Boxgrove concert 7 May 2016

Life, Death and Redemption in Tudor England 
Sheppard’s Media Vita and motets by Tallis, Byrd, Mundy and Parsons
Directed by Rupert Preston Bell
Saturday 7th May 2016, 7.30pm at Boxgrove Priory

Ticket information / Box office

Much of the great devotional music of the English Renaissance illustrates the paradox that the bleakest liturgical texts often inspired the most glorious compositions of the period. John Sheppard’s Media Vita weaves some of the most serenely beautiful lines of English polyphony out of the despairing words later adopted for the funeral service in the Book of Common Prayer: ‘In the midst of life we are in death’.

Sheppard’s masterpiece forms the centre of a programme of Tudor music ideally suited to the atmospheric acoustic of Boxgrove Priory. This repertoire is the musical heartland of Cambridge Renaissance Voices, hailed by Early Music Review for performances that are ‘assured and expressive… achingly beautiful’, combining ‘understanding and passion’ in their recreation of the golden age of sacred music.

Boxgrove Priory is an exquisite and ancient building, three miles from Chichester, postcode PO18 0ED, website www.boxgrovepriory.co.uk


Concert in Belsize Park

The choir repeats most of the "Requiem for a Renaissance King" programme in London on Saturday 14 November in the Belsize Festival.

St Peter's church, Belsize Park, NW3 4HJ
14 November, 7:30pm
Music by Eustache du Caurroy, Victoria, Monteverdi and Lobo, along with motets by English composers Taverner, Tallis and Byrd.

Known subsequently as "Henri le Bon" and "le roi de la paix" because of his policy of religious toleration and his importance as the founder of the Bourbon dynasty, Henri IV was assassinated by an extremist on the streets of Paris in 1610. For him and all victims of violence, requiescant in pace.


Concert 8 November 2015: the funeral of Henri IV

Cambridge Renaissance Voices returns to Holy Trinity, Long Melford, on 8th November 2015, for a concert of continental Renaissance masterpieces, based around the famous funeral mass of the French royal family.

Click here to book tickets from the Theatre Royal Box Office.

Henri IV of France is probably best remembered in history text books for his religious toleration in signing the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which granted rights to the Calvinist Huguenots and ended the French Wars of Religion. But France’s fondness for him as “Henri le Bon” came about more as a result of his death by assassination and the political wish of his successors to celebrate him as founder of the Bourbon royal dynasty.

It may therefore have been to emphasise the continuity of the Bourbon succession that the music performed at Henri’s funeral was subsequently sung again at the next royal funeral, and then again for over 150 years at each such occasion right up until the French Revolution. Ironically, the music’s composer, Eustache du Caurroy, had died the year before Henri and was never to have an inkling of his own immortalisation in the process.

Henri IV lying in state in the Louvre Palace
Du Caurroy rose to prominence at court in 1569 and became Composer at the Royal Chapel in his last years. His Requiem is written in the formal, high style of Renaissance polyphony, demonstrating an elegance and inventiveness in counterpoint, of which Du Caurroy was an acknowledged master. There are some characteristics of the emerging Baroque style, particularly in the 'Libera Me', but the solemnity appropriate to the subject matter recalls earlier, great Requiems of the Renaissance by composers like Victoria, Guerrero and Morales.

The choir is accompanied by Il Musici della Contessa, a group of period instrumentalists (cornetts, sackbuts and curtal). This will be the choir's third concert at Holy Trinity, one of the great Suffolk wool churches of the fifteenth century, which provides a superb, atmospheric setting for these great works of sacred music.


Assured and expressive

From Early Music Review, June 2015

"The concert of Sacred Music of the Italian Baroque given by Cambridge Renaissance Voices attracted a large audience to St Cross Church in Winchester, a fine Norman building with an excellent acoustic for choral singing in the beautiful setting of the Hospital of St Cross...

"... Soprano soloist Kate Semmens' voice filled the church and her delivery of ornaments and virtuoso passages in [Monteverdi's] Laudate Dominum was impressive. Kate was joined by soprano Caroline Preston Bell from the choir for Pulchra Es from the 1610 Vespers. Their voices blended well, and with the continuo provided by Lynda Sayce (theorbo) alone, the three gave a memorable performance of this now well known duet...

"...The audience was treated to an assured and expressive performance of Lotti's Crucifixus a 8. The eight successive entries at the start achieved a controlled crescendo and the repeated quavers on crucifixus etiam pro nobis continued to build the tension towards the climax on passus et sepultus est and the suspensions descending to the peaceful concluding phrase. The singers showed understanding and passion in their performance of this much loved work, producing their best singing of the evening.

"Giacomo Carissimi's Jephte is a lovely miniature oratorio, eminently suitable for a chamber choir and continuo... Kate Semmens (Filia) gave an accomplished performance of her contrasting arias, the first sung when rejoicing in being the first to greet her father (Jephte) on his triumphant return from battle and the second heart-rending aria when bewailing her virginity and impending fate. The two sopranos providing the offstage echo of Filia's aria did this very well. Other solos were ably sung by members of the choir. Jephte in particular was expressive and confident in conveying the sadness of his tragic dilemma. The main chorus was assured and agile both in the battle scene and when rejoicing in victory. The final chorus of this oratorio must surely be amongst the most achingly beautiful music in the choral repertoire. Listening, in the fading light of St Cross Church, to the expressively sing descending phrases and suspensions conveying the lamenting of the children of Israel for Jepthe's daughter, was a very moving experience for the appreciative audience."


A wonderful audience at St Cross

The beautiful church of St Cross was packed out for our concert of Italian Baroque music, and we are hugely grateful to everyone who helped make the event such a success. We hope we will be back some day!


Winchester Concert 9th May 2015

Poster image: Nicolo Renieri, The Divine Inspiration of Music, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Tickets available from

Carissimi’s Jephte is a jewel of early Baroque oratorio, narrating with drama and passion the Old Testament tragedy of Jephtha, who sacrifices his only daughter in return for the Israelites’ victory in battle.  The music culminates in one of the most beautiful laments of the Italian Baroque.  In this programme Carissimi’s masterpiece is set alongside music of sacrifice and lament by his contemporaries (including Lotti’s searing settings of the Crucifixus and extracts from Scarlatti’s spectacular 10-part Stabat Mater), together with highlights from Monteverdi’s magnificent Vespers of 1610.  Cambridge Renaissance Voices are joined in this concert by soprano Kate Semmens and period instruments, recreating the glorious sounds of 17th-century Rome and Venice.