The track you are listening to is from the Orlando Consort’s new CD of music by Guillaume de Machaut on Hyperion Records, cited as one of the best classical releases of 2013 by The New York Times. This is the first in a series of the complete chansons of the fourteenth century’s most famous poet and composer, a bold project, which benefits directly from a Leverhulme Trust project that will produce the first modern edition of Machaut’s complete poetry and music.
The CD is of music from Le Voir Dit, Machaut’s partly autobiographical, narrative poem about the ageing poet’s relationship with a young lady, Peronne. This ballade, Ploures dames, describes the poet on his deathbed, advising women to dress in black.
'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 fu
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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
A novel idea
Visitors to this website might well be interested to know that Don has written a novel. And it's being published. On Septebmer 1st, to be exact. Entitled Time Will Tell, it's set in the modern day and in the late medieval period and concerns a musical manuscript written by a C.15th composer. The true story of its genesis is told in a C.15th memoir by Ockeghem's right-hand man while the modern day story tells of its discovery by an American musicologist and his attempts to convince a British early-music group called Beyond Compère to give the piece its first performance. 'It's a serious subject,' Don says, 'but it's treated lightly with obvious elements of farce and a few codes along the way that need to be cracked. If you're an academic then there may well be historical details that will amuse you, but it's writtten for the lay reader and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of both academia and concert life.'
The following endorsements will offer you some further clues and, if you're interested, then you can buy it at Amazon in the UK and the US, as well as through bookstores and other retailers worldwide.
‘A fascinating double glimpse into the world of modern singers and medieval music’ - Terry Jones (Monty Python and author of Chaucer’s Knight)
‘A delightful romp through the passions and pretensions of the early-music world.’ - Sarah Dunant (Author of The Death of Venus and Sacred Hearts)
‘Funny, sharp and oddly compassionate, full of [Greig’s] experience of the world of early music performance and [his] deep knowledge of music history.’ - Charles Saumarez Smith – Secretary and Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Arts
‘This is one for lovers of The Name of the Rose and Possession ...and lovers of early music. Donald Greig's antihero lives in a thoroughly plausible academic world as he attempts to fit in with the equally plausible singers of the group Beyond Compère. The results are often hilarious as the story hurtles to its unexpected climax.’ - David Fallows - Emeritus Professor of Musicology at the University of Manchester and author of Josquin (2009)
We have just returned from Slovenia, where we gave a concert in the Radovlijca Festival, the oldest early-music festival in that country. Sadly Mark Dobell was unavailable, but we were delighted to have Steven Harrold (of The Hilliard Ensemble, amongst many others) with us.
Don was asked to do an interview for the television, the results of which can be viewed here. It also includes excerpts from the concert
Tim Thurston hosts a weekly show called Gloria on RTE, an Irish radio station. The brief of of the programme is a survey of "a millennium of sacred music from Gregorian Chant to contemporary Choral works". He has recently made a list of his top ten vocal ensembles, which includes The Orlando Consort. His suggested CD is THE ROSE, THE LILY AND THE WHORTLEBERRY - HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907398. For more, see here
2012: Old friends
2012 has seen the Orlando Consort back on familiar territory. The year began with concerts, workshops and more informal sessions at both Durham and Nottingham universities. We will be back there next year, again with the extraordinarily generous help of the Radcliffe Trust, which allows the group to give concerts and work with university students around the United Kingdom.
March saw us back in Ourense at the small, intimate Ourense Festival organised by Conchi da Sliva and Juan. The Orlando Consort sang at the very first concert in the first series back in 2008 and it was an honour to be there again, not just to perform there, but to spend time with Conchi and Juan, and the many other supporters of the festival.
More recently we have been back to Castelo Branco to see another old friend, Carlos Semedo, who runs the theatre in Castelo Branco, an enterprising venture which showcases local music and musicians, theatre, and film. The Orlando Consort were there performing Mantra.
Later this year will see us appearing in the UK, Holland and Slovenia
East Neuk Festival: Highlight of 2011
This from The Scotsman. The various critics were asked for their personal highlights of this year and this is how Claire Black responded:
Candles flickered beneath leaded windows and the chill night air inside St Monans Parish Church stilled. The Orlando Consort began to sing Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame, a 14th century polyphonic mass, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. This is what the East Neuk Festival does quite brilliantly – filling tiny, historic venues with world-class musicians for the benefit of a devoted – and growing – audience. It was my first year, but it won’t be my last. Next year’s starts on 27 June.
And so say all of us. Svend Brown, the artistic director, always comes up with brilliant programming ideas and places them in extraordinary settings. We wish him and Festival well for next year and thank him for inviting us to participate.
Florence and Singapore
We've visited a couple of extraordinary places in the past few weeks. First of all: Florence. As any casual lover of the Renaissance will know, this is a place full of wonderful churches stuffed to the gunnels with art. And music, of course, was an equally important part of that world; the sounds may have been lost, but they can be recreated. As part of Martin Randall Tours, we were invited to perform three concerts. The first was in the beautifaul Chiesa da Santa Trinita where we sang music of Dufay and other composers associated with the city. The following day we performed two concerts in the Tuscan countryside, specifically at the Villa La Ferdinanda in Artimino, some forty minutes from the centre of Florence. As ever, we were happy to meet our audience and mingle with them at lunch and, Florence being a small city, we also tended to bump into them on other occasions.
In November we jetted off to Singapore where we were performing two concerts of Mantra. Kuljit and Shahid were waiting for us - they had been visiting India - whilst the singers and Jonathan flew directly. Singapore is a real melting pot of cultures - Indian, British, Malaysian, Chinese - the perfect place then for a crossover project. The concerts were at the invitation of the National Museum of Singapore (see left) and took place in the Gallery Theatre on consecutive nights. The Orlando Consort also conducted a workshop for the music department of the University of Singapore. (see left).
Pictured below is the group and our hosts in the famous Raffles hotel. Many thanks to Lee Chor Lin for inviting us, to her staff for looking after us so well, and to Goh Ching Lee for taking care of all the details.
Left to Right: Angus; Goh Ching Lee - the Orlando Consort's new South East Asia agent and founder of CultureLink; Ms Lee Chor Lin - Director of the National Museum of Singapore; Shahid; Kuljit; Jonathan; Matt, Don; Mark.
Recently the Orlando Consort has been in
Wroclaw where we performed two concerts. The first was wiith a collection of local school choirs, some sixty in all, who were coached and conducted by Matt in the art of plainsong. The children's choir then accompanied the Consort in a performance of mainly thirteenth-century organum, with the adults performing the poilyphony.
The pictures above show Matt conducting the massed choirs, and the finale to the concert when the five teachers who instructed the children prior to Matt's arrival came up to the stage to receive their bows.
The second concert took place in a local restaurant which can trace its existence back to the fourteenth century. The programme was of medieval music with common themes of food and drink, the first half performed in a small hall, the second in the restaurant itself where the Consort performed shorter sets which interspersed the courses served to those lucky enough to have bough tickets. Mark doesn't always end up on the floor. Usually he's very good at holding his drink....
Matt and Venner
This spotted in a newsagents in Norway recently. We are assured that Mat and Venner means "Food and Friends" which is a comforting thought. If it had meant "Young and Forgetful" we wouldn't have been surpriised.
It’s been a busy summer for the Orlando Consort and an enjoyable one. In June we joined forces with Kuljit, Jon and Shahid for a collaboration with the Waltham Singers under their dynamic conductor Andrew Fardell. The first half featured Victoria’s Missa O Quam Gloriosum sung by the choir interspersed with motets sung by the four of us. The second half featured music from Mantra with the choir singing the choral parts with gusto and obvious pleasure. Andrew, incidentally, was at Kent University shortly after Don left his alma mater and, though they didn’t know each other at the time, has been a great supporter of the group. It was as Head of Music at New Hall School that Extempore II had its very first airing only a few days before we went into the studio to record it. We thank him and the Waltham Singers for their gracious hospitality.
In July we returned to East Neuk to sing two concerts. The first, featuring Stephen Burrows as the extra countertenor, was of the Ockeghem Requiem and related motets, an extraordinary work and one we much enjoy performing. The following day, Matt and Stephen flew home and Rob Macdonald joined Angus, Mark and Don to perform motets by De Vitry and the Machaut mass in the wonderful small church in St Monans, the venue at which we featured two world premieres by Tarik O’Regan and Giles Swayne three years ago. Whilst there, we paid our now-traditional visit to the Himalayas, the eighteen-hole putting green at St Andrews (Angus won, as he always does) and to a fantastic off licence with a fine selection of microbrewery ales from which Rob and Don had to be dragged away
Later in July we sang music by Dunstable and contemporaries in the famous York Early Music Festival, the concert broadcast by the BBC. It’s always great to be back in York; it feels very much the spiritual home of early music, not least through the efforts of Delma Tomlin, Director of York Early Music Festival and the National Centre for Early Music, who was awarded an MBE in 2008.
Then it was on to the Gower Festival and a performance of The Rose, the Lily and the Whortleberry in the church of St Mary, Rhossili on a spectacular summer’s day.
Shortly after that we were on the road to Schwäbisch-Gmund, a small Bavarian town which hosts an annual music festival. This was the second visit for the Orlando Consort and the first outing of Mantra in Germany. A late-night concert audience, initially unsure how to react in a church, led by Shahid’s robotic dancing, were by the end stamping and clapping.
August will see us all on well-deserved holidays and on the first of September we will be heading to Poland and the Wroclaw festival.
Mark Dobell: Star of stage and screen
Keen-eyed viewers of last week's Royal Wedding might have noticed a face familiar to those who have attended Orlando Consort concerts or studied this web site. Yes, your eyes weren't deceiving you: that was Mark singing in the Westminster Abbey Choir. It might surprise some of you. Was he moonlighting? The truth is that no man can live by medieval music alone; we're professional singers and appear in a variety of situations. Many of the faces you see in the early-music scene have benefited from training as choristers and are currently supported by paid Church work. Both Matt and Don were choristers at Westminster Abbey (Don having sung at the wedding of Princess Anne back in 1973) and Matt is now a vicar choral at St Paul's. Rumours that Matt is not talking to Mark because the Abbey 'got' the Royal Wedding and St Paul's didn't are exaggerated.
If you missed Mark's appearance, you might want to check out this video on YouTube. Mark was clearly popular with the director, making notable appearances at 0.54, 1.46 and 3.17. Also present was Robert Macdonald, the bass who has appeared on several Orlando Consort recordings and in concert with us.
February 2011 Tour Diary
"We often feel, when stranded out by a freeway in a hotel, that we have very little access to cultural activities. I would argue, however, that dining at a Waffle House is in itself a fascinating cultural experience....and if you want to experience cultural difference, try explaining to the regulars that you are over here to sing medieval music…"
Read Mark Dobell's wry, witty and entertaining report of our recent trip to the USA here
..as the England '66 World Cup Squad put it. Safely back in England after a visit to the USA for three concerts in Columbus, OH, Stockton, CA and New York, NY. Mark has been writing a diary so check back soon to discover about the the fire in Columbus, Sunday morning in Stockton, and our debut at Carnegie Hall.
All went very well, particularly the concert in New York which was a buzz for us all. Allan Kozinn, esteemed critic for the New York Times, had flagged the concert ahead of time ("a fine British quartet") and also wrote a review which referenced "the tightly blended sound that has long been its trademark". The full review can be found here.
Pictured right, Jennifer Flores - who took such good care of us at Carnegie Hall - holding the poster for the concert.
The picture below shows Argo curled up reading the New York Times review. From the baseball and the violin we can surmise that he's had a busy morning. Argo, incidentally, belongs to Robert Besen, our redoubtable US agent.
Medieval Song Network
Keen readers of this website may have noted that the Orlando Consort will be giving a concert as part of the Medieval Song Network, a research group based at the Institute for Musical Research. We're proud of our involvment with this project and invite you to visit their website which can be found here.
Radcliffe Trust residencies
It's been a busy start to the year. We've been working hard giving lectures and workshops in three universities - Bangor, Durham and Nottingham - as part of a residency scheme funded in part by a generous donation from the Radcliffe Trust. This has seen us advising on productions of The Marriage of Figaro and The Coronation of Poppea as well as music closer to our chosen period, that of the medieval era. As well as working with specialist ensembles and choirs, we have also worked with composition students informing them of the expectations that performers might have and the sometimes very real difficulties of realising their dreams in vocal form. As part of the residency we have also given concerts at each location and, well, experienced some of the local ale, only for reasons of research you understand. Our visit to Durham saw us working with the Egglescliffe Senior Girls Chamber Choir led by their inspirational teacher Matthew Haworth. We worked with them last year when we presented Mantra at the Sage in Gateshead. It was, as the Mantra collaboration proved to be, an inspirational afternoon and we encouraged them to trust in their (excellent) ensemble skills and ditch the conductor. They took to the idea with alacrity and had no difficulty at all in performing without Matthew's guidance, something which will stand them in good stead and help them to listen to each other in performance situations.
Well, what does 2011 bring for The Orlando Consort? January sees us busy in academic mode with three residencies at Bangor, Durham and Nottingham. In Bangor we will present workshops and seminars on medieval compositional techniques, the relationship between text and music, as well as more performance-based workshops with various university choirs and consorts. In Durham, as well as working with a local school choir, we will address and assess compositions by young composers offering insights into the difficulties they pose for performers and making suggestions prompted by their work. In Nottingham we will work with ensembles and also provide musical examples in teaching contexts. At all three universities we will give concerts. This work, an important part of our profile as an ensemble, has been made possible by the generous funding of the Radcliffe Trust whose mandate is to promote and encourage music.
February sees us heading across the pond for one of our short but intense tours. We will visit Columbus, OH were , in addition to giving a concert of music inspired by the theme of love, we will also present a small concert for local schoolchildren. Then it's across to the West Coast for a concert at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA, before returning to New York to give our first ever concert at the prestigious Carnegie Hall (see concerts page for full details).
Later in the year sees us giving more performances of the successful Mantra project in London and Germany, a collaboration with the Waltham Singers which will draw on the approach advanced with Mantra, as well as more mainstream concerts in Sheffield, London, and return visits to East Neuk, York, and the Gower peninsula.
There is also one further project which has now begun in earnest, namely our role as associate performing ensemble to the Leverhulme Trust-funded project, The Works of Guillaume de Machaut, led by Yolanda Plumley at the University of Exeter. The Orlando Consort will work alongside a team of scholars - Yolanda Plumley, Anne Stone, Jacques Boogaart, Barton Palmer and Uri Smilansky - to create the first modern-day edition of the complete poetry and music of Guillaume de Machaut. The resulting volumes will be published in print and online by Medieval Institute Publications and TEAMS/METS. A Digital Research Environment, a truly multimedia website, will host recordings made by The Orlando Consort, together with performers from Le Basile, of key musical examples and options to enhance the edition.
Matt and Julia's wedding
It's not often that we feature really personal news on this website, but we thought that Matt and Julia's wedding was worthy of comment. On Saturday 17th July Matthew Venner and Julia Hodges were married in Dulwich College Chapel. The choir, in which Angus and Don sang, was brilliantly conducted by Matt's dad, Jonathan Venner. The reception was held at Dulwich College where Matt teaches voice, and Matt's speech was delivered with applomb. Not once did he fumble with the microphone or drop it (a sometime feature of his announcements in Orlando Consort concerts) and no-one croaked out the immortal line heard in New York: "Your voice isn't loud enough!"
Suffice to say that Angus, Don and Mark would like to congratulate them both and wish the married couple every happiness.