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!



There’s a whole lot of pub singing going on this week

which means I really need to plan the diary better.

In addition to tomorrow’s PDtP, on Wednesday we have our final Counterpint at the Canbury Arms before a summer break.

There are still places for sopranos and altos, and there’s a waiting list in place for tenors and basses.

If you’ve booked already, the scores are available via the usual page. Lots of good stuff to sing including a couple of epic double-choir motets from Victoria and Trombetti, and the 7-voice jewel that is Verdelot‘s Beata es virgo Maria.

It really will be an unmissable night of music-making so do sign up/add yourself to the waiting list.







PDtP 22 scores now ready

and can be found in the usual place.

Before I talk about the music, I should point out that once again we are fully booked up, with 15 people on the waiting list. If you’ve booked but now think there’s even the slightest chance that you won’t be able to make it, please cancel your booking ASAP; see here for how to do it.

Right, with that out of the way, I can unveil the poster for the event, which in turn should give you an idea of how the set-list has been put together:

We couldn’t possibly fit in works associated with all current 28 member states of the EU (and to be fair, there are some that appear to have an extremely limited selection of Renaissance composers!) but I hope that the works that I have chosen will make for an interesting evening of music.

In addition to the masterworks by the well known composers, I’m certainly looking forward to trying out the Zielinski (Poland) Vox in Rama for its Gesualdo-like chromaticism, the Morago (Portugal) De profundis for its crunchy diminished chords, the Pedersøn (Denmark) Kyrie for its unexpected rhythmic passages and the Harant (Czech Republic) Sanctus simply for that fact that it’s eminently singable.*

I’ve also included a piece by Scottish composer Robert Johnson, just in case his nation ends up becoming the next member state. (Cheeky.)

One last point re: Monday – the lighting in the pub isn’t the best so do bring a small torch if you struggle to read in low light.

Looking forward to seeing you there.



PS Still some spaces at tonight’s Counterpint in the Cafe.

*(NB I suspect an error in the Harant score – the second alto part is written an octave too high and therefore would be better off sung by the tenors but will confirm Monday.)

The singing’s real pretty up here in Steel City

Anyone who follows the PdtP Twitter account will have noted a certain frisson of anticipation over the past few days as I geared up for our very first non-London session, which took place in Sheffield last night.

After all, while it’s fair to say we’ve proved that there’s a healthy appetite for Renaissance motet pub-singing in London, I had no idea if any singers in Sheffield would also like the idea enough to turn up!

Right up to 6.55pm, it was looking like this:

and then suddenly, from 7pm it looked like this:

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, of course. The city of Sheffield enjoys a multitude of fine singing institutions, may of which were represented by the 35 or so singers who came along, including the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus, the Sheffield Oratorio Chorus, the Sheffield Bach Choir, the Escafeld Chorale and the Sheffield Socialist Choir.*

It was also lovely to see people coming from further away, including Wakefield and Manchester – I hope that it was worth the journey for you.

To say that I found it an overwhelmingly marvellous experience would be an understatement and I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to all of you who welcomed me with such warmth and embraced my oddball singing project with such aplomb.

And what a tremendous noise you all made! The opening Bach chorales were spine-tingling in their mightiness, putting me in mind of those fine, full-bodied Karl Richter Bach recordings of yesteryear.

Similarly powerful were the Padilla Stabat mater and Victoria double-choir Ecce nunc benedicite (a PDtP Sheffield exclusive); thanks for your perseverance in not giving up on these tricky numbers, as the final run-throughs were pretty amazing.

However, you also showed remarkable sensitivity and beauty of tone in the Bennet Weep o mine eyes, the Arcadelt Il bianco e dolce cigno and the final stunner of the evening, Byrd‘s Ave verum.

Particular shout-outs to our ‘heldentenors’ who kept their end up despite being only two(!) in number, and to the obliging basses who helped them out in places.

Overall, I am minded to declare the evening a success and so I think I shall have to scratch my head to find a way of doing it again, not least because the ale up these parts is less than 3 quid a pint!

Once again, a huge thank you to all who came and who made it such a great night of singing – PdtP would be nothing without you!

Just a reminder for our London based singers that we have a couple of Counterpints coming up, plus the waiting list for Monday’s PDtP is still open (see home page for links), so I look forward to seeing many of you there.



*Note to any choral leaders: if you are going to make a joke comparing an ‘assertive’ alto section to the Parliamentary Labour Party, first check whether they are members of a socialist choir. (Altos, many thanks for putting me right with such good humour!)

Spoilt for choice

Quite astonishingly, our PDtP Europe Special on July 11th sold out within a day of going live (well, almost – there’s one tenor spot still open at the time of writing.)

However, if you missed out then all is not lost. We still have plenty of spaces free at next Friday’s Counterpint in the Café session; Travelling Through have kindly agreed to extend admission to 7pm in case that makes a difference for any of you.

And I’m very pleased to announce that we are squeezing in one final London session of Counterpint before our summer break, on Wednesday July 13th.

We’ll be back at the Canbury Arms in Kingston and if all goes to plan, we’ll have some early music instrumentalists along for some crazy colla parte/antiphonal fun. (We were always a hip event but now we’re a HIP event! Sort of.)

And finally, a reminder that there are a few soprano and tenor spots available at PDtP Sheffield this Tuesday.

So there you have it – boozing and singing opportunities aplenty!