The Cardinall’s Musick

Vocal Ensemble

"the voices of Andrew Carwood and his eight cohorts could probably start a blaze in the Antarctic!"

The Times

"one of the most important vocal groups in Britain's early-music armoury"

The Independent

"The Cardinall's, in any case, could make music out of a John Prescott speech"

The Times

"Clear tones; perfect intonation; an ideal balance between individual colour and an ensemble blend; emotional directness: Monday night found them on triumphant form"

The Times

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A ‘jewel in the crown’ of early-music consorts, The Cardinall’s Musick specialises in music of the 16th and 17th centuries. Through a large number of award-winning recordings and concerts they have rapidly established, under Andrew Carwood’s direction, an enviable reputation as one of the most expressive, entertaining and professional ensembles in the world, re-creating the sounds of the past in a way that makes them live in the present.

Founded in 1989, The Cardinall’s Musick is a highly successful and innovative ensemble. Taking its name from the 16th-century cardinal, Thomas Wolsey, the group is known for its extensive study of English Renaissance music. Although primarily a vocal group, The Cardinall’s Musick also has its own period instrumental ensemble, and now embraces a wide range of styles and periods: from complete reconstructions of historical events (the Field of the Cloth of Gold) to world premieres of commissioned music from composers such as Michael Finnissy, Simon Whalley, Matthew Martin and Judith Weir.

One of the group’s main strengths lies in the combination of solid academic research and the singers’ ability to perform as soloists within a team, ‘preserving their vocal personalities rather than striving for a mellifluous blend … resulting in a vibrant texture of timbres’ (The Daily Telegraph). Add a sincere love of the music and a deep personal commitment in performance, and ‘the voices of Andrew Carwood and his eight cohorts could probably start a blaze in the Antarctic!’ (The Times). Their thoughtful, themed programmes are designed to stimulate and enlighten, to broaden horizons and bring a fresh approach to standard repertoire.

The Cardinall’s Musick has performed at the most prestigious UK festivals, including Spitalfields, Bath, Chester, Aldeburgh, the Three Choirs and the BBC Proms, as well as throughout Europe. Its prize-winning discography includes music by Nicholas Ludford, William Cornysh, Robert Fayrfax, Lassus, Palestrina and Victoria. They have won the Gramophone Award for Early Music no fewer than four times: in 1995, 2006, 2007 and 2010 for recordings of Fayrfax, Tallis and (twice) Byrd.  Other discs have been short-listed in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2009. The Cardinall’s Musick has received a French Diapason d’Or, a German Schallplatten Kritik Preis and a Schallplatten Echo Award. They have recently completed a remarkable project to record the complete Latin works from one of England’s greatest composers, William Byrd.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

‘Thomas Tallis: Spem in Alium”, Hyperion CDA 68156

November 2016

Sooner or later in its excellent survey of Thomas Tallis’s a cappella choral works, the Cardinall’s Musick — as listed, 12 strong — was going to have to beef up to tackle the great 40-voice motet Spem in Alium. Here it is, and even amid rich and exalted company, it stands apart as something truly extraordinary.

James R Oestreich, New York Times, Best Classical Music Recordings of 2016

With Spem in alium (or, in its English guise, Sing and glorify), The Cardinall’s Musick conclude their Tallis explorations in style. The programming is on a par with the best instalments of the series: the placing of the lovely miniature God grant with grace just after the monumental Spem is very moving, and this In ieiunio is as fine an account of it as I can recall.

Fabrice Fitch, Gramophone

The pinnacles of this glorious disc are Thomas Tallis’s vast canvas – 40 independent voices – of Spem in alium, and a later version to an English text, Sing and glorify. […] Carwood moulds the structures to great effect, with wide-ranging dynamics from hushed groupings of eight voices to the full force. The remainder of the disc consists largely of Evensong from The Short Service, and includes the sublimely simple Tallis’s Canon, all beautifully crafted, and serving as a contract in scale and mood to the two versions of Tallis’s masterpiece

George Pratt, BBC Music *****

This Hyperion issue is another sure fire winner from Andrew Carwood and his outstanding choir… anyone who loves to wallow in the Great British choral tradition should not hesitate. I sense this could well be a potential award winner.

David Mellor, Classic FM

BBC Proms, Chamber Proms at Cadogan Hall

July 2016

How often do the streets of London throng with concert-goers demanding admission to a recital of Latin motets? Even for Sloane Square, the crowds hoping for a last-minute ticket to the sold-out Proms Chamber Music debut concert by The Cardinall’s Musick of Tallis and Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s world premiere were exceptional…  this was an inspired programme and performance….  the ensemble was on superb form…  when the singing is as good as this, it gives you the opportunity to savour individual lines… exceptionally precise, detailed and honest performances… this concert has set a standard for Chamber Proms that will be extremely difficult to sustain.

Matthew Wright, The Arts Desk

‘Thomas Tallis: Missa Puer natus est nobis’

Hyperion CDA 68026

It's sung here with customary perfection by the Cardinall’s Musick, who polish other Tallis gems alongside it, most notably Videte miraculum, a work of such sensuous beauty it quite eclipses the Mass.

Stephen Pritchard, The Observer

‘Sacred Music by Robert Parsons’, Hyperion Records CDA 67874

December 2011

Director Andrew Carwood draws earthy, visceral performances; the ensemble’s virile sound and Parsons’s sinewy polyphony are a far cry from what some critics describe as the ‘whitewashed’ English choral tradition. Carwood and his singers highlight the inherent drama of Parsons’s style…The basses resonate magnificently in Peccantem me quotidie, in Holy Lord God Almighty and in the hauntingly austere Libera me, while by contrast, the monumental Magnificat sounds radiant. Perhaps the crowning glory of the disc is the final Ave Maria, the slow and poignant unfolding of which echoes long in the memory

Kate Bolton, BBC Music Magazine

As is by now well-established, The Cardinall’s Music is a highly skilled, tightly disciplined and energetic choir able easily to tackle even the most elaborate polyphony. Its performances’ on this disc are true to form: colourful, forceful and dynamic. The Magnificat in particular is bursting with vitality, while the three funeral responds are sung with equal muscularity ,albeit more sombre in mood. Even the performance of the delicate and graceful Ave Maria motet, whose music builds to a climactic final line and ‘Amen’, is rendered with pronounced drive, Carwood directing the voices with rhythmic élan

Christopher Price, International Record Review

The Cardinall’s Musick are at their best in this repertoire, and their performances have confidence and authority…Parsons certainly deserves the hearing that Carwood’s musicians afford us, so this addition to the catalogue is very valuable

Fabrice Fitch, Gramophone

one may expect the incidence of Parson’s music on programmes to increase significantly especially after such a fine sound as Carwood generates

Rick Jones, Classic FM

The recording has deep perspective and clarity with the sequence of works, mostly scored for low voices, given fluid, impassioned readings, with vibrant bass sonorities providing an almost instrumental foundation…tonal beauty, impeccable ensemble and blend.

Rebecca Taverner, Choir and Organ

The 20 Greatest Choirs

January 2011

The word-(not sound-)based approach of The Cardinall's Musick plucks them from angelic realm with bigger, more individual voices (and vibrato!) that use what might be called 'Romantic' gestures.
The ensemble's workshops in schools make a fine starting-point.

Eric Whitacre, Gramophone

‘Missa Cantantibus Organis’

Hyperion CDA 67860

a fascinating work and a fine performance

Andrew MacGregor, BBC Radio 3

this is all really exciting stuff and should be heard by anybody who cares about music of the late-16th century.

David Fallows, Gramophone

Carwood nails it – again' , 'these performers capture the creative confidence of Rome’s composing community in the decades either side of the 16th century’s turn […] exuberance and ensemble excellence […] this album works like a finely tuned time machine. It’s hard to imagine how its contents could be better served on disc.

Classic FM Magazine

wonderful build-up in sonority is deftly managed by the singers [...] utter transparency giving way to rich harmony', 'thoroughly recommended [...] it’s bracing, pleasingly unsentimental but still movingly expressive

Simon Heighes, International Record Review

the vocalists use declamation to emote, transporting the listener from sorrow to transcendent joy [..] this recording’s breadth of moods, devices and styles is refreshing [..] Carwood teases out the work’s numinous qualities

Berta Joncus, BBC Music Magazine

new treasure' [of which the Missa Cantantibus Organis is] 'the chief delight', 'sung here with the brilliance and clarity we have come to expect from this outstanding ensemble

Stephen Pritchard, The Observer

The Cardinall’s Musick offers a sumptuous body of sound that revives the well-known Miserere and brings to life the multiple-author Mass

Claudine Nightingale, Choir&Organ

The Cardinall’s Musick perform it with their usual refinement

Paul Gent, The Telegraph

Kilkenny Arts Festival

The Black Abbey, 7 August 2010

“it was clear that this was to be an evening of compellingly-projected, full-toned, gorgeously resonant singing. It was the kind of evening which had one pinching oneself to check that such edifices of sound could be produced by such a small number of voices “

Michael Dervan, Irish Times – ‘Festival Highlight 2010’

‘Il Siglo d’Oro’

Wigmore Hall, 12 July 2010

Carwood’s vigorous sweep brought out an exhilaration bordering on a kind of theological ecstasy

Richard Morrison, The Times

‘Missa Congratulamini Mihi’- Guerrero (Hyperion Records)

Recorded at the Fitzalan Chapen, Arundel, April 2009

The Cardinall's Musick have only just completed their wonderful Byrd project and here they are with this first-rate
exploration of the music of Guerrero... the singers show verve and polish in equal measure… Andrew Carwood's
singers respond with an equal measure of buoyancy and vigour... anyone interested in the siglo de oro will regard
this as essential listening

Gramophone ‘Editor's Choice’ October 2010

[the pieces] are delivered with the combination of superb ensemble, and perfectly characterised vocal lines that is
the persistent hallmark of this outstanding group; the sound is rich, full and gently resonant.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian

a leading exponent of Renaissance music, retaining the essential quality of individual vocal timbres that contribute
to a refined, characterful mix and with a polish that is second to none… the entire disc, with various shorter pieces as
complements, is captivating in its fluency and expressive power.

Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph

Sample Programmes for The Cardinall’s Musick


William Byrd was the greatest English composer of the 16th century. His life spanned a period of huge political and religious upheaval through which he clung to his Catholic beliefs in spite of the repression of a reformed government. He composed throughout his long life, producing his most spritely and modern sounding music in his later years. It was surely his great abilities and the esteem in which he was held which allowed him to survive in Protestant England.
The first part of this programme is given over the Byrd’s powerful Mass for Five Voices together with Gregorian chant and two motets from his 1591 collection. The second half explores Byrd’s works in English including two movements from his monumental ten-voiced Great Service (probably written in the 1590s for the Chapel Royal) and four pieces in English which are rarely performed. Byrd was a resolute Catholic but also a convinced Englishman and this programme allows an exploration of his unique position in 16th century society.


‘Il siglo d’oro’ – the Golden Age – was the name that Spaniards gave to their great flowering of music in the sixteenth. Spain brought forth some of the finest writers of the age and the Virgin Mary was a popular subject with all of them.

Francisco Guerrero was known as ‘el cantor de Maria’. Much of his highly characterful music was dedicated to the Virgin from well-crafted four-part pieces to the more splendid double choir numbers. This fascinating exploration of music from sixteenth century Spain sets Guerrero alongside his contemporaries and colleagues Morales, Esquivel, Vivanco, Alonso Lobo and the brightest star of all, Tomas Luis da Victoria.


Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, not only business partners and colleagues but also close friends and ones who shared a devotion to the Catholic world of early 16th century England. It is fitting therefore that they should share equal billing in this programme of Tudor music. The concert opens with Tallis' famous tune Why fum’th in fight which so captivated Ralph Vaughan Williams and led to the writing his Tallis Fantasia. Set against this simplicity is the opulent polyphony of his Missa Salve intemerata virgo and the antiphon of the same name. William Byrd propels the listener forward into the later sixteenth century with two stunning motets before his thoughtful and well-crafted set of Mass Propers for the Assumption of the Virgin - music almost certainly written for the now illegal Catholic services. Tribue Domine is a riot of energy and imagination as it celebrates the triumph of the Trinity.


Elizabeth I, one of the most famous and admired of English monarchs, died in 1603 after a life filled with trauma and success, trials and victories. This programme (introduced and narrated by Andrew Carwood) traces her remarkable life. The first half concerns the early years until her coronation in 1558. Here are the imposing characters of her father and mother, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, her brother and sister, Edward VI and Mary and her great ally Cardinal Pole, together with the story of the Reformation. Whilst in the second half is music concerned with her reign, celebrating the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the long list of Elizabeth’s suitors.

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