"…sustenance for the soul, a short-cut to bliss…"
"…King's mezzo rose with the sun to a central ecstasy for which not even the beauty of earlier pieces had prepared us…"
"…their tuning, intonation and tone control were perfect…"
Early Music Review
For more than thirty years Gothic Voices has been renowned for the excellence, refinement and spirituality of its performances of medieval music.
Described by Gramophone as “absolute leaders in the field”, Gothic Voices is committed to bringing medieval music into the mainstream. The ensemble has built an impressive reputation for promoting previously unfamiliar music to audiences throughout the world. Gothic Voices continues to evolve, producing imaginative programmes and giving authoritative performances of great beauty.
Gothic Voices’s ground-breaking recording of the music of Hildegard of Bingen, A Feather on the Breath of God, remains one of the best-selling recordings of pre-classical music ever made. Since the ensemble was founded in 1980, Gothic Voices has produced an acclaimed discography of over twenty CDs for the Hyperion, Avie and Linn record labels, three of which won the coveted Gramophone Magazine Early Music Award.
The juxtaposition of old and new is also now a staple of the ensemble’s programmes. Praised for performances of “serenity and grace” (Financial Times), Gothic Voices enjoys exploring contemporary music, particularly pieces with medieval associations. They have commissioned and collaborated with living composers including Joanne Metcalf, Andrew Smith, Karen Takana, and Michael Pisaro.
Recent and upcoming highlights include a tour of Spain and performances for Laus Polyphoniae at the Flanders Festival, BRQ Vantaa Festival in Helsinki, Music in the Loire Valley, Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Louth Contemporary Music Society, and collaborations with the Oslo Domkor and the Norwegian Academy of Music. Gothic Voices’s next disc Nowell Syng We Bothe Al and Som will be released on Linn Records in Autumn 2019.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
"The Dufay Spectacle"
Linn Records, released April 2018
Voices and instruments alike swiftly entice the listener with their excellence and evocative atmosphere, Gothic Voices magnificently transporting us to their 15th-century sound world.
Martin Cullingford, Gramophone (Editor's Choice)
The take-away [from this disc] is that Gothic Voices fill this music with life. For all the clarity of the presentation - and this is exemplary, even when instruments are added - the expression always comes first.
Detlef Krenge, BR Klassik
Exquisite French chansons (in the formes fixes of rondeau and ballade) sit alongside richly textured Latin motets and arrangements. The four singers of Gothic Voices, the mezzo Clare Wilkinson and a quartet of instrumentalists seem perfectly attuned to Dufay’s intoxicatingly elegant, graceful style.
Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times
What a pleasure, then, to be able to welcome this Dufay recording as matching all the qualities that made Gothic Voices absolute leaders in the field. This time it looks very much as though Julian Podger is the presiding genius; and he has chosen the repertory very well [...] To mention all the glorious details here would break the banks of this review but I cannot avoid mentioning the marvellously experienced singing of Catherine King and her duetting with Steven Harrold: that is seriously classy.
David Fallows, Gramophone (Critics' Choice 2018)
The Dufay Spectacle is a beautiful, versatile and above all flawless musical portrait of the greatest composer of the 15th century, Guillaume Dufay. The venerable ensemble Gothic Voices sings refined, two- and three-voice polyphony, and the rhythmic ingenuity and melodic richness make this album an amazing journey through time.
Robert van Gijssel, De Volkskrant (de Volkskrant Best Albums of 2018, No. 3)
Given the complexity of rhythm and texture in much of this music, it is wonderful to hear such stylish performances in which vocal flexibility and clarity are never absent.
Tony Way, Limelight Magazine (Top 5 Vocal Recording of 2018)
Louth Contemporary Music Society
Dundalk Gaol, Ireland, June 2018
The exquisite Gothic Voices built new music out of old: 13th-century troubadour songs leading to sweet-sour music by Karen Tanaka and Linda Buckley.
Kate Molleson, The Guardian
York Early Music Christmas Festival
National Centre for Early Music, December 2016
During its 30 years, the distinguished vocal group Gothic Voices have built up quite a following. The National Centre for Early Music was full for their evening of late medieval music for Advent and Christmas last Friday. Their authority in this repertoire was obvious, and made for characterful and convincing performances. Close harmonies in the 12th-13th century Verbum Patris Humanatur sounded both ancient and curiously modern, while In Natali Novi Regis was touchingly intimate. The 13th-century Dou Way Robin/Sancta Mater Gratiae exuded seemly humility, and Alleluia Psallat brought a joyfully energetic close to the first half; its solo verse interlude showed mezzo-soprano Catherine King at her vibrant, intense best, with power in reserve. Rhythms crackled in the anonymous 15th-century carol Alleluya: A Newe Werk, while the anonymous narrative Nowell, Nowell, Nowell had an engaging rusticity. Ther Is No Rose Of Swych Virtu displayed the rich yet peaceful sonic purity of three perfectly blended voices.
Care and artistry were also lavished on liturgical items, including Dunstaple’s resonant Magnificat and the magnificent Gloria from the 15th-century Missa Caput. Queldryk’s contrasting setting of the Gloria seemed to revel gleefully in its text’s sheer wordiness… this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert, presented with scholarly authenticity.
The York Press
York early music Christmas festival created an opportunity to hear how the words of the Magnificat flowered in the minds of composers over some 250 years. The earliest, by the 15th-century English composer John Dunstaple was a sublimely minimal three-part setting sung by medieval specialists Gothic Voices
Spitalfields Winter Festival
Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, December 2016
Across town, Spitalfields Music, celebrating 40 years of Festivals, launched its latest winter edition… The vocal quartet of Gothic Voices unfolded an imaginative Marian sequence of 12th – 15th century settings, with modern interpolations by Joanne Metcalf and Andrew Smith, in the beautiful little history-soaked Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times
“Mary Star of the Sea”
Linn Records, released August 2016
Ancient and modern often sit alongside in sacred music. In putting together a musical portrait of Mary, mother of Jesus, Gothic Voices have turned to composers medieval and contemporary. The mood throughout is one of serenity and grace. In new works by Joanne Metcalf and Andrew Smith, American and English respectively, the old reverence takes on a subtly distinctive modern tone. The membership of Gothic Voices has changed over the years, but the present four singers have lost nothing of the group’s original purity and fine sense of balance.
Richard Fairman, Financial Times
This welcome revitalisation of an iconic group is characterised by warmth of tone and beautiful blend. Their selection of Marian medieval monody and polyphony, arranged with the greatest care and taste into two parts expressing her heavenly and human attributes, includes Latin and old English texts, offering differently intimate sound worlds. Alongside glorious, delicately nuanced new works by the brilliant American Joanne Metcalf, including the magical 'Music for the Star of the Sea' , and the affectionately sonorous 'Stond wel Moder, under rode' from Andrew Smith, here is a thoroughly engaging recording of impeccable clarity.
Rebecca Taverner, Choir and Organ
The four singers of Gothic Voices produce an exceptionally good consort sound as well as impressing in their various solo roles...[a] beautiful recording.
A fascinating release… Gothic Voices are still a formidable force.
Gary Higginson, MusicWeb International
London - March 2015
Gothic Voices, an ensemble synonymous with all-vocal performances of medieval music, made a welcome return to the London stage... key to the mesmeric stage presence of the quartet, there were no tuning forks, and no humming. Rather, monodic and polyphonic works alike were plucked as if from mid-air allowing the programme’s sequence to unfold and envelope the audience. This also held true with the modern compositions, which were performed with equal panache... Andrew Smith’s two-part Stond wel, moder, under rode (Stand well, mother under the cross) set the second half ablaze with searing harmonies served up with relish by these assured vocalists... The ensemble’s tag line ‘unaccompanied close medieval harmonies’ is apt. Their clearly etched tuning and uncluttered style suits the narrow compass of the music well, and their warm blend brings intimacy to the vertical qualities of medieval repertoire. Topped with the rich vocals of mezzo-soprano Catherine King, their sound has become less hard-line over the years and now provides an important alternative to today’s prevailing countertenor-led sound-world... Gothic Voices are supreme.
Edward Breen, Early Music Today
brilliant and hypnotic, its busy texture dazzling with vocal virtuosity and the miracle of fitting everything together... a stunning performance from the singers... The group's performances of the contemporary repertoire was admirably confident and stylish, whilst their performances of the medieval pieces were thankfully without a sense of prissiness and instead full of stylish vigour.
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
“A Laurel for Landini - 14th Century Italy’s Greatest Composer”
Avie Records (released autumn ’08)
There could be no better introduction to the delights of late-medieval music...enjoyably intriguing...Gothic Voices make imaginative use of varied scorings, and their lively, expressive performances are first class.
Elizabeth Roche , Daily Telegraph
This CD is a delight. It contains music which is focused; intimate without being breathily urgent; lightly melodious and shot through with clean, expressive singing... Gothic Voices have the gift of being able to bring such music to life so effortlessly...This is an exciting, profound and excellently executed CD.
Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
...superbly blended Gothic Voices... the performances capture Landini's almost jazzy, syncopated rhythms, lively counterpoint and melodic flourishes to perfection.
Robert Levett, International Record Review
Taking intelligent and tasteful programming to even greater heights, Gothic Voices in ‘A Laurel for Landini’ showcase the 14th century maestro in an ideal balance…exceptionally fine and virtuosic performance.
Rebecca Tavener, Choir and Organ
Gothic Voices sample programmes
|Mary, Star of the Sea||
A musical exploration of powerful ancient poetic texts, set by medieval 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 medieval and contemporary responses.
Music by John Dunstaple (c.1390-1453), his contemporaries and earlier, Joanne Metcalf (*1958), Andrew Smith (*1970)
|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 medieval 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)
|Nowel Syng We Bothe Al and Som||
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
|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)
|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)