"…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
“A Feather on the Breath of God…”
This wonderfully evocative phrase of Abbess Hildegard of Bingen – chosen as the title of Gothic Voices’ groundbreaking and award-winning first recording – is a fine description of the sound world that the ensemble inhabits. For more than thirty years Gothic Voices has been world-renowned for the excellence, refinement and spirituality of its performances of medieval music and has appeared throughout Europe and in the Americas.
Originally founded in 1980 by the scholar and musician Christopher Page, Gothic Voices has gone on to record twenty-three CDs for the Hyperion and Avie labels, three of which won the coveted Gramophone Magazine Early Music Award.
Gothic Voices is committed to bringing medieval music into the mainstream. Their imaginative programmes use their voices in varying combinations to produce authoritative performances of great beauty which have won the appreciation of audiences all over the world.
The ensemble also enjoys performing contemporary music, particularly pieces with medieval associations. Many of today’s composers are influenced by the medieval repertoire and its often experimental nature. Gothic Voices plans to give a renewed emphasis to the combination of old and new alongside its more traditional programmes.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
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
|Champagne and Burgundy||
A programme of rich harmonies, rhythmic energy and glorious inventiveness from two of the greatest masters of the Middle Ages, Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377) and Guillaume Dufay (c.1400-1474), who dominated music in medieval France. This programme traces a path from the early experiments with dissonance and rhythm of the Ars Nova, through the more exaggerated mannered style of the Ars subtillior at the turn of the century towards the new transparency of texture with which Dufay sought to imitate the work of Dunstaple, the Contenance Angloise. For the initiated this is a fascinating journey through the period's most significant developments in polyphony. For those lucky enough to be meeting this music for the first time it is a spell-binding introduction to some of the greatest music ever written.
|The Unknown Lover||
Total mystery surrounds the life of the late 14th century French composer Solage. There appear to be no written references to him other than his name attached to 10 works in the Chantilly Codex, and yet his music makes up more than 10% of the manuscript, showing him to be the leading composer of what is now called the Ars subtilior. This programme is a show-case for his complete works, all love-songs, demonstrating the variety of his gifts as a composer. Interspersed among these are a selection of Machaut's love-songs, providing a sorbet-like relief from the richness of Solage, both in timbre and texture, and also showing the origins from which Solage’s fascinating musical style developed.
|The Combat of Life and Death||
Gothic Voices presents a programme of medieval and renaissance music from the 12th to the 16th centuries celebrating the victory of life over death as exemplified by the example of the martyrs of the Church and by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. From 12th century sequences by Hildegard of Bingen through to motets by Arcadelt and Penalosa the music portrays the lives of among others, St Ursula and the 11,000 virgins of Köln, St Stephen, St Catherine of Alexandria, and St Thomas of Canterbury. The Blessed Virgin Mary is represented as an example of life-giving grace in Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, and the programme concludes with a setting of the Easter introit Haec dies quam fecit dominus rejoicing at Christ’s resurrection from the dead.