Grand Baroque III – the afterglow!

The performance was absolutely terrific according to participants and audience alike. Thank you to everyone who took part and came to the concert, a lot of work but so worth it!

One of the professional players, trumpet Russ Gilmour,  blogged here with a very detailed review, and a member of the audience has also contributed a short review, below:

During the 17th century, several German musicians went to Italy to study, compose, and perform, absorbing the style initiated by Monteverdi and others.  One such was Rosenmüller, whose music, full of wonderful melodies and counterpoint, featured in “Grand Baroque III” at Exeter Cathedral on 28th August.

The Blackdowns Early Music Choir and a line-up of distinguished soloists were accompanied by authentic instruments, including cornetts, sackbuts and baroque strings, essential to recreate the “sound-scape” of the time.  The choir, perhaps inspired by the occasion and the wonderful voice projection of the soloists, including soprano Amy Haworth, were on top form.  The distribution of the vocal and instrumental forces across the transept of the cathedral enhanced the antiphonal effects, which were particularly thrilling when trumpets and drums were added to the mix.

But, in a well-chosen programme, there was also space for quieter numbers such as Schelle’s hauntingly beautiful “Komm Jesu komm”, with a simple organ accompaniment played by Steven Devine, and for instrumental pieces which allowed the various sections of the band to show off their skills.

Credit for the integration of these diverse forces into a deeply satisfying musical experience must go to the calm direction of conductor Janjoost van Elburg, a leading figure in early  music.

The West Country is fortunate to be able to host such performances.  Lovers of choral or early music who missed this concert will be kicking themselves, and may be hoping, as are those of us who were there, that the Blackdowns Early Music Project will go on to produce a Grand Baroque IV.                                                         Contributed by Brian Maynard-Potts  11/09/201


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…and more German Baroque in August

Preludes, Partitas & Grounds: music by Froberger, Buxtehude, Pachelbel and JS Bach

Harpsichord Recital by Steven Devine on Sunday 27th August at 6.15 pm in The Church of St John the Baptist, Wellington TA21 8QY. Steven has performed all over the world as a harpsichord soloist (his recent Chandos recording of the Goldberg Variations was described by Gramophone Magazine as “one of the best”);  he is a highly sought-after continuo player.  

Tickets  are available now  price £10 from here.

Steven will play in  Grand Baroque III in Exeter Cathedral on August 28th

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Next Concert: GRAND BAROQUE III Exeter Cathedral – August 28th 2017 at 19.30

GRAND BAROQUE III  in Exeter Cathedral, music of Rosenmüller and Schelle with The Monteverdi String Band, The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble and others under Musical Director JanJoost van Elburg.

A  stunning baroque programme  of lesser known,  but nonetheless spectacular, choral music from 17th and 18th centuries.

Tickets on sale from Exeter Cathedral Box Office now.

GRAND BAROQUE lll features the choral music of Johann Rosenmüller and Johann Schelle, both well known  in C17th Leipzig as highly accomplished musicians and composers. Their names were well  known across Europe, better even than one of Schelle’s successors as Kantor in Leipzig’s famous Thomaskirche, one J S Bach. While the music of JSB now dominates much of the baroque repertoire, that of Rosenmüller & Schelle is equally inventive and thrilling.

Rosenmüller – Magnificat

Schelle – Lobe den Herrn

Rosenmüller – Dixit Dominus

Schelle – Vom Himmel kam

Supporting works by Zelenka, Kuhnau, Pachelbel, Vierdanck and  Rosenmüller

Director : JanJoost van Elburg

The BEMP choir under their principal director JanJoost van Elburg will present Rosenmüller ‘s Magnificat and Dixit Dominus together with Schelle’s  Lobe den Herrn and Vom Himmel Kam der Engel schar interspersed with instrumental interludes.  The choir will be working with a veritable ‘who’s who’ of internationally renowned early music specialists, including  the Monteverdi String Band, the English  Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble,  trumpets, timpani, full bass continuo and  eight soloists invited from the country’s top vocal ensembles including the Tallis Scholars, the Sixteen, Gabrieli Consort, Orlando Consort, Tenebrae, Musica Secreta, Stile Antico etc…..

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Concert Review: Iberian Treasury

Long awaited Bank Holiday sunshine provided a suitable backdrop for a sonically spectacular concert of Renaissance Spanish and Portuguese music for voices and viols, presented by Blackdowns Early  Music Projects in St John’s Church, Wellington on 7 May.

Comment overheard – “It all sounds the same”. With respect – no, it doesn’t. Cultural relations between Iberia and the rest of Europe, reflecting political developments, experienced periods both of intense interchange and also relative isolation. Composers studied in Rome – and returned to the gloomy recesses of the monasteries of their native land. Hence their music contains echoes of the calm serenity of Palestrina or the technical virtuosity of Lassus, but above all has a uniquely austere, mystical intensity – and sometimes raw vigour – which must derive from the arid, sun-baked landscape, the fervour of  Iberian Catholicism, and the personality of the people of the peninsula.

This was convincingly demonstrated in works for one, two and three choirs covering nearly two centuries, by Victoria. Morales, Guerrero, Lobo and lesser-known masters. The singers, under the crisp and skilful direction of JanJoost van Elburg, were on top form with ample, well-balanced tone, impeccable tuning (almost always!) and some fine solo performances. Intricate, contrasting strands of counterpoint were well sustained and shaped, but occasionally, for example in the Salve Regina of Victoria with its passionate and moving text, climactic moments of rhythmic contrast or expressive dissonance could have been more intensely delivered.

A fascinating and relatively unknown novelty was the Mass for 8 voices by Esteves – an 18th-century work which looks back to Renaissance style, although more to the Venice of Giovanni Gabrieli than to the Rome of Palestrina. The singers visibly enjoyed the dialogue between the two choirs as well as the dancing rhythms.

In many of these works the singers were partnered by a consort of eight viols – participants in the first South West Viol Fest – as well as by Linda Sayce (theorbo) and Martin Perkins (organ), which added a delightfully plangent, expressive and vigorous dimension to the music. One can risk the assertion  that never before have eight viols played together in Wellington Church! The tutors – Caroline Ritchie and Henrik Persson – supported by the continuo instruments, entranced the audience with two virtuosic pieces by Diego Ortiz. On the previous evening, Caroline, Henrik and Linda had given a memorable concert of French Baroque music in Culmstock Church.

Music lovers thus owe grateful thanks to Blackdowns Early Music Projects for not one, but two outstanding concerts to broaden the mind and enrich the spirit.

Andrew Carter



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Two Concerts for May Day Bank Holiday

Two wonderful concerts coming up over the May Day Bank Holiday:           

Sunday May 6th at 8 pm


Folies et folettes: Recital of virtuoso French baroque music for viols and theorbo played by Newe Vialles (Henrik Persson & Caroline Ritchie: viola da gamba and Lynda Sayce: theorbo).  Tkts £10 /£5   see link below

Monday May 7th at 6 pm


Iberian Treasury: Renaissance music for Voices and Viols, Morales to Esteves via Guerrero, Victoria,  Cardoso  and more! Glorious multivoice choral works with instruments.  Musical Director JanJoost van Elburg, Newe Vialles and Martin Perkins: organ. Tkts £15 /£8   see link below


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Concert review – Viadana

What a way to beat the weather! In spite of the predictions of very severe conditions of cold wind, snow and ice, director Andrew Parrott arrived just before the blizzard, together with 2/3 of the invited singers  to rehearse while snowed-in to Culmstock.  More arrived over the next two days (not all, sadly) which decided us to to go ahead with the programme in Wellington on March 4th.  The icing on the cake was a very receptive audience – thank you all!   Review Viadana Vespers 1612 Parrott

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Viadana concert will go ahead!

In spite of the challenges presented by the Beast from the East and Emma from the South, the singers are here, the director and most of the band are here preparing for Sunday’s Concert.
This will go ahead on Sunday as advertised at 6pm in the Church of St John the Baptist, Wellington and we very much hope to  see you for this exciting programme of Carver and Viadana.  Put the weather behind  you,  come and enjoy!

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Viadana 1612 Vespers: Guest Director Andrew Parrott

Lodovico da Viadana c.1560 – c.1627   Vespers of 1612

Robert Carver c. 1487 – after 1566   Missa Dum sacrum mysterium

Church of St John the Baptist, Wellington  TA21 8QY

Sunday March 4th 2018 at 6 pm

Tickets  £15/£8/free to under 12s available here 

This programme juxtaposes two works written at either end of the Renaissance era. Robert Carver was Canon of the Chapel Royal in Stirling during the reign of James IV and latterly that of James V, crowned as an infant in 1513. This coronation may well have been the occasion on which Missa Dum sacrum mysterium received its first performance. It is a complex work written for a 10 voice ensemble with sections highly reminiscent of music collected in the Eton Choirbook.

Viadana’s Vespers of 1612 offer the familiar sequence of office Psalms and Magnificat. His musical interpretation incorporates much variation in the vocal writing, which is broadly for four choirs throughout. There are echoes of, but no direct imitation of, the 1610 Vespers of Monteverdi – both men were working on these settings at the same time in Mantua. Viadana’s adventurous style enables contrast with instruments and voices throughout the four choirs, introducing opportunities to colour and illustrate the texts most effectively.

The singers directed by internationally renowned guest director Andrew Parrott,  together with instrumentalists Sue Addison and a team of sackbuts from the Birmingham Conservatoire, Nicholas Perry (playing a variety of early renaissance instruments) and Martin Perkins on organ, are looking forward to bringing this rarely performed music to life – please come to hear us!






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Dates in 2018, Church of St John the Baptist TA21 8QY

Sunday March 4th at 6pm 

Musical Director ANDREW PARROTT

Robert Carver Missa dum Sacrum Mysterium and Viadana Vespers of 1612

Bank Holiday Monday May 7th at 6 pm


Voices & Viols, music from Spain & Portugal

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