:: 3 Medieval Tenors

Conductus complete

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

nb: new Conductus webpage here

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The performance element of the Conductus project reached its climax at the 5th annual course on medieval music inBesalú  at the weekend.


Concert pic


Funded by the AHRC, led by Mark Everist at the University of Southampton, and known officially as Cantum pulcriorum invenire (‘Finding a finer song’), the project has involved Christopher O’Gorman, Roger Covey-Crump and me in more than a dozen concerts and workshops in five different countries as well as three CDs. Our repertoire consists of some fifty pieces and is continuing to expand.  A big thankyou from the three of us to the AHRC, all the Southampton team, our manager Robert White and those workshop organisers who did such a great job. We’re looking forward to future collaboration (and, of course, the book). For those interested in the complete story – the venues, the repertoire, the name changes… there are more than 30 posts on this site charting our progress over the last few years.

We had a terrific time in Besalú – a great bunch of students from all over the planet (Mexico, the USA, Japan, Canada, France, not to mention Catalunya…) and a relaxed, friendly,  efficiently organised course.


Workshop pic


Mauricio Molina‘s vision will surely carry his project forward to great things in the future.  Part of our concert was featured on the local tv station (the final shot, somewhat embarrassingly, featuring an edition that was more Australian than Southampton…). We ended our last workshop with an open rehearsal of Exiit sermo, a virtuosic three voice organum which we’re performing in Gloucester next week.


Cantum image

One of the conditions of the AHRC grant was that we should reach beyond the higher education community, and we tapped into the wider audience this implied by engaging with festivals and concert series, some of which had never had a medieval experience before. Now that the research project is complete we’re able to take a sideways step into academia, so if there are universities out there interested in our post-Conductus projects do please get in touch…

Conductus: workshops & reviews

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Our final Conductus season is now under way with the release of the third and last eponymous Hyperion album. The deadline for applications for our next workshop (part of the  Cambridge Festival of the Voice) is fast approaching. You need to apply by April 11 and you can find details of how to register here. It takes place at Little St Mary’s 10.30 – 12.30 on Saturday May 14 before our concert in the afternoon. It’s the last AHRC-funded workshop we have planned in the UK. The next one is at the Medieval Performance Course  in Besalu July 16-17, after which we have a concert (but no workshop) at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester July 26. If you’re not familiar with this extraordinary and long-forgotten music you’ll find several posts below and a page of background info (with some sound clips) here.

Press has been good so far for Conductus 3. On the coals to Newcastle front Diapason gave us four stars (and tactfully avoided mentioning our French); Musicweb considered it ‘a small but bright jewel’  and our singing to be ‘fragrant’ (a first for all of us, I think); the Sunday Times was impressed with the ‘refinement and intimacy’ and several enjoyed the NCEM acoustic. The excellent  Hyperion page has longer extracts from the major reviews, and there’s a similar page for Conductus 1 and Conductus 2.

Rogers, Chris and I are greatly looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones on our latest Conductus adventure, and to new trio projects next year.


Conductus in 2016

Friday, January 8th, 2016


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.


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photos: Paul Arthur

Conductus, Amores Pasados update

Friday, August 7th, 2015


We had a fantastic time in Radovljica with the Conductus programme. For the first time we projected the film simultaneously with translations (into Slovenian – thanks to ever-resourceful festival director Domen Marincic). The audience really appreciated the direct connection with the texts (and we sold all the CDs that we’d brought, so they must have enjoyed the music). The next day we ran a three hour workshop with around 20 very talented students – most of whom were exploring conductus for the first time. It was the third time I’ve been invited to Domen Marincic’s festival, and every visit has been a joy – great music making and fabulous hospitality – and this time with temperatures up to 35 degrees. There are more festival pics here.

We have two more Conductus events this year – in Nieder Olm with our old friend Werner Schüßler on September 11th, and at the Brighton Early Music Festival on September 19th. I have a pretty hair-raising schedule that weekend, with Amores Pasados at the Improvisations Festival in Gliwice on the 17th and again at the Convergencies Festival in Bratislava on the 20th. Before that the Amores Pasados quartet returns to Spain for the Estella Festival on September 5th. October will be taken up with a visit to Havana with Ariel Abramovich for Leo Brouwer’s Voices festival and finishing a chapter on Pier-Francesco Tosi for the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics. More on all the above in a bit.

The diary for the next couple of months looks like this:

August 13: Conductus ensemble Radovljica Festival (Slovenia)

August 14: Conductus workshop Radovljica Festival

September 5: Amores Pasados Estella Festival (Spain)

September 11: Conductus ensemble concert + workshop: Nieder Olm (Germany)

September 17: Amores Pasados  Convergencies Festival Bratislava (Slovakia)

September 18: Amores Pasados workshop Bratislava

September 19: Conductus Ensemble + workshop Brighton Early Music Festival (UK)

September 20: Amores Pasados Improvisations Festival Gliwice (Poland)

October 5-12: Lute songs with Ariel Abramovich Festival Les Voix Humaines Havana (Cuba)

Engagements and new projects for next year are continuing to come in at a gratifying rate. There will be many more Conductus and Amores Pasados events (even the odd one in the UK). The recording of Peter-Anthony Togni’s Machaut-inspired Responsio will be released on ATMA Classique this November, and we’ll be performing Responsio in Canada and the USA and (hopefully) Russia. The third Conductus album is now ready to go and will see the light of day sometime after February. In the spring I’ll be meeting up again with the St Bridget arm of Daniel Stighäll’s Serikon (you can hear something of what we do here).

As I write, Amores Pasados is still going up and down the UK classical charts and we’re accumulating some wonderful new material that we hope to record in due course.

Amores Pasados & Conductus

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Beverley minster

The diary for the next few weeks looks like this:

May 21: 3 Medieval Tenors Beverley Early Music Festival
Conductus: the forgotten song of the middle ages

This is the first of our AHRC-funded concerts this year. It’s a lunchtime concert with a morning workshop and the programme will include at least one piece probably not performed for 800 years. You can book tickets here.

We’ll have copies of Conductus 1 & 2 for sale (no news yet of Conductus 3 but we’re hoping for September).

June 2-5: Tampere International Vocal Festival (Finland)



The ensemble singing season is in full swing. I’ll once more be chairing the ensemble jury at Tampere and am looking forward to some great music making. My fellow jurors are Jussi Chydenius from Rajaton, Anna Maria Friman from Trio Mediaeval, Anders Jalkeus from The Real Group and singer and composer Jenny Wilhelms-Seppälä. I’ve just heard that the German Ensemble Nobiles that Werner Schüßler and I have coached on a couple of occasions were prize winners at the Leipzig Acappella Festival run by the legendary Amarcord ensemble who attended Hilliard Ensemble summer schools when they were just starting out.

June 10: Durham: 3 Medieval Tenors Conductus: the forgotten song of the middle ages

Details still emerging but we’re expecting a workshop 2.00 – 4.00 and a concert at 8.00. Programme as for Beverley.


 June 12: Amores Pasados Aranjuez Festival (Spain)

This will be the launch of the ECM CD and our first live performance of the programme. We’ll do all the music from the album plus some Dowland, Finzi, Vaughan-Williams and C W Orr. We’ll have copies of the album for sale (it’s available on advance order from Amazon.de on advanced order for June 12.

The US release is a bit later, and copies can be ordered for July 17 on Amazon.com

AP cover


June 22: UK/Ireland release of Amores Pasados


June 21: Gavin Bryars Ensemble Glasgow

This is a Laude programme danced by the Stephen Pelton Dance Theatre. Tickets are available here

July 2: Amores Pasados Santiago de Compostela

Our second visit to Spain in three weeks. More to come in Spain later in the year, and also in Poland, Germany, Ireland and Cuba.

July 6: Brussels: 3 Medieval Tenors Conductus: the forgotten song of the middle ages

Workshop and concert at the MedRen Conference. The concert is in the beautiful abbaye de la Cambre. Details still sketchy but you should be able to get more information here. More Conductus gigs in the UK, Germany and Slovenia later in the year.

July 10: recording Roger Marsh’s Poor Yorick


Shandy Hall

I’ll be joining fellow ex-Hilliards at Shandy Hall to record the setting of Sterne that Roger wrote for the Hilliards’ 40th anniversary tour in 2013.

July 19: Selene Mills Memorial Concert Great St Mary’s Cambridge

Join the ex-Hilliards and many old friends to celebrate the life of Selene Mills.

Amores Pasados updates

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Avila selfie


Amores Pasados – dates so far

Dates are coming in at quite a rate for the Amores Pasados quartet (Anna Maria Friman, Ariel Abramovich, Jacob Heringman and me). ECM are on track for a June release and we will launch the album at the Festival Música Antigua Aranjuez on June 13. We’ll be in Santiago de Compostela on July 2nd for the Festival Via Stellae and on September 5th we’re in Estella for the 46 Semana de Música Antigua de Estella and in Gliwice (Poland) on September 20. We’ll be touring Germany in the first half of November, and travelling to the Triskell Arts Centre in Cork on November 27. The main feature of the programme is the new music by Sting and Tony Banks and the new arrangements of John Paul Jones’ Amores Pasados which will be receiving their first performances. The live programme will consist of all the music from album plus new transcriptions of 20th century English songs for voice and two lutes by Warlock, Dunhill, C W Orr, Quilter and Vaughan Williams. There will of course also be some Dowland and a couple of insane lute duets.

We’re very excited about this – it’s ground-breaking stuff – and we’re bringing new music on stream all the time (both lutesongs by rock musicians and transcriptions of early 20th century English songs – two brand new repertoires for voices and lutes).

Ariel Abramovich and I will also be doing the Sting and Tony Banks songs in Havana on October 10th at Leo Brouwer’s Festival of the Human Voice.




University of Gothenburg conference

In the meantime I’m off to Gothenburg for a very unusual conference. It brings together a number of specialist performers and academics to debate the future of performance in higher education. Its full title is ORNAMENTING (force) an ECOLOGY of TRUST (form): Exploring Force and Form through Performance /Performativity and it’s organised by the Swedish polymath performer Elisabeth Belgrano (whose presentation at the  NEMA conference in York caused quite a stir). If you’re in Gothenburg this week come and hear/see/experience some challenging events:

The aim of this entangled encounter (an alternative way of meeting) is to turning the forces and forms of academic traditions slightly upside-­‐down/inside-­‐out, somehow mirroring ‘the uneasiness’ sensed around us in our global society. Our common task will be to create an environment where boundaries between subjects and objects at first remain undefined and uncertain in order to intra-­‐actively articulating new knowledge while ORNAMENTING (force) an ECOLOGY of TRUST (form).

Trollhättan Early Music Days

Coincidentally, I’m in Sweden a couple of weeks later for the Trollhättans tidig musik dagar, singing a concert of music for St Brigit of Sweden with Anna Maria Friman and Daniel Stighäll.

 3 Medieval Tenors

Then it’s the start of the Conductus season at the Beverley Early Music Festival. More on this and the complete list of upcoming gigs through to 2016 in a bit.



3 Medieval Tenors in Bratislava

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

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We had a fabulous time in Bratislava. For most people in our audiences this is medieval music as never heard before, and we’re never quite sure how they will react. We needn’t have worried – there must have been 50 people at our introductory talk at the Conservatory in the morning (many thanks to Andrej Šuba, for incredible instant translating), and the cathedral was packed with attentive listeners for the concert. They even wanted more.


This was our first programme to feature music from all three Conductus albums, and some of it is very weird indeed. We had lots of great feedback, several listeners describing it as hypnotic and moving – extraordinary really when you consider that the language is almost impenetrable so all you have to go on are the hybrid rhetorical/musical shapes rather than literal meaning. It’s a huge challenge for us – we’ve come a long way since our first tentative experiments and learn a lot with each successive performance. Thanks to Jozef Luptak for a grand time (and to the Austria Trend Hotel for the Nespresso machine in every room).

The first tranch of Conductus dates is pretty well sorted:

May 21 Beverley Early Music Festival (lunchtime concert)
June 10 Durham Arts Festival
July 6 Brussels (MedRen Conference)
August 13 Radovljica Festival (Slovenia)
September 11 Nieder Olm Festival (Germany)
September 19 Brighton Early Music Festival

We’ve changed the programme slightly for Beverley, and there will be at least one first performance (first performance in 800 years, that is).

These are all subsidised by the AHRC and each has an open (free) introductory workshop attached to it, so come and join us. We’re also negotiating for concerts in Cambridge, Besalu and Germany in 2016. The latest news on the 3rd album is that it will be released in August.


If you want a flavour of the music (and if you speak Slovak) there’s a bit of film here…. Koncert tenoristov Johna Pottera, Christophera O’Gormana a Rogersa Coveyho-Crumpa bol fascinujúcim návratom do veku katedrál v 13. storočí. There’s also our interview (in English…) with Slovak radio here (thanks Joanna!). You’ll find us at about 5.52.

Upcoming concerts

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015


This week I’m off to the Adelaide Festival where Gavin Bryars is composer in residence. I’ve been several times to the East and West coasts of Australia but this will be my first visit to the south. I’m hoping to see Gavin’s Marilyn Munroe opera soon after we arrive, then we have a GBE gig at which Peyee Chen and I will sing his (Blake) Morrison Songbook and a selection of Irish Madrigals and Laude. Then we have the wonderful Shakespeare sonnet cycle Nothing Like the Sun, with the magical spoken voice of Gavin Friday. It’ll be a pretty intense few days – super-charged essence of Bryars. And the sun should be shining…

3 Medieval Tenors


Not long after arriving home I’ll be heading for Bratislava for a Three Medieval Tenors concert in the cathedral on March 16th. I love Bratislava – it’s not only very beautiful but it has a proper cultural community that’s up for anything – and the cathedral is a wonderful building (I’ve performed there with the Dowland Project); it’s the perfect acoustic for the Conductus programme.

The next Three Med Tens concert is on May 21st in Beverly Minster (seating is limited and tickets are selling fast, so don’t miss it if you’re in Yorkshire). Our next visit to the north is Durham on June 9 or 10, then we have the Med Ren conference in Brussels July 6th, Radovljica on August 13th, Nieder Olm the week of September 10-17, and Brighton on September 19th. All of these have AHRC workshops where you can sign up (for free) to learn about the history of Conductus and how to perform this extraordinary musical/poetic hybrid music. They’re open to all, and there will be something for everyone whatever their previous musical experience.

Amores Pasados

ECM have confirmed that the album will be released in May/June, and we’ll be having a Spanish launch at the Aranjuez Festival (near Madrid) on June 13th with further concerts in Spain, Germany and Ireland later in the year. The programme will include all the music from the album, plus more of each of the three genres represented (new songs by rock musicians, early 20th century English song transcriptions, and 17th century lutesongs).