Armonico Consort

Tuesday 22 November 2011
attributed to Hermann ContractusSalve Regina
ByrdAve Verum
ByrdAgnus Dei (4 part Mass)
ShepherdLibera nos Salve nos
Hildegard of BingenAve Generosa
Hildegard of BingenO Virtus Sapientiae
Hildegard of BingenSpiritus Sanctus Vivificans
AllegriMiserere Mei
RobertsNever Seek to Tell Thy Love
PurcellHear My Prayer
CarissimiPlorate (Jephtha)

‘Naked Byrd’ is a highly charged and carefully crafted programme spanning 500 years of European vocal music, by composers who were not afraid to write profoundly emotional music. Armonico Consort began in 2001 as a group to promote performance opportunities for young singers. Now frequently heard on Classic FM, this is a concert not to be missed.


Once again Skipton Music backed a winner. At Tuesday's concert the Armonico Consort Soloists - an octet of highly trained and disciplined young singers - wowed the Town Hall audience with their programme "Naked Byrd". Introduced and directed by their founder, Christopher Monks, he explained their aim - 'to span 500 years of European vocal works by composers not afraid to write profoundly emotional music'.

So, the first half of the evening brought sacred works mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries, performed with outstanding artistry. The pilgrimage ranged widely - compositions by Byrd, Allegri, Hildegard of Bingen, Shepherd, Purcell, Carissimi, all interpreted with supremely consistent melodic lines, sensitively controlled dynamics, a soprano voice soaring serenely and the Consort confidently mastering demanding passages in eight-part harmony. It was a cappella singing of the highest quality.

The second half introduced lighter music from the same period. With obvious enjoyment the gentlemen relished Henry VIII's madrigals "Pastime with Good Company" and "Helas Madame". Gibbons' "Silver Swan", possibly the best known and most beautiful English madrigal, swam elegantly to her death. Morley's "Month of Maying" reverted to jollification, before Orlando Lassus let his hair down in playful, bawdy words, which Christopher Monks delicately translated!

The evening closed with several modern folk song and close harmony settings - yet further evidence of the Armonico Consort's versatility and musicianship which delighted the audience throughout.

Douglas Riddiough