Reviews for Sacred Hearts, Secret Music
The dark tale of Serafina (Sophia Brumfitt) a young novice was full of longing, mysticism and even some humour, all illuminated by exquisite music of the period, Ferrara in 1570. The mixture of careful research and fine delivery, of both words and song, held the large audience in a fascinating spell. Two children (6 & 10 years old) in front of me were clearly entranced – the boy in fixed concentration, his younger sister’s attention wafting, like mine, with the focus of the drama for two hours. With such an appreciative young audience the future of this festival looks assured.
Latest 7, Brighton Early Music Festival, 2011
It was more than good, it was superb. ‘Sacred Hearts’ tells the story of the convent of Santa Caterina, at its core sixteen year old Serafina, who pounds and cries against her cell doors as she is imprisoned in her new convent life. Yet this is not a solo piece – for constantly in the background of our main players are the women, and the life of the convent – and it is for this coming of despair, and condemnation, and the banal, and the divine that the show really deserved its encore. Sarah Dunant, the writer herself, and Deborah Findlay acted beautifully as did the singers of Music Secreta. Niamh Cusak very intensely, perhaps slightly affectedly starred too. However, I venture that it was the group’s so wonderful singing, in the truly atmospheric Manchester Cathedral, that really made you feel, there was something sacred in the air.
The Mancunion, Manchester Literature Festival, 2011
Dressed as nuns, the singers complimented Ms Dunant’s reading perfectly. Yes, it was a sweltering day, yes we were in the heart of London, but for an hour the author’s words, the singers’ voices and the incredibly accomplished sound / lighting /stage arrangements transported us to a cold, austere 16th-century convent.
London Literature Festival blog, 2009
Reviews for Musica Secreta
Four Weddings and a Funeral
“Four Weddings and a Funeral” took the form of a modern-day wedding party looking back to northern-Italian Renaissance ceremonies. While the concept had the audience smiling, many musical liberties were taken in pursuit of the theme…Clare Wilkinson’s searing rendition of the lament from Monteverdi’s Arianna [shone], in which she found a wealth of timbres to paint the crazed misery of the abandoned heroine. Particular praise is due to the Celestial Sirens and the BREMF Consort of Voices, who excelled in an excerpt from Cavalieri’s florid 1589 intermedio. This made a fascinating contrast to the lavish ceremonial music and the sacred and secular finally merged to give the most energised performance of the night, as the upper voices fought Monteverdi’s sensuous Si ch’io vorrei morire, sung by the men, with its sacred contrafactum O Jesu mea vita.
Early Music Today
Reviews for Celestial Sirens
Cozzolani Vespers, 2009
Never has a group been more aptly named. The all-women choir… offered a ravishing selection of choral music to celebrate the first week of Advent… The centrepiece of the concert was 17th-century female composer Chiara Margarita Cozzolani’s Christmas Vespers, with the remainder of the evening taken up works by Hildegard of Bingen, Lassus, Victoria and Palestrina…The bulk of the first half was devoted to the hauntingly beautiful Cozzolani pieces, stirringly led by soprano and conductor, Deborah Roberts. The works were expertly sung by this choir, who clearly relish the opportunity to perform works specifically written for female voices. The concert also exploited the fine acoustics of St Bartholomew’s – the echoing space perfect for this type of polyphony. The second half closed with an anthem delivered to the Madonna and Child in front of the altar, a moving finale to some ravishing choral work and a perfect antidote to the rainy December night.
Reviews for Fallen
The Independent (review of South Bank Early Music Weekend performance, 2007)
“Dressed in nuns’ habits and just visible behind a gossamer screen, the women of Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens sang passionate love songs to Christ…. The singing was spine tingling, the casting superb.”
Brighton Argus (review of first performance, October 2006)