Q&A with The Gesualdo Six

The Gesualdo Six

Tell us about how the ensemble was formed

The group had a very typical beginning for any ad hoc university ensemble: an idea for a concert! We came together to sing some extraordinary music that we hadn’t really encountered as musicians before: Guy had been listening to music that the notorious Italian Renaissance composer Gesualdo composed for Holy Week, and discussed this with Owain in early 2014 who put together a team of singers to give it a go. That concert took place on 5 March 2014, and little did we know that we’d be back ten years later with four original members still among the lineup. – Joseph

What can the audience expect from your 10th Anniversary concert?

For this special concert, we’ve put together a programme featuring some of our favourite music from our first decade together. Back in the place where it all began, we thought it was only right to bring with us some of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories, alongside madrigals by Marenzio and Palestrina which featured in our first concerts. We also sang these at our recent BBC Proms debut, alongside Ligeti’s extraordinary Nonsense Madrigals which we’re looking forward to singing at Wigmore Hall in April. Sarah Rimkus’s A Birthday (My heart is like a singing bird) is one of our favourite works written for the group and, of course, we look forward to singing Owain’s beautiful Phos hilaron. It’ll be a fabulous evening of familiar faces and sublime music in the place we call home. – Alasdair

Why have you chosen these pieces to perform?

Naturally we’re taking this anniversary as an opportunity to reminisce. Thinking about those early days of the group it’s great to recall the excitement we felt hearing very old music come alive and really ring with a small group, in a way that we hadn’t been used to singing with larger, college choirs in Cambridge. Tracking from those first Gesualdo works that brought us together and gave us our name, we’re delighted to be presenting a real mix of some of our favourite works from this marvellous and wacky on-going experiment called The Gesualdo Six. Some works were written specially for us, and some trace out a miniature map of the group’s history and influences. We’ve so enjoyed performing and sharing all this across three continents between 2014 and 2024, we are so excited to be increasing the tally by a further two during our 10th anniversary year. – Guy

Whats been your personal favourite concert the ensemble has given?

Wow, that’s such a hard question to answer! We’ve been lucky enough to be invited to visit such amazing places, some of which I’d probably never have got to go to otherwise, such as Kosovo and Colombia. However, one that stands out particularly is when we got to perform at the iconic Sydney Opera House last year. It’s such a stunning venue, and taking in the atmosphere by Sydney Harbour Bridge after our performance will stay with me for a long time. – Josh

It’s CEM’s 30th anniversary this year. If money and time were no object, how would you choose to celebrate with us?

My 30th birthday celebrations were a little unorthodox thanks to being in June 2021, so I could only meet up with friends and family in 6 person tranches over the course of the day in various locales. It gives me the idea for a similar celebration for CEM – a literal promenade concert around the plethora of fabulous Cambridge venues, with different performers doing short sets and the audience moving between. Probably stopping for a glass of something fizzy along the way. Finished off with a big Spem in Alium under the Wren Library in Nevile’s Court at Trinity. If money is no object there’s probably a laser light show at this point, but I’m willing to negotiate on that. – Mike

Where do you think the group might be in 10 years time?

When we set out to give our first concert, we had no concept of where the group would be in few weeks’ time, let alone years! That spirit of being in the moment is what has driven us forward, taking opportunities as they arise and constantly creating. I’m enormously proud of what we have achieved over the past 10 years, and we are all grateful to those who have joined us along the way. From musicians, venues, audience members and workshop participants, many hands have shaped what the group is today, and we are looking forward to an exciting and bright future.- Owain