Gesualdo Six: English Motets

English Motets
Gesualdo Six, Owain Park
Choral music of the English Renaissance
St Martin-in-the-Fields, London
First broadcast 15 April 2021

The relationship between the Church of England and musicans has not always been an easy one. In London, two examples of turmoil in recent years have been the decision by St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in Holborn (historially known as The National Musicians’ Church and for many decades a well-known concert and rehearsal venue) to ban musicians from hiring the church for rehearsals and concerts following a take over by an Evangeical wing of the church. This was followed by a similar situation at St Martin-in-the-Fields, a venue that over the years has attracted an enormous number of visitors to the regular candlelit and other concerts promoted by individual orchestras and musicians. They stopped all outside musicians hiring and replaced it with a plan to bring all concerts in-house using their own musicians, although it does seem that at least some of the groups that helped bring international attention to the church will be giving concerts there later this year. Following these controveries, the notion of a ‘Musicians’ church’ is now subsumed with a website with around 22 churhes who are still willing to let musicians hire their buildings for music.

This concert in St Martin-in-the-Fields by The Gesualdo Six is part of a Easter series of concerts promoted by the church (with help from the National Lottery Heritage Fund) under the banner of Fresh Horizons. The Easter-themed programme of English motets by composers such as Tallis, Byrd and Gibbons reflected an earlier period of religious turmoil during the sixteenth century, but one that produced some of the finest music ever written.

Although this was their debut at St Martin-in-the-Fields, The Gesualdo Six are now firmly established on the music scene. Under their director, Owain Park, they continue the long tradition of English Oxbridge-founded a capella male voice choirs. Since their 2014 formation for a performance of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories in Trinity College, Cambridge, they have become known around the world for there recordings and concerts.

Under Covid conditions, and singing to an empty church, the six singers presented a well thought out sequence of pieces, most of a reflective nature. The programme builds to a musical climax with Tallis’s outstanding Pentecostal responsory Loquebantur with its catchy cadential sequence of its refrain, before returning to the opening theme with the Gibbons hymn Drop, drop slow tears

The 50′ concert can be accessed here for a fee, and can be viewed as many times as you like for up to 30 days after the initial broadcast. There is a detailed downloadable programme note available with the broadcast, which was pre-recorded and edited – a sensible option in comparison to some of the live broadcasts of these Covid times. The recording and filming quality are excellent.

Come, Holy Ghost – Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)
Ave verum corpus – William Byrd (c.1539/40-1623)
Aspice Domine – Byrd
Veni Sancte Spiritus – John Dunstaple (c.1390-1453)
Ave Maria Mater Dei – William Cornysh (1465-1523)
All people, clap your hands – Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623)
Viri Galilaei – Byrd (c.1539/40-1623)
Christe qui lux es et dies I – Robert White (c.1538-1574)
If ye love me – Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585)
If ye be risen again with Christ – Christopher Tye (c.1505-1572/73)
A new commandment – William Mundy (c.1529-1591)
Laudate pueri Dominum – Byrd
Loquebantur – Tallis
Drop, drop slow tears – Gibbons