It went a little quiet on the Conductus front towards the end of last year, but the third phase of the Cantum pulcriorum invenire project is now under way. Hyperion will release the third album on February 26, and later in the year we have concerts and workshops in Cambridge and Besalu. These will probably be the last opportunities to hear the three of us doing a dedicated Conductus programme as we’re beginning to branch out into other repertories.
Conductus 3 is, shall we say, more hard core than the two previous CDs. It’s a research project after all, and this not the album that we singers would have made had we been dependent on anyone actually buying it. Because our recorded repertoire is a research ‘output’ we can only do what the Southampton musicologists ask us to do, and rather than climax in a blaze of three-voice glory the final recording reverts to Conductorial purity with Rogers, Chris and me doing a lot of solos and comparatively little polyphony. This doesn’t mean we’ve stopped exploring the 3 tenor material (or that it’s not a great record…) – we have some positively symphonic 3 voice pieces in our current programme – but that’s just how the research schedule panned out.
Fittingly perhaps, since we now know a great deal more about how to perform this music, the very last AHRC event takes place over three days. We’ve been invited to the International Course of Medieval Music Performance at Besalú . The course runs July 8-23 and is probably the most comprehensive medieval music course currently on offer anywhere. There are five other strands in addition to ours, with specialist tutors in the Carmina Burana, Pythagorean tuning, liturgical Easter dramas, medieval Latin and the aesthetics of medieval song. We’ll also be supervising a concert by our workshop participants, which will be a new departure for us. Besalú is one of the most beautiful medieval villages in Spain so the whole event promises to be a real treat. You can register here and we hope to see some old friends as well as make many new ones.
Saturday May 14th we’ll be doing a concert and workshop in Cambridge. Anyone who came to our concert in April 2013 will understand something of the journey we’ve made since then. Rogers hadn’t yet joined us, and Chris and I were focusing on the 2-voice repertoire (with Mick Lynch’s film to distract from the fact that that it was just the two of us for a whole evening). It was a very intense programme, preceded by a talk with an extraordinarily engaged audience. If you were there, come along and see where we’ve got to. The workshop is 10.30 – 12.30 in Little St Mary’s and you can register here. Our concert (also in Little St Mary’s) will feature at least one piece that probably hasn’t been performed for 800 years, and it’s likely to be the last all-Conductus programme in the UK before we introduce our new programme at the Three Choirs Festival in July.
We’re still debating the name question. ‘Conductus’ has been the title of the albums, not the name of our ensemble. As the original project neared its end we began to explore other repertoires and we flirted with the idea of calling ourselves Three Medieval Tenors, so that people wouldn’t think we did just the one genre. But then we began to be called THE Three Medieval Tenors which we thought was rather over the top, so we’ve abandoned that. I’m not sure we need an ensemble name, but if we have one it’s likely to be…Conductus.
Post Conductus and pre-history
Our new programmes will apply the same rhetorical principles to parallel and later repertoires, especially the works of Leonin and Perotin. Mark Everist edited the music for the three Red Byrd CDs of Leonin and his anonymous contemporaries, and was an advisor for the live Hilliard album of Perotin and the Ars Antiqua (and the iconic Hilliard ECM Perotin album is one of the best-selling early music records ever), so between us we have a lot of medieval history. Rogers and I go back even further, having sung on the David Munrow recordings of this music. It’s quite something to have lived with this music for so long and to be still discovering its essential newness.
photos: Paul Arthur