Sometimes you need to change things up, try something a little different. That can be said about a lot of things in life, including music. That’s exactly why I recently covered The Gesualdo Six at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown.
Consider it aural sorbet — an ideal way to cleanse the palette of my ears.
The Gesualdo Six is a male vocal ensemble from Britain, directed by Owain Park. They’ve won awards and traveled the globe to share their beautiful vocal harmonies. Their interpretations of medieval compositions are stunning. But a Renaissance version of a boy band would be too easy of a comparison. They DO sing many pieces that are hundreds of years old. But they include some that are much more recently composed. Take a listen to to their interpretation of O virgo prudentissima.
Watch The Gesualdo Six perform “O virgo prudentissima” live on YouTube:
The ensemble is comprised of Owain Park (director and bass), Guy James (countertenor), Alasdair Austin (countertenor), Joseph Wicks (tenor), Josh Cooter (tenor), and Michael Craddock (baritone).
At St. John’s Episcopal Church on Nov. 5, the group began their performance in the church’s vestibule, four in the middle of the vestibule and one on each side aisle. A single voice sang the first notes of “Te lucis ante terminum,” composed by Thomas Tallis.
As they progressed, the group of four proceeded down the nave while the other two walked down the side aisles. They met at the front of the nave and continued singing in the sanctuary. After the group performed the first third of the program, director Owain Park stepped away from the band to the lectern and discussed the music they had performed as well as several of the pieces they were about to sing.
The group changed their dynamics by occasionally removing a member or changing the lead. One very important aspect of the show was the church itself. St. John’s acoustics played almost as important a role as the members of The Gesualdo Six. The audience of approximately 200 was exactly as you would expect: quiet and enthralled by the voices of the six men singing some of the most beautiful polyphony you could imagine.
Director Owain Parks broke off once more to talk about more of the music, promote their latest album, and thank everyone for coming out to see them. They exited briefly before returning for an encore. They finished the show by mirroring their entrance and walking back up the nave to finish in the vestibule.
After the program, the group were guests of honor at a reception in the hall across from the church. They stayed and spoke with everyone who came over. If you ever feel the need to refresh your ears, I can’t recommend The Gesualdo Six enough. Whether it’s a live performance or any one of their eight albums, the way they weave their voices together is breathtaking. Hopefully they will come back to America soon so I can have the chance to refresh my ears, once more.
- Te lucis ante terminum (Thomas Tallis)
- In pace, in idipsum (John Sheppard)
- Versa est in luctum (Alonso Lobo)
- Lumen (Nunc Dimittis) (Donna McKevitt)
- Look down, O Lord (Jonathan Seers)
- O Ecclesia, oculi tui (Hildegard von Bingen)
- Phos hilaron (Owain Park)
- Illumina faciem tuam (Carlo Gesualdo)
- Potro viver io piu se senza luce (Luca Marenzio)
- lo son ferito, ahi lasso (G.P. da Palestrina)
- Fading (Joanna Marsh)
- Marjal aega magada (Veljo Tormis)
- O Little Rose, O Dark Rose (Gerda Blok-Wilson)
- My heart is like a singing bird (Sarah Rimkus)
- Die Nacht (Franz Schubert)
- Abendlied (Josef Rheinberger)
Here are some photos of The Gesualdo Six performing at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown on Nov. 5, 2023. All pictures by Marc Shea.