Welcome to Polyphony Down the Pub!


***Next Polyphony Down the Pub London: Monday September 19th***

***Next Counterpints, PDtP Sheffield & PDtP Manchester TBC***


Congratulations – you’ve found the home of

Polyphony Down the Pub

London’s Favourite Night of Renaissance Motets & Booze!™ 



London’s Other Favourite Night of Renaissance Motets & Booze!™

 as heard on BBC Radio 3’s The Choir:


If you are new to PDtP/Counterpint and want to find out more about the UK’s most exciting Renaissance-motets-in-a-pub events, check out our FAQs.

Sign up to e-mail updates on the left hand side of this page to make sure you don’t miss out on sheet music links and other useful info, and follow us on Twitter: @pubpolyphony & @counterpint

Looking forward to seeing you at one of our sessions; in the meantime, remember the strictly enforced:

5 Rules of Polyphony Down the Pub

1. Arrive when you want to

2. Leave when you want to

3. Sing or don’t sing

4. Drink

5. Avoid parallel fifths & octaves



PS We’re taking PDtP on tour over the summer of 2016; if you’d like us to visit your hometown, get in touch via this page and we’ll see if we can sort something out!

Start getting those vocal cords limbered up…

…’cos it won’t be long till London’s Favourite Night of Renaissance Motets & Booze!™ is back.

Our next PDtP session will be Monday September 19th in the Horse & Stables (venue details are here).

Booking will go live at 9am on Saturday September 3rd but I’ll send out a reminder and the page link nearer the time.

In an unusual feat of organisation, I can also share some more PDtP dates with you:

  • Monday October 17th (our second birthday party!)
  • Monday November 21st
  • Monday December 5th (Christmas Special!)

Again, booking will open a couple of weeks before each session (details to follow.)

I’ll soon be announcing some Counterpint dates as well and for those of you in Manchester and Sheffield, I’ll be in touch once I’ve figured out when we can schedule more sessions for you guys.



PS Don’t forget that Requiem to Cancer takes place on September 2nd/3rd. It’s your chance to take part in a singathon for a very good cause.




PDtP: Manchester’s clearly mad for it!

Quite incredible, really. Less than 3 weeks ago, I had no idea that I’d soon be writing the review of our very first Manchester Polyphony Down the Pub.

It all came about after I heard the Halle Choir and Manchester Chamber Choir join forces to sing the Beethoven Missa Solemnis with the BBC Philharmonic at the Proms (if you’re quick you can still catch the performance on iPlayer). The singing was so impressive, I just knew we had to try out a Manchester PDtP.

Despite having almost no time to pull it together, we managed to set up a session for around 40 singers, thanks to the efforts of our obliging hosts at Odd Bar and the social media wizardry of Alice from the Manchester Chamber Choir.

And what a night it was! Clearly, the Manchester singing talent is not restricted to the Halle and Chamber Choir folks. Just about every piece we sang worked from the very first run-through, not just in terms of accuracy but also in phrasing, dynamics and communication between singers.

Difficult to pick out highlights from an evening of such brilliant music-making but I have to mention the canonic sauciness of Allegez moy (very appropriate considering the pole-dancing that was going on opposite the pub!), the stunning double-choir Alma Redemptoris Mater (both ways were equally amazing) and the bonus Ne irascaris, Domine, which was only on the setlist by accident but ended up being the perfect way to close the evening.

A return visit is definitely on the cards so keep an eye out for updates. In the meantime, thanks again to all who came and made it such a great evening.



PS Hope to fit in at least one more tour venue before the summer is out…





Quick reminder: PDtP Manchester is tomorrow!

Just a wee memory-jog for any last-minute Lauras/Larrys in the north-west that our first PDtP Manchester takes place tomorrow, Monday August 8th, at the Odd Bar in the city’s Northern Quarter – details here.

We’ve managed to clear some space for a few extra singers so I’d be grateful if you could share this with your friends on Facebook/Twitter, as we want the session to be every bit as epic as our London events.



PS In case they need persuading, below are some of the motets/madrigals/chansons that we’ll be busking through:

STOP PRESS: PDtP is coming to Manchester, August 8th!

It’s only 2 weeks away, but I’m hoping there’s still be enough time to get the word out.

PDtP Summer Tour 2016 Manchester poster final

The venue is called Odd Bar (which somehow seems fitting for this enterprise) and is the hipstermatic Northern Quarter of the city.

Full details, including how to sign up, are here; please let your Mancunian singing friends know about it and encourage them to take part – they’ll forgive you one day.



Treat yourself to some free Bach this Sunday

Almost a year ago I posted a mournful note to say that the excellent Bach Vespers series in St Mary at Hill was coming to an end, owing to the imminent departure of director Martin Knizia.

As we know, a lot can happen in a year.* Following Knizia’s return to Germany, the singers and players of the Vespers series decided to keep the series going and so, 12 months on, the City Bach Collective go from strength to strength, continuing to provide excellent, pared-down and conductorless performances of Bach cantatas as part of a Lutheran vespers service.

What this means is that you get not only an appropriate cantata for the Sunday but also related chorale preludes, plus motets and other music by Bach’s contemporaries and predecessors.

The services are free (donations welcome) and are a fantastic opportunity to hear Bach’s sacred music in a context that he would have recognised.

The final Vespers before their summer break is this Sunday:

BWV 105 is a wonderful piece, not least because of the extraordinary closing chorale in which the agitated, restless figures of the accompanying instruments gradually become slower and calmer in line with the chorale text; it’s one of my favourite movements in all of Bach’s music.

I really do recommend going along, to hear some excellent singing and playing – as an added bonus, Martin Knizia is visiting as guest organist – and to support these marvellous musicians in their dedication to continuing this fine tradition.



*To be fair, a lot seems to happen on an hourly basis at the moment.


A rousing Counterpint to finish our London season

Thanks to all who came to the Canbury Arms last night for our final London session before a summer break.

We had an extremely well-balanced mix of singers, though as ever it was quite something to behold so many tenors in one place.

There were many, many great moments during the evening but the highlights for me were definitely the simple beauty of Remember me my deir contrasted with the 8 voice contrapuntathon of the Victoria Alma redemptoris mater and the luxurious 7 voice bubble bath that is Verdelot‘s Beata es virgo Maria.

Thanks to all who came and indeed thanks to everyone who came along to any of our sessions over the past few months; your support is very much appreciated.

We’ll be back with both PDtP in Waterloo and Counterpint in Kingston in September so keep an eye out for updates. (Hope to get back up to Sheffield too.)

In the meantime, I’ll be spending the summer putting together the setlist for next season’s sessions, which will include a Franco-Flemish Special, the return of our Double-Choir Special (hurrah!) and, following the success of our European Special on Monday, May 2017 will see our very own Eurovision Chanson Contest; after all, if ever there was a period of music that combined incredibly catchy tunes combined with utterly ridiculous lyrics, it’s the Renaissance.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m also hopeful that we can fit in another couple of tour dates in August and I’ll also be posting links to any interesting concerts that catch my eye*, so you won’t be rid of me entirely.

For the moment, though, thanks again and have a great summer.



*Speaking of which, the Whitehall Singers have a French-themed concert tonight in honour of Bastille Day, including works by Phinot and PDtP favourite Mouton; details here.

Also, Counterpint friends the Canbury Singers are having their summer party next Monday; details here.

Who needs Interrailing when you’ve got the PDtP Europe Special?

What a fantastic tour of Europe we enjoyed last night – just a brilliant, brilliant night of music-making.

I have to admit that it was a bit of challenge to come up with a setlist that represented 13 different European nations but it really paid off as your response to the music was fantastic.

Here’s how I thought it went (though feel free to disagree with me in the comments below):

Gallus: O salutaris hostia (representing Slovenia)

A beautiful motet from PDtP favourite Gallus opened the evening. I probably took it a bit too slowly but then again it was an immense pleasure to luxuriate in the glorious harmonies for as long as possible. As is my habit, though, I clearly hadn’t looked at the tenor part when placing it first in the line-up…

Hassler: Gratias agimus tibi (representing Germany)

Next up was Hassler, giving us the opportunity to use everyone’s favourite Twitter hashtag. A short but mighty work, lustily delivered by you all; the final Amen was roof-raising!

Morago: De profundis (representing Portugal)

Thanks to advice from early music scholar/performer and PDtP supporter Luis Henriques, we were able to deliver an accurate account of Morago’s fine motet, where the tortured harmonies we produced were actually intentional for a change. (Totally kidding.)

PedersønKyrie from Missa quinque vocum (representing Denmark)

We visited Denmark next, with Pedersøn’s fine Kyrie from his 5 voice mass. This took us on some interesting harmonic journeys in each section, plus some proto-Baroque rhythmic phrasing towards the end, all of it very capably handled by the ensemble.

Byrd: Justorum animae (representing the UK)

We closed the first part of the evening with one of Byrd’s most sublime motets. The cascading, overlapping ‘in pace’ passages are utterly beautiful and you guys fully did them justice. Once again, the heroic tenors gave their all.

La Rue: Incessament mon povre cueur lamente (representing Belgium)

The rich output of the Franco-Flemish composers gave us many Belgian options but I’m very glad that we went with La Rue’s ravishing chanson mélancolique . The dense textures of the lower voices were beautifully spotlit by the shimmering tone and lovely blend from the sopranos. One of my favourite numbers of the night.

Sweelinck: Viri Galillaei (representing The Netherlands)

A quick hop over the border to Holland, where we experienced one of the night’s less successful attempts. However, it’s a great work and I am sure we will revisit it at a future session.

Johnson: Dum transisset (representing Scotland)

Included to showcase what may prove to be the EU’s next new member state, Johnson’s ambulatory motet was another low scorer on the hitometer, but again, programming it for a second attempt at a future session may move it up in the popularity stakes.

Victoria: Salve Regina a 5 (representing Spain)

Thank goodness for good old Victoria, getting us back on track and closing Part 2 with another of his miniature masterpieces, less showy than his more celebrated 8 voice version but still extremely singable.

Zielinksi: Vox in Rama (representing Poland)

I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t holding out much hope for this lesser known work. However, it proved to be an immense hit with you all, at least once the tenors figured out what a C flat is. (Sorry, tenors – it’s meant with affection.) Full of expressive, chromatic harmonies and a stunning final phrase in the soprano and alto parts, it will definitely be back at a future session.

Mouton: Salva nos Domine (representing France)

The hits just kept coming with Mouton’s ingenious 6 voice marvel, incorporating a canon and some unexpected harmonic movement, yet an utter pleasure to sing.

Harant: Sanctus from Missa quinis vocibus (representing the Czech Republic)

A short but sweet mass movement, acting as a rather pleasing palette-cleaner before our grand finale:

Palestrina: Surge propera a 5 (representing Italy)

We’d previously performed Palestrina’s darker, more austere 4 voice setting of this Song of Songs text, but his 5 voice version couldn’t be more different: soaring, canonic scales and an irresistible forward momentum (though to be fair, some of you did your best to resist it!), it was a thrilling way to finish off the main part of the evening.

As is the custom for PDtP, a few people stayed back for our post-10pm session and those that did performed stunning revisits of the Gallus, Hassler, Zielinski and the La Rue (I’m still buzzing from that last one) so thanks to all who risked missing last trains to do so.

That’s it for now – we take a break for the summer and will be back in September, date TBC.

However, if you’re desperate for one last bit of singing & boozing, we’ve just released more spaces at tomorrow night’s Counterpint at the Canbury Arms; if you come along you’ll get to sing some of the winners from previous PDtP sessions, including double-choir motets and other multi-voice wonders.

I’ll still be annoying you with the odd update in the intervening weeks, including a heads-up on any more potential PDtP UK tour dates, so I hope you’ll be able to recommend them to your friends if they go ahead.

In the meantime, thanks for your continuing support and if I don’t see you tomorrow, have a great summer!