Here's a look at some previous Orlando Consort news items...
New Blog about our October 2015 USA tour
Please go to this page to read a daily account of the group's October tour to the USA.
Onward and upward
In October we will be flying to the USA for two concerts for Milller Theatre in NYC, one in Schenectady, and then a further two for Wellesley College as part of a residency. The first four performances are of Voices Appeared, our film project, which a review that has only recently come to our attention of a performance in Glasgow described as 'exquisite; a juxtaposition paired for substance, rather than shallow opportunity.' See also this endorsement by Melissa Smey, Executive Director of Miller Theatre, who came to see our very first performance in London earlier this year: "Right on the heels of Run Time Error comes The Passion of Joan of Arc, another multisensory piece in a season that's pushing Miller Theatre beyond what we've done before. I've loved watching the Orlando Consort develop this project, and I'm so excited to bring it to our audiences. I am blown away by the artistry of this film, and the contours and highlights that Donald Greig brings with his repertoire selections are masterful. He and the Orlando Consort have done a beautiful job crafting a score to accompany this truly epic silent film."
We very much hope to see you across the pond very soon.
First reviews for our new Compère disk
Fabrice Fitch, writing in The Gramophone, has given a glowing review to our new disk of music by Loyset Compère. The selection of music includes a Magnificat, a motet and several chansons, and it is the latter that Fitch commends in particular, particularly for our braveness in recording secular music that doesn't always capture the modern imagination. "Patience yields an appreciation of these pieces’ near-miraculous formal balance and strength of melodic invention" he writes, "which sees The Orlandos at their best." He concludes by asserting that "this project is a confident affirmation that all-vocal recordings of 15th-century songs are well worth making." And so say all of us.
On August 1st on BBC Radio 3's CD Review, Andrew McGregor was no less fulsome in his praise: "The singing of the Orlando Consort is impeccably tuned and placed, timelessly appealing in this well-balanced Hyperion recording." He went on to say that "Loyset Compère is a name that deserves more recognition; I suspect an album like this will do his cause no harm at all." You can hear the review here, along with a section from one of the motet-chansons, Tant ay d'ennuy.
Another positive review, this time in the Financial Times: "Twenty years ago The Orlando Consort made an influential recording of his music and here they are again, offering a new selection of Compère’s mostly short vocal pieces informed by recent scholarship. The four, bright-voiced, male singers are quick to draw on the contrasts in chansons like the folksy “Ung franc archier” and seductive “Vous me faites morir d’envie”.
And from independent reviewer Andrew Benson-Wilson, an intelligent review that describes one of the hallmarks of the group: "Key to the Orlando Consort’s success is the keen vocal blend between all four voices, aided by the wonderfully pure and clean tone of countertenor Matthew Venner, whose voice is always fully integrated with, rather than sitting on top of, the voices of his colleagues."
York and Cheltenham
We're just back home after a lovely, if intense, little trip to the ever-fresh York Early Music Festival and the eclectic and fascinating Cheltenham Music Festival, both of which hosted the Voices Appeared project. At York we were back in the beautufil St Margaret's church, home of the National Centre for Early Music, which was one of the partners for the project. The dDirector of NCEM, Delma Tomlin MBE, is a long-time supporter of the group and, as ever, she and her staff made us feel very welcome. It was then on to Tewkesbury Abbey, an inspired venue, its stolid pillars expressing something of the cruel asceticism of Dreyer's vision and the harsh rigidity of Joan of Arc's accusers.
We received a very positive review in the York Press: 'a feat of immense stamina – more or less continuous singing over 90 minutes... Imaginative and riveting'; and further enthusiastic commentary in the Gloucesteshire Echo: 'It was the superb singing of the Orlando Consort which turned the evening into such a mesmerising experience.'
Article on 'Voices Appeared' in The Guardian
You may be interested to read the following article on our Voices Appeared project, which appeared on The Guardian's music-blog site.
New release - pre-order
Exciting news. The next CD release for Hyperion is now available for pre-order at the iTunes store. The recording is of music by Loyset Compère, the slightly older colleague of Josquin Desprez in whose shadow he has been for many years, undeservedly so. We recorded an album of his music back in 1993, and we've wanted to record much more ever since. The allbum includes a variety of items - a stunning Magnificat, some wonderful chansons, a typically effortless motet, and a couple of his beautiful and beguiling chansons-motets, which marry the austerity of the sacred with the limpidly secular. Pre-order here.
Joan of Arc
Those who have an interest in our Voices Appeared project may like to watch Helen Castor's recent excellent programme on Joan of Arc, available for a little while longer onBBC iPlayer. Dreyer's movie focuses entirely on the trial and execution of God's Warrior, as Castor describes her, but the back story is fascinating and well told in this documentary. Readers might also like to look at the June-August edition ofEarly Music Today for an article written by Don about our project.
Front Row on Radio 4
You can listen again to a conversation between Donald Greig of the Consort, and Neil Brand, a highly respected and talented composer, commentator and accompanist of silent movies. It was first broadcast on Tuesday 19th May 2015 as part of BBC Radio 4's Front Row and hosted by Kirsty Lang,http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05vcyvg
New reviews of The Dart of Love
Some lovely reviews have come our way for our most recent recording of Machaut chansons and motets. Here's a brisk round-up of them:
'The programme is nicely varied in mood and scoring, ranging from four-voice ballades and motets to a single-voice virelai, and every combination in between … a thoughtful essay by Anne Stone makes audible sense of the many connections between the pieces on this valuable, impressive recording' Gramophone
'The Orlando Consort … celebrate the fourteenth-century French composer-poet Guillaume de Machaut with a selection of his numerous motets and songs … on the theme of courtly love and its diversions … Machaut, in the skilled hands of these musicians, turns … brutalities into music of ethereal purity, pulsating with poised, almost jaunty rhythms. Music for quiet concentration' The Observer
'The second anthology in the Orlando Consort’s Machaut marathon…[is] characterised by supreme text—sensitivity and beauty of tone. One marvels at their trademark exquisite balance and their ability to reveal even the most complex of Machaut’s structures with enviable agreement and ensemble' Early Music Today
'[This recording] offers a greater mix of pieces which amply demonstrate just why Machaut occupies such a crucial position in medieval music … the listener is transported into a richly rewarding and endlessly fascinating soundworld in which poetry and music are entwined as they can only be when they flow from the same pen … deeply satisfying while still whetting one's appetite for more' The Europadisc Review
'La séduction so british des Orlando aura ses partisans' Diapason
The performances are exemplary of their kind. .. An awareness of one another, and a composite sense of style, graces this recording and many others they have made in the past. Intonation is assured, and enunciation perfect. With excellent sound, full texts and translations, this comes strongly recommended. Fanfare
First review of Voices Appeared
Last night we were in Glasgow at The Old Fruitmarket to perform Voices Appeared. The venue was stunning, as you'll see from the picture taken during our rehearsal. The screen was glorious, as indeed it should be. The audience was keen and enthusiastic, and we've received a very positive review in The Herald.
Classic track with an international following
...and hot on the heels of news of The Gramophone making our new disk an editor's choice come three radio stations prasiing it. BBC Radio 3 described our rendition of Quant en moy / Amour et biauté parfaite / Amara valde as a 'classic track'. You can listen here. And France Musique described The Dart of Love as 'un très beau disque.' Listen here. If that weren't enough from Germany came a lavish 20-minute review of the album, the essential message of which was that it was well worth buying. Listenhere.
Video for Voices Appeared
Please take a look at the video below (not forgetting to pause the music playing in the background first). It gives you a taste of our new 'Voices Appeared' project
The Gramophone Editor's Choice Recording: The Dart of Love
A lovely fillip for us all in the form of an editor's choice pick for our new disk here. Fabrice Fitch singles out the sterling contributions of Matt and Mark, who bear the brunt of the text in singing the top lines: "Much of the time the musical and textual argument puts the spotlight on the consort’s younger members, the countertenor Matthew Venner and the higher tenor Mark Dobel (the lower parts being sung but not texted). Their agility and Venner’s clear, well-modulated timbre and admirable control of phrasing play no small part in The Orlandos’ rejuvenation.". Rejuvenation indeed. Note also the comments he makes about the track you're currently listening to, and the reference to the excellent notes: "Of those pieces new to the discography I’d single out the humorous hunter’s canon Se je chant mains by Machaut’s contemporary, Denis Le Grant, whose calls and barks are nicely suggested without the music descending into slapstick. A thoughtful essay by Anne Stone makes audible sense of the many connections between the pieces on this valuable, impressive recording."
Reviews for new Hyperion disc"
Two very nice reviews thus far, one in The Observer by Fiona Maddocks ('Music of Ethereal Beauty') and one online at Europadisc. Both praise the range of music and the performances.
"Machaut, in the skilled hands of these musicians, turns these brutalities into music of ethereal purity, pulsating with poised, almost jaunty rhythms. Music for quiet concentration." - Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
"the singing is of such quality and blend. Dip into any track at random and the listener is transported into a richly rewarding and endlessly fascinating soundworld" - Europadisc
Voices Appeared Appears
This week we unveil to an invited audience a project on which we’ve been working for some time now. The idea came in the summer of 2013, conceived by Don, and a conversation with the others indicated that it would be worth exploring. Essentially it was to provide a live soundtrack of music to accompany one of the great movies: Carl Theodor Dreyer’sLa Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, a 1928 silent movie. Don was the only one who knew the movie, not surprising given his film-studies background, but everyone recognised the potential, particularly when it was pointed out that the movie regularly appeared in the list of Top Ten Movies of all time.
The film depicts the trail and execution of Joan of Arc, that great French warrior and ultimately Saint. She was burned at the stake in 1431 (not exactly a spoiler) and the music would all come from the period of her brief life, i.e. the early C15th. The involvement of the French, English and Burgundian courts, all involved in one way or another with music, suggested the music be limited to that composed either by native composers or specifically for those courts. There was no need to cast the net wider to Italian composers, not least because so many French composers worked there anyway.
As with all projects, one needs funding of some kind. Occasionally we will develop something without financial support, but in the cold world of the self-employed time tends to equal money. So our first act, before exploring the movie and the music in any great detail, was to approach the various English concert promoters we knew and have a meeting with the Arts Council of England. Such discussions take a long time, and it wasn’t till January 2014 that the application was in solid enough shape to submit to the Arts Council. Fortunately, in April 2014 it was confirmed that the project had been greenlit: we had thirteen performances in the UK, the first a try-out to an invited audience at King’s College, London, which will take place on Thursday. Following that there will be a day-symnposium hosted by King’s College, which brings together academics from the fields of music, film, history, French, English and Scandinavian studies.
Over the coming weeks I’ll lift the veil a little on the process itself, and in time a list of the various performances will appear on the Concerts page.
Pre-Order for Christmas: Machaut: The Dart of Love
It’s almost here – the second volume in our mammoth project to record all the polyphonic songs of Gullaume de Machaut! The new CD from Hyperion features a lovely blend of songs employing the main poetic forms of the medieval age – the ballade, the virelai and the rondeau – and Machaut’s extraordinary harmonic and melodic gifts. But you don’t need to take our word for it as there has already been a review in Early Music News! “One marvels at the (Consort's) trademark exquisite balance and their ability to reveal even the most complex of Machaut’s structures.”
Now you know how to spend some of those Amazon and iTunes vouchers you receive at Christmas, so go to iTunes now and be the first to hear this latest offering from The Orlando Consort.
Mantra in Sheffield
As well as being an administrator and singer in The Orlando Consort, Angus is also artistic director of Music in the Round in Sheffield. We thus performed Mantra in that festival and here are Angus' thoughts on the event:
'Six years ago I started out on the process of devising a project for my group, the Orlando Consort, that was very different from anything that we had attempted before. This was not to be a standard presentation of a concert of medieval and renaissance music, even though it was from that glorious repertoire that the idea stemmed. It was more than that. This was to be the telling of a story of a remarkable musical encounter that took place some 500 years ago and relating it to the modern world.
'Last week the project, ‘Mantra’, was presented at Sheffield Cathedral. In the concert we told (and sang) of how Portuguese missionaries went to India – specifically to Goa – and invited local musicians to make music with them in the newly-built churches. Accounts survive of the joyous sounds that were created by ‘the instruments of the land’ and the voices of all present. From that starting point we transported the music to the present, incorporating elements of Bhangra and Bollywood. For our Sheffield version we were joined by our regular partners, Kuljit Bhamra(tabla), Jonathan Mayer (sitar) and singer Shahid Khan, and by students from Fir Vale School, Tapton School, and an invited choir of local adult singers. It is no exaggeration to say even after having done more than 25 performances of this project all around the world, this was the most inspiring performance that I and my colleagues in the Consort have yet experienced.
'Yes, it was an excellent and spirited rendition of the music by all involved, and it was wonderful to introduce people of all ages to our western and eastern musical traditions. But there were so many other moments within the Consort’s visit to Sheffield that, when combined, served to capture so perfectly all the elements of what we had aspired to achieve when we set out six years ago. They are too numerous to mention all of them here but I would like to share a few of them. The pupils of Fir Vale School being so tolerant of my attempt to speak Punjabi texts, the girl from Tapton School who stood up in the concert to dance on stage with Shahid, and the energy and exuberance of our adult volunteer choir – the usual image of formal and restrained British choirs seemed a million miles away at that moment!
'But if there was a single episode that encapsulated ‘the whole’, it would be Shahid speaking to the pupils shortly before the concert, having been encouraged by Kuljit to tell them what the project means to him. Shahid is a Muslim who was brought up in Brentford, West London, and he has had a very formal and traditional classical training in Indian music. He spoke movingly of how he has come to value the opportunity to work with and learn from musicians from other traditions, and of how he has been able to observe at first-hand how musical respect carries over into all areas of life. Suffice to say that for these words and, of course, for his singing and dancing, Shahid is now something of a hero for these Fir Vale and Tapton students.
'It has been wonderful to have had the support of our adult participants, Sheffield Cathedral, the schools (especially the staff) and, crucially, the parents in presenting this work. And I will also admit to feeling proud that I am part of two organisations, the Orlando Consort and Music in the Round, that share my views of the universality of music and which allow me present work that I feel is not only enjoyable for audiences but which is also hugely important for the message contained within. This is, therefore, my thank you letter to every single person who has made this possible.'
Scattered Rhymes in Sydney
Readers might like to know that our recording of Scattered Rhymes forms the centrepiece of a new and exciting collaborative project between its composer, Tarik O'Regan, and the Sydney Dance Company. Performances run from October 4th to 18th at the Sydney Theatre, and tickets can be purchasedhere. Knowing Tarik as we do, it's bound to be a startling and exciting work, as this glimpse shows. If only we lived closer...
The Gramophone Early-Music Award Shortlist 2014
We're delighted to report that our first CD for Hyperion Songs from Le Voir Dit, music of which you may even now be hearing (unless you're switched your speakers off) has been shortlisted for the prestigious Gramophone Ealry -Music Award. We have been shortlisted several times in the past, and won it several years ago for our recording of music by John Dunstable, but this is an exciting first for the current line-up and a vindication of Hyperion's faith and trust in us. There's a long way to go, but please keep your fingers crossed for us. Please see here for more information.
The Orlando Consort dance
Well, not really. That would be, if amusing, embarrassing. But music that was written for the group and which we subsequently recorded, namely Tarik O'Regan's Scattered Rhymes, is the soundtrack to a new project by the Sydney Dance Company, performances of which will take place in October of this year. Tarik assures us that he made every effort to have us flown over to sing the piece live, but the budget wouldn't stretch. More can be found here.
'Voices appeared': Silent cinema and medieval sound - La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc and The Orlando Consort
As mentioned below, we’re about to embark on a new project, an imaginative and intriguing crossover between early music and early film. The movie in question is Carl-Theodor Dreyer’s acclaimed masterpiece, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc,released in 1928, a movie that often is included in critics’ lists of the top ten films of all time. It features what is generally accepted as one of the finest performances on film, by Renée Jeanne Falconetti in the title role.
From its very first screening, various forms of music have accompanied this silent movie; works by composers as diverse as Nick Cave and J S Bach have been yoked to the director’s arresting images. Surprisingly though, for a film that takes its duty to history so seriously - the film spends its opening minutes insisting in its authenticity, describing how the dialogue is taken from the actual transcripts of the trial, while Dreyer was also painstaking in his recreation of the locations - no-one has provided a soundtrack of music of the period that the film depicts, namely the early fifteenth century.
The narrative focuses on the trial and execution of Joan of Arc by French clerics between 1429 and 1431. Dressed in men’s clothing, Joan had led the French to victory over the English. An uneducated shepherd’s daughter from Donrémy, she was either a visionary or delusional, depending on your reading of history. Certainly at the time that the film was made, she was very much the former, particularly in French eyes. She had been canonised only as recently as 1920 and supplanted the countries other patron saints in the popular imagination.
Dreyer condenses events into a single day and the film unfolds as a series of confrontations between Joan and her tormentors. We as spectators are unsure where we stand, not least in relation to narrative space itself, the style almost self-conscious, embracing its status as art movie. The film refuses the usual comforts of spatial orientation, throwing the actors against abstract background shapes – arches, crooked windows, the set designed by Hermann Warm, the art director on the Expressionist Cabinet of Dr Caligari – their bodies flattened and distorted by odd framings that refuse the laws of perspective. But it is Joan herself who is treated the harshest, inviting our sympathy and understanding. Her face is stripped of make-up, her body bled, her hair shorn with us very much as witnesses (this was no trick effect), the camera unflinching in its relentless investigation of her suffering. Unsurprisingly, the iconic image from the movie is that of Falconnetti’s face, wearing the pained innocence of the martyr.
Our task will be to enhance the experience for the audience while eschewing any inclination to draw too much attention to ourselves. We will be shrouded in darkness below the screen, much like cinema orchestras were in the past. The music, though, will not be the familiar late romantic style, or a compilation of clichéd cues (William Tell overture for the chase, solo violin for the love theme, etc.). The function of music that accompanies a live screening is very different from that that is written for the sound movie. There music is carefully ‘spotted’ by composer and director, moments chosen where music will fulfil various functions. Someone like a Steiner, for example, would carefully hone particular themes and link them to characters or situations; a genius like Herrmann went his own way, with an emphasis on quirky combinations of instruments. The presence of the performers who create the music for a live screening means that immediately the music is far more of a commentary on the film than an integral part of it, a relay between spectator and screen which undoubtedly fulfils some of the same functions of emotional underscoring, but stands a little way distant from it. Rather like Dreyer does in relation to his subjects.
And voices are the perfect vehicle. Joan claimed to be guided by three angels – Michael, Catherine and Margaret – and though the film doesn’t depict these visions, her own voice is continually silenced by the hectoring clerics who have put her on trial. Conflicting discourses, alternately cajoling and condemnatory, stage an unheard aural polyphony that finds an echo in medieval motets, antiphons, plainsong and discant, and it will be fascinating for us to assemble this collage for a modern-day audience of cinephiles and music lovers alike.
The repertoire will be drawn from a very specific period, namely the first thirty-one years of the fifteenth century. Joan was a French prisoner of the Burgundian Court at the behest of the English Crown, and each of those three powers had its own rich musical tradition: Philip the Good of Burgundy was one of the great musical patrons of the medieval period, bringing luminaries such as Binchois and Dufay to his court; Philip’s sister, Anne, was married to John, Duke of Bedford, uncle to Henry VI of England and, at the time of Joan’s trial, governor of Normandy; Bedford was the fortunate patron of the most famous and influential composer of the fifteenth century, John Dunstable; Henry VI, like his father before him, was a keen student of music, founder of Kings College, Cambridge and Eton school, both with their famous chapels (and thus instigator of two musical establishments that still exist today).
In the coming weeks we’ll be developing the soundtrack, experimenting by trying different pieces against the same sections of film, gauging its impact, and working out the (very) specific tempi that we will have to follow. More to follow, as they say.
Halfway through 2014
It’s been a busy first half of the year for the group, in terms of performances and recordings, and, despite the lack of actual concerts from now through December, will be similarly challenging. We had a wonderful five-concert tour in the USA in February, as well as two residencies at Durham and Nottingham Universities. The latter are occasions for us to realise exactly how much we know about medieval music, and also how much there is still to learn. Guided in symposia and rehearsals by academics, all parties, particularly the students, get to engage with the music as both an historical artefact and a living force. We also recorded the third of our Machaut disks for Hyperion and, once again, were startled and delighted by the composer’s vision. And last month we had a wonderful concert in Milan for a small festival dedicated to early music: Festival dell'Ascensione.
Over the rest of the year we will be very much preparing for 2015 and a new project: a live soundtrack to accompany screenings of Carl Theodore Dreyer’s 1928 masterpiece, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, details of which I will post under a separate heading. It’s a project that has fired the imagination of many promoters, the upshot of which is that we will be staging it at around 16 UK venues in 2015, as well as in North America. Keep an eye on the concerts page for further details.
A couple of fine reviews for our most recent concert in Durham. The program was structured around the two most famous Guillaumes of the medieval period, Machaut and Dufay, and we also featured contemporary pieces that take their music as a starting point, one by Tarik O'Regan, the other by Gabriel Jackson.
The Darlington and Stockton Times focused on the singing, opining that 'the four singers [made] the most of the chapel’s acoustic with voices singly or in any combination, sounding gloriously rich and full.' It rounded off by insisting that the evening was 'a superb demonstration of song and singing. The full review can be found here.
The same concert was reviewed on the Bachtrackn website by Jane Shuttleworth. She generously descrivbed the individual qualities of our voices, noting 'the effortless grace of Matthew Venner’s alto.' She went on as follows: 'Le lay de bonne esperance was sung by tenor Angus Smith without any accompaniment, the solitary melody line spare and haunting. Sans cuer, dolens de vous departiray, a song of parting was given equal measure of sweetness and sadness by Mark Dobell’s honeyed tenor, accompanied only by sustained bass notes, delivered with absolutely unbending control by Donald Greig.'
The concert ended with two pieces by Dufay, which Ms Shuttleworth thought 'showed a more intimate side to Dufay than the grandeur of the Mass, and gave a very moving end to an exquisite concert. ' Full review here
Nottingham and Durham
We've now completed four years of working at the universities of Nottingham, Durham and Bangor under a residency scheme sponsored by The Radcliffe Trust. It's been challenging and fulfilling, working alongside academics and with students, imparting our experience as performers, coaching choirs and small ensembles, providing demonstrations and master classes, workshops and concerts. We think that the students and, indeed, academic have learned a great deal, as have we. Many thanks to the Radcliffe Trust for their sponsorship, and good luck to whichever ensemble it is who takes over from us.
Mark Dobell's USA February 2014 Tour Blog
Mark's tour blog for our February 2014 North America tour can now be found here.
...and back to the USA
We're heading back across the pond for a concert tour that takes in five US cities: New York, Houston, Ann Arbor, Annapolis and Milwaukee. Aside from Ann Arbor, these are all return visits and we're greatly looking forward to it.
The first concerts are at The Cloisters, a perfect venue for us. The programme is entitled The Discourse of Medieval Love and features chansons by Machaut, our newest project. Do come along if you're at a loose end on a Sunday afternoon in February (9th to be exact - book tickets here).
For the other concerts, please check out the concerts page where full details can be found.
New York Times Best of 2013
A very nice ending to 2013 for us in the form of a review of the new Hyperion disk by James R. Oestreich in the New York Times: 'Here is exquisite if rarefied music from Machaut’s magnum opus,' he wrties, 'the “Livre dou Voir Dit” (“Book of the True Tale”), which consists of letters, lyrics and these songs, telling of a romance the composer carried on over great distances in the mid-14th century. The performances by the Orlando Consort of four male voices are masterly.' Well, that's very kind of you, Mr Oestreich, and we wish you a very happy holiday, as we do to all those who visit these pages.
I'm sure that The Church Times were being complimentary to Matt, but the following amused us. 'I get a shiver down the spine every time the alto Matthew Venner opens his mouth,. the reviewer wrote of the Le Voir Dit recording. Fortunately he went on to say: 'but he is not on all tracks; so you get to hear the marvellous sound that the other members make.'
North American contact
If you have any interest in booking The Orlando Consort for 2014-15 or 2015-16 then please write directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be happy to talk with you about our future plans.
North America Tour
We're just back from the East Coast of America, having performed three concerts at Yale, in New York City and at Haverford College. Many thanks to all those who came along and to all the promoters who organised the events. Brains and bodies are a little battered after the experience, but we're all heartened by the wonderful reception and by the review of our concert for Miller Theatre in New York on Saturday. 'The consort’s performances all showed the consummate mastery and refinement, and each voice had its individual attractions,' was how Jame Oestreich put it.
...and hot on the heels of other fine reviews (see below) comes the voice of David Fallows in The Gramophone. Slightly tongue-in-cheek he says that it feels like the 70s again, by which we take it he means the emergence of a style of singing known in some quarters as the a cappella heresy: 'No instruments, just solo men's voices, singing text where there is text in the manuscripts, vocalising where there is none, always dead in tune, always beautifully balanced.' He praises Mark and Matt for 'the most magnificent articulation of the texts' supported by '[an] understanding of the lines gained from their senior colleagues' (which means Don and Angus). It is Angus, though, who garners the greatest praise: 'the unforgettable track here is Angus Smith performing the "Lay de Bon Esperance". This and Machaut's other lais must be among the greatest challenges before Wagner for any singer. He's terrific.' Again, we understand that to mean Angus, and not Wagner, and we all very much look forward to hearing Angus' Brünnhilde in due course.
November 2013 - USA
Soon we're off to the USA for three concerts. The first is at Yale on November 15th, a program(me) of music related to the Hundred Years War, including works by Machaut, Dufay, Dunstable and Frye. Then we're off to New York for a concert at St Mary's church on 46th St entitled 'A love Affair', wihich is a mutual celebration of the 25th anniversaries of both The Orlando Consort and the Milller Theater (November 16th). The folllowing day we head to Haverford College for another 25th-anniversary concert, of music by Machaut and various C15th composers like Dufay, Ockeghem, Josquin and Compère.
We very much hope to see you there (more details on concert page)
Reviews of 'Songs from Le Voir Dit'
This from The Daily Telegraph: 'Hauntingly and mellifluously sung by the four (but sometimes solo) voices of the Orlando Consort, this music still sounds as flavoursome as it must have done 650 years ago.'
From International Record Review, Andrew O'Connor remarks that 'this is an important and rewarding disc that any lover of Medieval music will want to own' and praises Yolanda Plumley's 'excellent booklet essay'.
Audiophile Audition gives the disc five stars and says that '[b]ased on these results the project is off to a fine start, with resonant, warm sound capturing the four male singers beautifully, making for a disc of notable importance and high quality.'
And this from europadisc.co.uk: 'The Orlando Consort sing these works without any instrumental accompaniment, yet there is no lack of colour or variety, and in performances of late medieval music this is about as good as it gets. As the first in a planned series of recordings of Machaut’s music by the Orlando Consort on Hyperion, this is a hugely promising start and a strong candidate for one of the discs of the year...simply marvellous!'
...and more recordings on the way
Last week The Orlando Consort was back in the 'studio' recording more music for release on Hyperion, coincidentally the 25th recording the group has undertaken. The next CD will be out next year. We also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the group with a small party at St Bride's in Fleet Street, courtesy of Robert Harre-Jones and the St Bride's authorities. The great and the good were gathered to celebrate with us, and all enjoyed a short recital of some of our favourite pieces. We were joined for a short section by Kuljit Bhamra and Shahid Khan and we performed with them some of the music from our Mantra project.
The pictures here show the true nature of the recording studio, this being a church in Essex. Unpromising as that may sound, it's remarkably quiiet - always a boon when it comes to recording - and welcoming.
New recording of Machaut for Hyperion
As visitors to this site will know, October sees the release of the first in a series of recordings for Hyperion Records of the chansons of Guillaume de Machaut. To celebrate this occasion we have uploaded a video of the group talking about the music and performing some of the pieces.
The recording is of songs from Machaut's Le Voir Dit, a narrative poem that describes the relationship between the ageing poet and his young, female admirer Peronne. The songs are hauntingly beautiful, miniatures of contained desire, each one carefully wrought and set within an arresting story that is elegantly described in the liner notes provided by Dr Yolanda Plumley, the project leader of an ongoing Leverhulme Trust-sponsored project to create the first complete modern edition of the poetry and music of this great composer.
The CD will soon be available from the usual outlets, though you may wish to visit the Hyperion website to learn more.
Photos from Leipzig
We've recieved some lovely photos of our time in Leipzig in the a cappella festival run by our good friends, Amacord. They were taken by Holger, one of the members of the group, and, as might be expected from a fellow-performer, capture us very well, rehearsing, performiing and relaxing. All photos permission of DREIECK MARKETING/Holger Schneider.
For this concert, we were joined by Charles (Daniels), esteemed former member of the group. It was great to have him along again and we're very grateful to Amacord for setting it up.
Right: a detail, which pretty much describes everything you need to be a singer: a watch (to tell you to be on and in time); a wedding ring (behind every singer is a supportive partner, ofte
n left at home); a pencil with a rubber (to annotate your score); an identity card (to remind you who you are, where you are and the promoter)
Left: at the end of the concert we were all presented with flowers and small boxes of Toffifee. All except Mark who, as a fan of the sweet, was awarded wtih a mammoth-size presentation pack by Daniel Knauft of Amacord.
Right: afterwards we were taken to a restaurant where we ate, and drank good German beer with our hosts.
It’s been a busy time recently, with concerts in Germany, Wales and England. Ashwell was the first of our recent outings, as part of the Ashwell Music Festival. It was our Anonymous Monk programme, which featured a local choir performing the plainchant and readings from letters by the eponymous narrator. Then it was off to Newbury for a pilgrimage all of our own. It was, as people in the UK know, a particularly cold May, but that didn’t deter the intrepid walkers who saw us perform a few pieces at the Organic Research Centre in Hamstead Marshall.and then trek across the fields in the driving rain to a more formal concert of music by Dufay, Compere and others. Then it was back to the farm for an authentic medieval dinner at which the Orlandos performed a few more rustic songs to round off proceedings.
The following week we were in Leipzig for a return visit to the a cappella festival run by our old friends, Amacord. They’re a five-voice vocal ensemble and, quite simply, the nicest and most genuine people you could ever hope to meet. Despite their hectic schedule of some 100 concerts a year and running their own record company, they somehow manage to organise a fantastic yearly festival. They not only invited the Orlando Consort, but also Charles Daniels, esteemed former member of the group, to perform some fantastic five-part music by Phinot, Clemens, Gombert and others. In our twenty-fifth anniversary year, it was a particular treat to work with Charles again.
After that it was to Wales for a concert of Mantra. As ever, the audience were enthusiastic. Shahid was his usual inspiring self, improvising a wonderful raga with Kuljit and Jonathan, and rounding off proceedings with some new nifty dance moves in the finale. Kuljit’s now-traditional ‘Bhamra lecture’ was entertaining and informative and Jonathan provided a brilliant mash-up of Dowland and three different ragas in his solo item.
We belted down the M4 and then it was back to Leipzig for the Gala concert of the a cappella Festival which saw us following Amacord onto stage to take the audience back to the very earliest close harmony. The joint winners of the competition then rounded off the first half and the second began with Huun-Huur-Tu, a group of Mongolian throat singers with whom we’d performed possibly our most bizarre concert in an aircraft hangar at RAF Leuchars in the East Neuk festival of 2008. The Leipzig concert was rounded off by the brilliant The Magnets and then all the performers and a fair few of the audience headed into the night for the post-festival party. As ever, we owe a great deal to Amacord for inviting us to participate, and also for being both bold and imaginative in including our more esoteric repertoire amidst such obviously crowd-pleasing repertoire.
Friday sees us at the Spitalfields festival giving our Food, Wine and Song programme.
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 email@example.com
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.
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 OrlandoConsort, 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?
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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort 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’ - OrlandoConsort; 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 (OrlandoConsort) Metronome £13.70, RRP £13.99
According to the liner notes, 'Dunstaple was the most influential English composer outside England before the Beatles’. The OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort. 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 OrlandoConsort, 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 OrlandoConsort, 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 OrlandoConsort performing Tabla Tulum, a polyphonic chant setting of the tabla language, written by Kuljit – mesmerising.
- Anne Morris
The OrlandoConsort 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:
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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort nominated for BBC Music Magazine Best Choral disk of 2008 for Scattered Rhymes and Machaut Messe de Notre Dame
The OrlandoConsort have been shortlisted for our recording of Machaut, Bryers and Dufay together with our performance of Scattered Rhymes by Tarik O'Regan with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber conducted by Paul Hillier (Harmonia Mundi HMU 807469). Please visit the website and register your vote:
The awards jury says…
Machaut’s 1360 Mass makes a nonsense of conventional ideas of musical progress, as O’Regan’s free variations on it, written 640 years later, show. A disc of astonishing energy and virtuosity. Roger Nichols
The OrlandoConsort: 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 OrlandoConsort. 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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort! 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…
East Neuk Festival 2008
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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort 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] OrlandoConsort 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 David Vernier
"The performances are sublime.."
"The OrlandoConsort (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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort 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 OrlandoConsort (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 OrlandoConsort, 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 OrlandoConsort."
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.
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.
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.
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.