Mary — Star of the Sea

A musical exploration of powerful ancient poetic texts, set by mediaeval English masters and complemented by present-day responses to their themes, Mary – Star of the Sea celebrates the biblical matriarch in her various guises and images that have grown up through eons of continuous fascination: celestial queen, guiding light, mediator, caring mother, virgin lover. ‘Out of the heavens a flaming band dropped, formed in a circle like a crown, that girdled and encompassed her’ – this vibrant imagery with its circling, soaring melodies of poetry describing the mythical qualities of Mary, and expressions of anguish and torment by the cross displaying her human side – ‘Son, how could I refrain from tears, I see those streams of blood run out of your heart to my feet’. Hear how the force of Marian lore transcends time and age, and how contemporary compositional skill combines with that force to unify the mediaeval and contemporary responses.


Music by John Dunstaple (c.1390-1453), his contemporaries and earlier, Joanne Metcalf (*1958), Andrew Smith (*1970)


4 singers


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Alleluya psallat / Alleluya concinat – Virga Jesse

Stond wel, moder (Anon)

Pia mater salvatoris (Anon)

More samples on our Recordings page

Nowel Syng We Bothe Al and SomChristmas programme

A gathering of music-lovers during the Christmas season today will often result in a hearty carol singing evening, with its focus on the wonderful melodies of the past. Imagine such an event 600 years ago, complete with some of the music we call old being utterly modern, and when their music ‘from the past’ reached back a further 300 years… Hear the fervour of known and unknown carols in their original 15th century form, and the elegance of their ingenious forerunners in this celebratory interplay of narrative and symbolic poetry picturing the biblical stories of Mary and Jesus, and bound together with a mark of festive ritual by large-scale mass movements by early English celebrities Dunstaple and Power.


Music by Leonel Power (1370 or 85-1445), John Dunstaple (c.1390-1453). Anon. 12th-15th centuries, England


4 singers


Hear a sample:

Sanctus à 4 (Power)

Verbum patris umanatur O O (Anon)

Ther ys no rose of swich virtu (Anon)

More samples on our Videos page

New light on an ancient world

What exactly is modern? Comparisons compared: how much more ‘modern’ would contemporary music sound compared to mediaeval, than that of a 15th century master to that of one from the 14th, which the former might well call ‘ancient’? There is of course no real answer, but this programme illuminates these relationships by drawing attention to various compositional styles across the ages, and to the differences and similarities in the composers’ responses to the texts focussing on devotion to a divine being in the first half, and to an idolised mistress in the second. Experience the ingenuity and confident flamboyance of Machaut’s chansons, translated into the ‘modern directness’ and invention of musical expression in those by Dufay writing in the same genres a century later, and the heartfelt contemporary response to Hildegard of Bingen’s visionary portrayal of a primordial life force ‘O fire of the comforting spirit’.


Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377), Guillaume Dufay (c.1397-1474), Andrew Keeling (*1955)


4 singers


Hear a sample:

Vetus abit littera (Anon)

Powered by joy (Keeling)

The Dufay Spectacle

In a pageant of versatility featuring France’s greatest pre-Renaissance composer we enter the world of a grand New Year’s Day wedding feast, full of optimism and vision, tempered by playful emotional hardship, the music teasingly exploring the relationship between both, solemnised with some of Dufay’s greatest motets and a festive use of instruments to mark the splendour of the occasion. From this final flourish of the mediaeval era we hear in Dufay’s quintessential Burgundian virtuosity how its musical richness has reached the point when it is about to burst into the new artistry and ideas of the Renaissance. The Dufay Spectacle celebrates this artist’s genius with an eclectic show of frolicking and passionate robustness, plaintive devotional ardour, now with slow, dark rhythms, now upbeat cascades of melody, and thrilling complex rhythms. As the central chanson rings out its New Year’s promise ce jour de l’an is indeed a day to celebrate.


Motets and songs by Guillaume Dufay (c.1397-1474)


4-6 singers, sackbut, shawm, fiddle, harp

(also available with singers only)


Hear a sample (more samples on our recordings page)

Je vous pri

Entre vous, gentils amoureux

Hildegard of Bingen

Be transported into the enigmatic world of Hildegard’s ecstatic vision, euphoric singing, florid spiritual poetry and resounding monastic space in this exploration of masterpieces by the iconic mystic. Her unique and individual creations, at once calm and animated, conjure up images of earthly, natural beauty that infuse their spirituality, and are set here against the more austere and stern, though equally thrilling sound of the musical tradition of the time in western Europe.


Chant by Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) framed by polyphony by 12th century anonymous composers from England and France


4 singers, hurdy-gurdy, harp

(also available with singers only)


Hear a Sample: Hildegard of Bingen Ave Generosa

More programmes are available on request

Please contact our agent in the UK or Germany