singers' luminous blend and meticulous detail reached a zenith in the complex and vibrant "Credo."
MICHAEL HUEBNER in The Birmingham News
"Under Jeff McLelland's able leadership, the IPC Choir performed together with, and opposite, the Consort, tackling the sometimes gnarly, sometimes heavenly, score with skill and accuracy."
"The Orlando Consort has made an art of thematic programming, particularly in its recordings, which often come with lavishly illustrated books (not mere booklets) that add literary and artistic elements to the music at hand."
"The Orlando singers were models of focused intonation and textural transparency: Every line was clearly heard, yet the blend was solid and rich. And most crucially, the singers captured the character and specific flavor of each song — a tall order in this varied program."
ALLAN KOZINN in The New York Times
Orlando Consort USA Winter Tour Diary by Mark Dobell
Wed Feb 4th
London is in the grip of a major ‘weather event’ having had literally some snow, so transport to the airport is unreliable, to say the least. However, all four of us make it in time for our flight. Luxury of luxuries – the plane is half full at most, so each of us settles into a row of our own. Unfortunately, just as we are about to head out for takeoff, another plane spills hydraulic fluid all over the runway (how careless), so we sit there for a further two hours. After an otherwise uneventful flight, we pick up a hire car in Cincinnati and Don drives the three hours or so to Gambier, Ohio, and the campus of Kenyon College. On the way there, the temperature reading touches -17°C, and yet all the roads are perfectly driveable. Great Britain, take note – the world does not need to grind to a halt when 6 inches of snow falls! We check in at the Kenyon Inn, and head out in search of our traditional first meal of the tour – Beer and a Burger. Even though it is just past 9 o’clock, and therefore restaurants have closed, the very nice folk at the Village Inn reopen the kitchen just for us. With the jet lag taking hold, an early night is had by all.
Thu Feb 5th
We are greeted by a beautiful winter’s day – cold, crisp and sunny – and after breakfast we head over to the Rosse Hall Auditorium for a rehearsal. There we are warmly welcomed by Ben Locke, director of the Chamber Singers, and Dane Heuchener, the Chair of Music (a witty chap, with a mot juste for every occasion). There are some 43 members of the Chamber Singers, who cope admirably with the unfamiliar plainchant we have asked them to sing, and more particularly our quirky French Latin pronunciation. Then we go for lunch at the Middle Ground – a kind of College café – where somewhat worryingly we all order the same food for the second meal running. Three quarters of the Consort visit the state-of-the-art Athletics centre for some exercise in the afternoon, while your correspondent prefers to engage in ‘multi-slacking’ (Dane’s innovative term for a very familiar concept – that of procrastinating many different jobs simultaneously). The final appointment of the day is for a drink and supper at the hotel – if you think we eat and drink a lot on tour, you’d be absolutely right – and Dane pops in with eighteen bottles of Cleveland-brewed beer. We are presented with a dilemma: it would be impolite not to drink it all, but we do have a concert tomorrow. Oh well, it wouldn’t do to be impolite…
Fri Feb 6th
More of the same weather-wise today. Just the -9°C, but with brilliant clear skies it feels a good deal warmer. However, the path to the Rosse Hall is treacherously icy, so it is with tentative steps we make our way there for a rehearsal to apply the finishing touches to tonight’s programme. By which I mean adding the procession to the first piece. Those that do it regularly will tell you that walking and singing simultaneously is harder than it sounds, so asking our Chamber Singers to do it is unkind. It does make a great start to the concert though. After lunch we go our separate ways for rest, admin, phone calls home etc. (it seems yesterday’s athletes are taking the day off), until concert time. Tonight’s programme is ‘The Anonymous Monk’, a selection of Notre Dame Polyphony from Paris in the 12th century, interspersed with readings to put it all in some context. As always the readings go down very well, and with the audience relatively well lit it is fantastic to see people’s reactions to this extraordinary music. I don’t exaggerate in telling you that one lady had her mouth open at the end of ‘Viderunt Omnes’, though perhaps it was horror rather than amazement. I am also very pleased to have seen one singer completely helpless with mirth in ‘Sumer is i-comen in’, presumably due to the word ‘farting’, which somehow always sticks out proudly from the texture. And as always our countertenor Matthew is besieged after the concert by curious audience members who want to know how he sings as he does (as we know the question should be why, not how…). Anyway, without wishing to be immodest, I think it was a very successful concert. It’s time for a relatively early night as we start early tomorrow, but jet lag is a cruel mistress and I can’t get to sleep. So I muse on how amazing it is to do what we do. Here we are, essentially in the middle of a huge cornfield (Dane’s words, not mine), performing some of the earliest surviving music to people who are by and large experiencing it for the first time. It’s a huge privilege, and although Kenyon felt a million miles from anywhere at first, we have met some wonderful and interesting people and been very well looked after. As the saying goes, it beats working for a living…
Sat Feb 7th
We head south today. Way south. I won’t bore you with the details of travel – one day when I am long since retired I may write a book on the full awfulness of air travel – but aside from a garrulous stewardess with a voice that doubles as a bacon slicer, everything runs smoothly and according to plan, and we arrive in good time in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s a beautiful sunny day (and about 13°C, which makes a very nice change), so we can shed our winter coats, and we are very glad to be back. This is the Consort’s third visit here, and the famous Southern hospitality is now legendary. Our good friend Jeff McLelland has been working his choir hard, teaching them Tarik O’Regan’s Scattered Rhymes, a piece commissioned for us and which has gone down very well wherever we have taken it. It is quite demanding for the choir (as well as for us), but the rehearsal is a very useful one, and we know we are in very good shape for tomorrow. So we head to a local hostelry for some interesting beers and a bite to eat. Jeff and his wife Amy head off to take in a performance of Carmina Burana (not a million miles away in tone from some of the music we sing, as we will see in New York), and it pains me to report yet another early night, with jet lag about 3-1 up at half time.
Sun Feb 8th
The day starts with a lie-in, which can only be a good thing. And then a large breakfast, which is even better. And I spot Henry Winkler at breakfast, for those of you who enjoy your celebrity sightings. Perhaps he’s in town for the ‘World of Wheels’ convention across the road. We have a little rehearsal at the church, to brush up the bits of the programme that just involve the Consort, and before you know it it’s showtime. The concert goes fantastically well, and Jeff’s choir really raise themselves for the occasion – we are all agreed that Scattered Rhymes has rarely sounded more exciting. One of the great things about Sunday afternoon concerts is that you feel really awake and energised for them, which must have helped. The other great thing about the afternoon concert is that it leaves more time for a party afterwards. Today, as with our last visit to Birmingham, we are hosted by the Comptons, local friends and supporters of the choir, and we even go on for a supplementary beer to close our visit.
Mon Feb 9th
Two more flights today, and apart from a small misunderstanding at check-in (grrrrr) everything runs smoothly to bring us to New York. As with Birmingham – though in an entirely different way – coming to New York always feels like coming home, so familiar are we with this wonderful city. On the one hand it is more like London in its bustle and fast pace, but the people here have such a different character. I could happily amuse myself for many hours just wandering around the city and watching people interact. As it happens that will have to wait, as I am entirely exhausted by the travel, so I spend much of the day in my hotel room, doing a little homework on tomorrow’s programme and catching up on news from back home. I round off the day with a very forgettable (hopefully) Chinese takeaway.
Tues Feb 10th
Another lazy morning – touring appears to bring out the sloth in me – and we head over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to rehearse for tonight’s concert. The Museum has a fantastic exhibition on, entitled ‘Art and Love in Renaissance Italy’ and it is a great honour for the Orlando Consort to take on the musical representation of that. It is, however, a scary prospect for us – a very prestigious venue after all, and most of the music is new to us as well as being extremely demanding vocally. Plus, we have some fairly smutty songs in the programme and one can never be sure how the audience will react… I don’t mind admitting that we all feel a little apprehensive about the concert beforehand, but it turns out our fears are unfounded. The concert goes well, and our choice of songs appears to go down favourably. Indeed we even receive a lusty ‘Bravo’ at the end, which is always good to hear. One important duty remains – we go for a ‘debrief’ (several pitchers of it, to be precise) with our Stateside agent, Robert Besen. We pat ourselves on the back corporately for a very successful tour.
Wed Feb 11th
Those lovely people at Delta cancelled our original flight home and told us of it about a week ago, so we find ourselves with 12 unexpected hours of leisure in New York. We all have different ways to approach that, but mine begins with Eggs Benedict at Big Nick’s diner. It is as much a tradition for me as the Beer ‘n’ Burger of Day 1, and I very nearly omitted to fit it in. As I told you I am quite content to wander the city for a few hours, and this I do (it’s a lovely, sunny, spring-like day), pausing in Central Park to wonder how the ice on the lake is still thick enough to support a man standing on it (not me, someone else…).
The Orlando Consort: Twenty Years young, "a scrubby lot"....
"That's Jim Broadbent," says Angus.
We're sitting in the lobby of Broadcasting House waiting to go up to the studio to record a piece by Nicolas Gombert as part of our contribution to The Early Music Show's restrospective of twenty years of the Orlando Consort. The four current members of the group - Matt, Mark, Angus and Don - are to be joined by former members, Robert and Charles. Charles has arrived early throwing the sweepstake on how late he will arrive into confusion.
"That's Miriam Margolies," whispers Angus, spotting another eminent Brit thesp. We are shown past security at the same time as Ms Margolies.
"You look a scrubby lot," she comments and the truth cannot be denied. The group had a concert in Utrecht the day before and the tiredness shows. Angus and Don have cycled in, as has Charles who is looking looking particularly dishevelled.The results of the recording together with an interview with Kate Bott can be heard on Radio 3 on the Early Music Show on October 4th at 1.00pm.
From left to right: Angus Smith, Robert Harre-Jones, Mark Dobell, Matthew Venner, Charles Daniels and Donald Greig.
It's now five months since Matthew joined the group and we asked him to reflect on his experiences to date and report on the most recent US tour where we gave two concerts in and around Kalamazoo, MI
Well, here I am, five months into my Orlando Consort career and writing up my first trip to the States with the group. It’s been a very busy time. In just five months there have been eleven concerts in six countries plus a live broadcast on BBC Radio 3. We have sung music ranging from the 13th-21st Centuries - including the oldest four-part piece on record - and two world premieres, as well working on a new project with Indian musicians.
It has been a pleasure and privilege to be in the group. However, the learning of new repertoire in a new style of music and in many different languages with varying pronunciations has been a real challenge, as has being one of a quartet for a whole concert: it is almost like being a soloist for two hours but perhaps with even more responsibility. Not only are you solely accountable for your part, but you have to fit into an intimate ensemble as well.
We fly in to Chicago airport, pick up our hire-van (not the greatest piece of mechanical engineering it has to be said), and head east through the Chicago traffic to Kalamazoo (not helped by an impending White Socks game). After a late-night burger and beer it’s time for some much-needed sleep. We wake late and start the day with an enormous brunch in front of the TV and the last few holes of The Open. The general consensus is that, although Harrington thoroughly deserved his win, no one quite managed a shot to rival Mark’s 10th hole tee at Elie earlier in the month!
And then it’s on to some work. Guided by Don’s trusty laptop/satnav combination we arrive at Western Michigan University to meet the Seminar Concert Choir and their conductor James Bass. The choir is mainly made up of high school students who have been rehearsing and performing together for just a week and sound great. They are really enthusiastic and, although new to plainchant, have learnt their music really well. Our first concert was The Anonymous Monk, a brilliant programme, devised by Angus, which alternates music and imaginative readings, telling the story of a 13th-century monk’s experiences of daily life. The choir sing the plainchant and the famous Sumer Is Icumen In, while we sing some more polyphony and Don reads a letter written by the monk. We thoroughly enjoy it and, if the audience’s reaction is anything to go by, the concert is a great success.
The next day we meet up with the choral students again for a question and answer session. Clearly excited by the concert, they ask many interesting questions ranging from how we choose our repertoire to the old chestnut of why we’re called the Orlando Consort! I get teased about my age (being asked for ID and not being old enough to drive a hire-car in the USA haven’t helped!) and also my occasional (!) forgetfulness. But I give as good as I get and Mark, Don and Angus are great: they expect high standards but are really supportive and good friends. I’ve been inspired to have some golf lessons (whilst I enjoyed caddying in the driving rain, I think I’d prefer to play) but, to Mark and Angus’s disappointment, I won’t be supporting Chelsea in the near future. It’s been a brilliant experience so far and - to paraphrase Sean Rafferty, the presenter of In Tune on BBC Radio 3 in a recent radio interview with the Orlandos – it’s been frightening but friendly.
From here the four of us take a 40 mile trip to the beautiful South Haven on the shore of Lake Michigan. This is the venue for our second concert: Food Wine and Song. For me it was particularly satisfying as the programme is bit of a tongue-twister. We’re required to sing in seven languages with eleven different pronunciation systems…with a little acting thrown in for good measure! Another success followed by beer and snacks with Fontana Arts, our brilliant hosts. This is one of the pleasures of working with a small group. Through our touring we get to meet some fantastic people -composers, radio presenters, festival organisers, sponsors, trustees, excellent choirs and singers - all people intricately connected to putting on concerts and recordings and enabling fantastic music making. I also really enjoy meeting audience members, something we get to do after most of our concerts.
Being a relatively short trip, this is the end for us. It only left a quick stop at an outlet-mall (hooray for the American dollar!), the traditional good-bye beer at the airport, and a night flight home. This leaves me to say a big thank you to everyone at Fontana Arts for their incredible generosity and hospitality, and a big well-done to James Bass and the Seminar Chamber Choir 2008!
Till the next time…
Occasionally you attend a festival where the hospitality, the music making, the setting, the audiences and the overall ambience make you realise how lucky you are to be in this business. The East Neuk Festival is one such. Three days for us in St Andrews (north of Edinburgh): the home of golf. The first concert is of music by Josquin, Part and Bach and pairs us with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The second is The Orlando Consort on their own, in a church on the Firth of Forth, a truly magical setting. We give the first performance of two new commissions, one by Tarik O’Regan (an old friend of the group) and one by Giles Swayne. The third concert contrasts our music with Mongolian throat singers (Huun Huur Tu) and a bagpiper in an aircraft hangar at RAF Leuchars, an exercise in cross-cultural fertilisation of unprecedented scope. Straight after that Angus and Mark head off to Elie for a game of golf. There is a welcome leavening of the all-male constitution of the group in Susan - Mark’s wife and an excellent singer in her own right – who has come along for the trip. She easily triumphs over Matthew and Don on the public putting green at St Andrew’s and the holler of delight that greeted her hole-in-one startled several of the more serious golfers on the adjacent Old Course.
We hope you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed being there. Thank you to all at the festival for making our trip so pleasant. Angus and Don both have Scottish blood coursing through their veins just that little bit more freely now.
Photo Credits: Putting and St Monance – Susan Gilmour-Bailey; Leuchars and Leuchars Kyrie - SAC Kathryn Bowler,Photographic Section, RAF Leuchars
Scattered Rhymes in Holland
We have performed Scattered Rhymes with several choirs throughout the United Kingdom in the past two years (see below) but recently we much enjoyed our first collaboration with a choir from outside of our shores, the first of many we hope. We were delighted to be joined by the Laurenscantorij from Rotterdam under their director Wiecher Mandemaker for a concert on April 26th in the St Laurens Church, Rotterdam and most grateful to Neil Wallace and his team at De Doelen who organised the concert. In addition to the highlight of the evening, Tarik O'Regan's Scattered Rhymes, it should be noted that there was a stunning interpretation of James MacMillan's Come In.
The Orlando Consort combines forces with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under Paul Hillier to bring you the latest CD release. It is an interleaved programme of ancient and modern which contrasts the music of Guillaume de Machaut and Guillaume Dufay with modern composers like Tarik O'Regan and Gavin Bryars.
Machaut’s extraordinary Messe de Nostre Dame was not only the first complete mass setting in history, but also the first whose composer can be identified, making it emblematic of the Ars Nova style of the 14th century. In this recording, the Orlando Consort performs the mass in parallel with a work by Tarik O’Regan (born in 1978) which was inspired by it. Scattered Rhymes links two texts from the same period as Machaut’s mass, one by Petrarch, the other an anonymous English poem. Both of them subtly combine earthly and divine love, while the music blends polyphonic tradition and contemporary inspiration.
"Probing the line between very old and very new music, the Orlando Consort's latest CD
sometimes makes it difficult to tell which is which. The O'Regan piece -- in which the fourmember
Consort sings the Petrarch and the Estonian Chamber Choir, the English poems --
sounds exquisite and delicate. The result is a kaleidoscope of color for the ear that shows the
variety and modernity of so-called early music." Anne Midgette, The Washington Post (June 29, 2008)
"The rippling vocal invention and vibrant rhythmic pulses of Guillaume de Machaut's thrilling 14th
century Notre Dame Mass radiate across the centuries to Tarik O'Regan's 'Scattered Rhymes'
(2006) in this appealing disc devoted to musical and poetic affinities." Steve Winn, San Francisco Chronicle
"..we couldn't ask for better interpreters: the Orlando Consort and Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir have long experience in performing the most challenging music, from the most obscure early manuscripts to recently commissioned works."
of the Machaut Mass: "[the] Orlando Consort bring vibrant energy and ear-pleasing resonance to this ancient, unusual masterpiece"
"I'll end by urging anyone interested in a consistently engaging, musically challenging, and aesthetically rewarding experience to delay no longer: get this disc!" Classics Today.com
"The performances are sublime.."
"The Orlando Consort (countertenor, tenor and baritone) sounds even in the numerous extremely difficult passages almost heavenly..."
"This is one of the most fascinating CDs of recent times." Aart van der Wal - www.opusklassiek.nl
This fascinating disc spans the centuries by coupling medieval masterworks with modern works inspired by them. The four male voices of the Orlando Consort bring vigour and tonal variety to Machaut's Messe de Notre Dame, and its tenor Mark Dobell gives a lilting account of the composer's song Douce dame jolie."
The Consort's perceptive accounts of Du Fay's Ave Regina celorum and Gavin Bryars's Super flumina complete the picture."
Matthew Rye - Daily Telegraph
Even if it wasn't now possible to kit yourself out with a genuine SACD player and some surprisingly effective multichannel headphones for around £150, it would be worth investing in the format just to collect the Harmonia Mundi SACDs produced by Robina Young, one of the format's most committed advocates. This is a typically unfaultable example.."
Matthew Rye BBC Music Magazine
"Mind-expanding music and performances; a stunning recording."
Andrew McGregor BBC Radio 3 CD Review
"This is a thoughtfully chosen collection of ancient and modern works, each of which seems to tell us something compelling about the others. The a cappella performances by the Orlando Consort are nearly immaculate, and the recorded sound is reverberant and sumptuous."
Joshua Rosenblum OPERA NEWS.
"Singing and music are of the highest order. The superb UK-based Orlando Consort (a countertenor, two tenors, and baritone), founded in 1988, is paired with the straight-faced Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir... choir members sing with a soaring, innocent resonance that inspires the deepest respect. This disc will likely be in the running for multiple awards later in the year. It's that good." Jason Victor Serinus Bay Area Reporter
"The performance of the Machaut, by the Orlando Consort, with bass Robert Macdonald, is exceptionally tonally pure and intimate"
"The performances throughout are absolutely stellar, astonishing in their rhythmic precision, unwavering intonation and interpretive bravura."
Stephen Eddins Allmusic.com
"The singing here has the purity of fine hair, exactly what we would expect from the Orlando Consort."
Andrew van Parijs Klassieke Zaken Issue 3, June 2008
"Stunning, perceptive singing makes this a 'must have' disc."
Shirley Ratcliffe, Choir and Organ, July/August 2008 issue
The World Premiere of Tarik O'Regan's Scattered Rhymes, a commission for the Spitalfields Festival, received a review which might well be described as a 'rave'. Subsequent performances at Cheltenham, Brighton, Keele, Manchester, Bristol, Southampton, Bradford-upon-Avon, Nottingham Newcastle and Durham were similarly lauded.
The Arts Council funded tour took place throughout England in 2006 and 2007. It was for a long time our intention to perform the Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut. This Mass has been recognised as one of the milestones (or perhaps it should be ‘kilometrestones’) of western musical history: it was the first time a composer linked the various liturgical sections of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.) musically, thus paving the way for the unified Mass cycles of Dufay, Ockeghem, Josquin, Palestrina and many, many others beyond.
For reviews and personal responses go here.
Leaving history and music theory aside, though, it is also an absolutely stunning piece both to hear and to perform.
Our aim was to present the Mass in a form that both evokes the spirit of the 14th century and demonstrate how fresh the music sounds even today. As an aid to achieving the first target, the performances included a selection of the plainchant that would have been included in a typical church service of the time. And, as a corollary to our second objective, we feel very privileged to have the opportunity to present the world première of Scattered Rhymes by the exceptionally gifted young British composer Tarik O’Regan.
Tarik’s new piece was created specifically as a companion work to the Machaut Mass. The dual texts are taken from writings by contemporaries of Machaut: an anonymous English poet and the great Italian poet Petrarch. Tarik has written that, musically, Scattered Rhymes is built up entirely from tiny fragments found in the Machaut Mass, notably “peculiarly rich ‘scrunches’ and false relations mixed with open fifths, fourths and syncopated plainchant-like motifs”.
The work is scored for the Consort plus SATB choir and we were delighted that our tour provided us with an opportunity to work with distinguished amateur choirs throughout England. We are very grateful that these choirs assisted us in concert by performing the plainchant sections that frame the Mass.
See the Concerts page for a full list of concerts, participating choirs and venues. We would also like to extend our thanks and appreciation to those who made the tour possible. The Spitalfields Festival provided the initial impetus and backed it up superbly by commissioning Tarik’s new piece. The Arts Council have very kindly lined up essential financial backing for the tour. And Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne has magnificently agreed to support the poetry competition through a generous supply of their product to be offered as prizes!
USA Tour Diary — February 2006 (by Angus Smith)
For three members of the Orlando Consort there is a defining moment when it is possible to say: ‘Here beginneth the 200* tour of the United States’ - merely replace the asterisk with the relevant number. I am excepting Robert from this because he slips into an American lifestyle with great ease, but for the rest of us we cannot exhale in the appropriate satisfied manner until we have notched up the relevant moment on our metaphorical belts. Continue reading...
A new recording for 2006
The Rose, the Lily & the Whortleberry (HMU 907398) is an anthology of Medieval and Renaissance vocal music related to gardens and horticulture. The repertoire covers the entire aesthetic scale - from serene sacred music and elegant courtly love songs to downright obscene (but nevertheless remarkably witty) ditties. Our hope is that aficionados of early music will appreciate the blend of great composers (Machaut, Brumel, Gombert, etc.) with some real discoveries (Phinot, Trebor, Ceballos, etc), and that those who are coming to this period of music for the first time will find it a thoroughly logical and enjoyable introduction to the subject.
The CD is magnificently presented by Harmonia Munda USA in a lavishly illustrated 116-page hard-back booklet and includes not only articles by the renowned historian Sir Roy Strong and medieval literature specialist Susan Hitch, but also a brand new garden design commissioned by us especially for this project from Christopher Bradley-Hole, a multiple prize-winner at the world-renowned RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London.
A new kid on the block
Read an interview with Mark Dobell on his appointment as the new tenor to replace Charles Daniels
Looking Back at 2005: An End of Year Questionnaire
As a change from the traditional round-up of the year’s events, this year we all answered a series of questions. We hope you enjoy them!
Great Reviews for Busnois and USA concerts
The Winter 2005 USA tour (Jan 27 - Feb 12 2005) was a great success and coincided with the release of our new disc of music by Antoine Busnois (see below). We were previewed extensively and the concerts were very favourably reviewed.
NEW RECORDING: Antoine Busnois
The music of the fifteenth-century composer ANTOINE BUSNOIS has inspired intense interest in recent times. With this survey of the different genres—sacred and secular—in which Busnois excelled, the Orlando Consort demonstrates the composer’s supreme technical mastery, his melodic flair, and his rhythmic vitality. A comprehensive portrait of an early-Renaissance genius.
Two New Programmes for 2005
- The Rose, the Lily, and the Whortleberry
- The Worlde Accordinge to Henrietta Fitzjohn...
Programme for BBC4
The Orlando Consort recorded music by Josquin Des Pres and Walter Lambe for a BBC4 programme entitled 'Early Music'. This featured several groups and the Orlandos represented the earliest music recorded for the programme. Transmission was on Saturday, April 24th 2004 on BBC4 at 19.30. A second appearance of the group was on May 8th.
The Toledo Summit
A recent album you may have missed. The Orlando Consort revisits a fascinating meeting between two musical cultures. During his 1502 ceremonial visit to Toledo (Spain), Philip the Fair of Burgundy, and his Royal hosts, Ferdinand and Isabella, vied to display the artistic achievements of their respective realms. Music was central to all the festivities: solemn celebrations, worship, courtly banquets, dances and chivalric entertainments.
Gramophone's Best Early Music Recording of 2003
The Call of the Phoenix, the Orlando Consort's recording of fifteenth century English music, is officially the best early music recording of 2003 according to The Gramophone. Due to a particularly English quirk it will not receive a prize as The Gramophone is only giving six prizes this year (have they run out of plinths?), but the members of the group are delighted that this collection of motets and mass movements has been recognised as a category winner. Whilst in this modest mood we'd also like to point out that RedLudwig.com voted the same record as one of the ten best recordings of 2002.
Collaboration is the name of the game
2003 was the culmination of two forms of collaboration. The first was the ongoing work between the Orlandos and jazz quartet Perfect Houseplants, and the latter shows the Orlandos hard at work in cap and gown.