:: Responsio

Juno, new writing & releases

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Apologies to those looking for the gig list (there’s a provisional one below).  I’m taking three months off to finish a book. I’ve promised myself a first draft by Easter so work starts again in April (writing, being pure self-indulgence and hardly profitable, doesn’t count as work). It’s going quite well so far – that early rush where you get everything down in a very raw form before you realise it probably has to be a bit more tactful (and possibly better researched).  Later in the year three other odd bits of writing will finally appear: ‘Voice, Genre, Species? How the tenor voice has been defined since the first recordings’ will be published by Schott Mainz in Der Tenor: Mythos, Geschichte und Gegenwart (in my original English after all rather than a German translation); my piece on Pier Francesco Tosi for the Max Planck Institute’s music aesthetics encyclopedia project will be published (in German) by Bärenreiter, and the long delayed Cambridge History of  Medieval Music for which I contributed on modern performance of medieval music is now with CUP.

Responsio nominated for a Juno

album cover

In the meantime… our recording of Peter-Anthony Togni’s Responsio (with Jeff Reilly, bass clarinet) has been nominated for a JUNO award (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammies). The list also includes Adele and Justin Bieber (though they needn’t worry about the competition as they’re in different categories). We’ll be performing the piece in Montreal and Halifax in April. There’s a great review of the recording here.

Conductus 3 released February 26

Details in my two previous posts., together with info on concerts & workshops in the UK and Spain later this year. There will be a review in the April Gramophone. 

Amores Pasados reviews, future plans

Two interesting reviews from critics who really understand what we’re all about: the autumn issue of the Journal of the Lute Society of America has just reached us, and Nick Lea writes for Jazz Views here. There’s also a long interview on the Jazz Views site with info about the genesis of the Dowland Project, Conductus, Being Dufay,  Amores Pasados and much more.  Gramophone decided not to review the album, incidentally  – the first ECM release of mine that they’ve ignored. I guess they just don’t like rock musicians. Our next one’s going to be even worse…

The Amores Pasados season kicks off in Seville at the Teatro Centrale in April – details to follow. Gigs in the UK and Germany later in the year and a possible South American tour in 2017. New recording some time after the summer – be prepared for some unique engagements with Shakespeare from some very distinguished rock musicians.


The provisional gig list for the spring and early summer looks like this:

April 2/3

Helsinki Sibelius Academy

April 6

Amores Pasados, Teatro Centrale, Sevilla

April 16

Responsio Halifax (Canada)

April 17

Responsio (Montreal)

May 3

Gavin Bryars Laude dance project, Winchester Cathedral

May 14

Conductus Cambridge Festival of the Voice

June 9

Amores Pasados National Centre for Early Music, York (Festival of Ideas)

(the next Amores Pasados gigs will be in Germany in September & October)

July 16-18

Conductus Besalu (International Course on Medieval Music Performance)

July 26

Conductus Gloucester (Three Choirs Festival)

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.

Responsio wins in Nova Scotia

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Very excited to hear Peter Togni’s extrapolation on the Machaut Mass Responsio has won the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award.  He wrote it for Jeff Reilly’s bass clarinet plus a quartet of voices (Suzie LeBlanc, Andrea Ludwig, Charles Daniels and me). I love composers working with other composers’ music – something that medieval composers did all the time.  It’s been great to be involved with both Responsio and Ambrose Field’s Being Dufay. Both composers got inside the heads of their illustrious predecessors and came out refreshed and inspired.  I had a great time in Canada last summer doing the first performances of Responsio. The recording we made will be released next autumn on Naxos, and we’ll be touring Canada and the US in April 2016. I hope we  might also be be able to do it here in Europe too. We need a festival that takes composers working with dead forebears as its theme!

Here’s a bit of Togni’s Agnus Dei with Jeff Reilly in full flow:


Machaut Acadian stye

Saturday, August 17th, 2013


I have four performances of Peter-Anthony Togni’s Responsio in Nova Scotia coming up:

August 22            St John’s Church, Lunenburg (7.30)

August 23            Manning Chapel, Wolfville (7.30)

August 24            All Saints Cathedral, Halifax (7.30)

August 25            Eglise St Bernard, St Bernard (4.00)

(more details and ticketing information on Jeff Reilly’s site here)


Responsio is an extrapolation on the Machaut mass (actually, a response to it…). Living composers working with dead ones has been one of the great creative drivers from the medieval period to the present, and it’s always exciting to be at the sharp end of that process. Togni’s work also taps into the medieval and renaissance practice of expanding an existing composition by adding an extra voice – in this case the bass clarinet of Canadian polymath Jeff Reilly. The instrumental line is part-improvised, part-composed and will enrich the Machaut texture even further, adding a completely different linear element on top of the Machaut chordal structure. The other interesting thing about this line up is that it’s two women (Suzie LeBlanc and Andrea Ludwig) and two men (Charles Daniels and me).   That will create a radically different soundscape from the more usual male-orientated scoring favoured by the early music movement. There’s a very narrow pitch window in which the piece will work for this line-up (it’s often done with a fifth singer to avoid extreme tessituras), and it means that Charles and I will be singing very high and very low from time to time. And then there’s the question of how we pronounce the Latin – Acadian maybe?


The diary for September looks like this:

September 9-11     Conductus (a3) at the Cantum pulcriorum invenire conference, University of Southampton

September 14        Sibelius Academy, Helsinki

Septermber 15      Colosseum (Rome): Hilliard Ensemble

September 22       Conductus (a3) in  Otterberg


In October I’ll be recording in Austria and coaching in Finland (details to follow). The Night Sessions has its first Russian review from Blair Sanderson at Rutcracker.org:

…This album is not for early music purists or people who like to put their music in neat cubbyholes, because the blending of consort music with avant-garde jazz and experimental vocalizations does not allow for easy categorization. Yet the album works surprisingly well on its own terms, not only because of its compelling feeling of darkness and melancholy, but also because it provides many inventive transformations and surprises that keep the listener thinking. It may be called crossover music for the sake of convenience, but Night Sessions really is sui generis.

He gets it.



Sunday, May 12th, 2013


House-moving 1 complete! Looking forward to Tampere and Mauerbach, and especially this:

Jessen flyer


Dowland Project

The Night Sessions is about to see the light of day. I’ve seen the booklet…and you can even pre0rder it on Amazon for June 24.

Conductus in York, Southampton and Otterberg

On July 10th Chris O’Gorman and I will sing six pieces (by candle light) from the forthcoming Conductus 2 album at the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall as part of the PMMS study day in York.

We’ll be joined by Rogers Covey-Crump for concerts in Southamton and Otterberg in September.  There’s preliminary  info about the Southampton Cantum Pulcriorum invenire conference here, and you can see details of our German debut  here (in  German).


Peter Togni’s Responsio project

Advance notice for friends in Canada: we’ll be touring Peter Togni’s  re-envisioning of the Machaut Mass (with Jeff Reilly, bass clarinet). The score is finished and on it way. The schedule is still evolving but at the moment includes Lunenburg (August 22nd),  Wolfville (23rd),  Halifax (24th),  St Bernard (25th) after which we hope to record the piece.