Christopher Oâ€™Gorman and ex-Hilliard Ensemble tenors Rogers Covey-Crump & John Potter first got together in 2012 as part of the University of Southamptonâ€™s AHRC-funded conductus research project. Three eponymous CDs and many Europe-wide concerts later the tenors have finally adopted the name, but in addition to their ground-breaking signature repertoire they are now exploring both older and newer music with programmes ranging from Perotin to Machaut and the great anonymous repertoires of the 14th century. Their backgrounds in the Hilliard Ensemble, Gothic Voices and Red Byrd, together with the link to current research, put the trio among the most experienced singers of medieval music today.
Over the last two years the ensemble has given concerts and workshops in the UK, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia and Germany. Programmes have ranged from performances demonstrating the latest research on the anonymous conductus repertoire to rarely-heard organa of the Notre Dame school by Perotin and others. Of the tenorsâ€™ German debut Rheinpfalz Zeitung said 'Diese Stimmen! Drei Weltklasse-TenÃ¶re des beginnenden 21 Jahrhunderts...' Spanish speakers can see a clip from the 5Ã¨ curs internacional de mÃºsica medieval de BesalÃº here
The ensemble has recorded three CDs for Hyperion. Conductus 1(CDA67949) was described by BBC Music Magazine as 'deeply moving and aesthetically breath-taking as the most complex, heart-on-sleeve music.... itâ€™s hardly necessary to mention that the performances are superbâ€™. International Record ReviewÂ commented that 'Ear-opening performances â€¦ allow the fragrance of the words to irradiate the rhythm and the melodic lines... .' and Gramophone observed that â€˜John Potter is one of the most experienced singers in the world for this kind of music and he is magically balanced by the glorious voice of the much younger Christopher Oâ€™Gorman. For the three-voice pieces the still impeccable Rogers Covey-Crump joins them...These are seriously classy performances.â€™
Music from Conductus I forms the soundtrack for the Fitzwilliam Museumâ€™s exhibition Colour: the Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts. There is a trailer below and the full introduction to the exhibition can be found here.
Conductus II (CDA67998) was characterised by International Record Review as â€˜an utterly arresting glimpse on a world that seems so utterly alien to ours as to render it truly sacred.â€™ Gramophone thought 'John Potter, Christopher O'Gorman and Rogers Covey-Crump are musicians who are entirely inside the style and manage to present everything with impeccable taste and purityâ€™ whilst BBC Music Magazine wrote that 'the three singers blend beautifully and each is attuned to the character of this graceful music.â€™ Visit the Hyperion YouTube site for Conductus II sound clips here.
Of Conductus III (CDA68115) Gramophone wrote â€˜John Potter, Christopher Oâ€™Gorman and Rogers Covey-Crump once again endorse their awesome reputation as unchallenged singers of this repertoryâ€™ and Diapason summed up the series as â€˜un vaste projet de recherche orchestrÃ© par le musicologue Mark Everist et "mis en voix" par les complices de John Potter. Sans compromis; la conclusion de la trilogie (cf. nÂº 607 et 620) Ã©clairante mais austÃ¨re montre le trio britannique toujours aussi Ã l'aise dans les diffÃ©rents styles d'Ã©criture du conduit: mÃ©lismatique, syllabique ou bien avec de longues vocalises mesurÃ©es selon le principe en vigueur Ã l'Ã©poque.â€™ Early Music Review gave the album 5 stars for both recording and performance. You can visit the Hyperion YouTube site for Conductus III sound clips here; subscribers to the Millennium of Music archive in the USA can hear Conductus III reviewed here.
The conductus research project
The Conductus ensemble has been involved since its inception with the University of Southamptonâ€™s AHRC-funded research project Cantum pulcriorum invenire, and performances and recordings to date reflect the very latest ground-breaking work undertaken by the Southampton team. The key research finding demonstrated by the singers is the extraordinarily expressive possibilities of singing polyphony without conventional metrical rhythm, enabling the vibrant and colourful poetry to come alive in ways not heard since the middle ages.
The three singers of the Conductus ensemble are experienced ensemble coaches and have given workshops all over Europe, focusing on crucial aspects of medieval singing such as tuning, the exploration of studentsâ€™ individual vocal persona and ensemble, most recently focusing on the unique challenges of singing polyphony with rhetorical rather than metrical rhythm.
John Potter John Potter first encountered medieval music with the Early Music Consort of London and was a member of the Hilliard Ensemble for eighteen years. His group Red Byrd recorded three CDs of Leonin & his contemporaries for Hyperion, and he produced the first three albums of Trio Mediaeval for ECM. His publications include a chapter on the modern performance of medieval music in the Cambridge History of Medieval Music.
Christopher Oâ€™Gorman As well as being an active performer of medieval music with the Conductus ensemble Christopher Oâ€™Gorman pursues a career both as a Songman in the Choir of York Minster and as an ensemble singer with a number of groups including the Gabrieli Consort, The Binchois Consort, The London Quartet, iFagiolini, Ex Cathedra, The Brabant Ensemble and Gothic Voices.Â
Rogers Covey-Crump Rogers Covey-Crump recorded with the Early Music Consort of London and went on to become a founder member of Gothic Voices. He spent three decades as a core member of the Hilliard Ensemble, with whom he recorded many albums of medieval music from Perotin to Machaut. He has also recorded the complete secular works of Guillaume Dufay with the Medieval Ensemble of London.
photos: Paul Arthur