Latest News from the world of Dunedin
01 December 2013
We catch up with Soprano Mhairi Lawson ahead of our Messiah performances in December 2013.
Tell us a bit about your early life. How did you come to be a singer? Did you play any instruments? Were you encouraged by your parents to pursue music as a career?
I don't remember ever not singing something or other. Sang around the house, in church and sundayschool, in school. My parents are both active in choirs and amateur opera societies, it was normal for the house to be ringing with some kind of noise. I learned the piano, played for local ballet lessons and also occasionally church organ. A career in performing music came as a bit of a surprise as we didn't know any professional musicians and there were none in the family. My parents were and still are extremely supportive. My Dad is still holding out for the yacht I'm supposed to buy him....
In recent years, you have really started to feature as one of the top specialist performers of baroque repertoire. Did you find yourself instinctively attracted to this repertoire? When did that happen?
I have been extremely privileged to have been given good opportunities to work within the area of historical performance practice - it seemed to choose me, and I wonder if my childhood exposure to a lot of national and traditional music of Scotland, particularly dance tunes, contributes also to my love of 17th and 18th century repertoire.
You’ll be performing Messiah with us in December. I’m guessing that you’ve sung the work many times (!). How do you manage to bring fresh insight to it with every performance?
Yes, I've sung this work many times - I never get bored with it, I always work it with my voice teacher to find a higher level of delivery - this is a lifetime' s work.
What do you enjoy most about singing with John Butt and the Dunedin Consort?
Being involved in all aspects of the work in progress ie. as chorister and soloist is immensely rewarding - hard work, mind you, physically and mentally.
When you’re not singing or travelling between engagements, how do you spend your time?
I do the following.... build Lego star wars models with my 5 yr old boy, nag my husband, build lego batman models, plant vegetables, catch up on "worthy" reading to keep ahead of my historical performance students at the Guildhall School in London, build Lego chima models, go to the hairdresser, make damson gin and goosebarry and blackcurrant jam, watch DVD box sets of 'boardwalk empire' and 'homeland', drink gin, go to the opera as much as possible.
Do you have any advice for young singers considering pursuing their art as a professional career?
Hmm, difficult. I was told by a well meaning teacher that I'd never have a career and that I should probably give up. I suppose that my advice would be - ignore people wanting to give you advice. At least, choose your advisors carefully!
Mhairi will appear with the Dunedin Consort at the following performances:
Fri 20th of December 2013 @ 7.30pm
The Queen's Hall - Edinburgh 01316682019
Sat 21st of December 2013 @8pm
Kelvingrove Museum (Glasgow) 01413538000 Sold Out (£10 Standing Gallery tickets available)
Sun 11th of May 2014 @ 3pm
The Queen's Hall - Edinburgh 01316682019
Madrigals of Love and War
29 July 2013
Our recording of Bach's John Passion within a liturgical reconstruction has been nominated for a prestigious Gramophone within the Baroque Vocal category.
We are delighted by this nomination and want to once again thank all our supporters, musicians and customers for their support. We could not have done it without you.
21 July 2013
We speak with Jonathan Manson ahead of his concerto appearances with Dunedin on August 2nd (The Brunton/Musselburgh) and September 17th and 22nd (Perth Concert Hall/Lammermuir Festival)
How did you end up playing the cello?
I started on the violin when I was six but found it very frustrating as my sister already played the instrument much better than I could. A year later, when I first tried the cello at our village primary school in Aberdeenshire, I was completely smitten - mainly because playing on the bottom string sounded to me just like a Land Rover starting up!
As a cello (and viola da gamba) player your role keeps constantly shifting. One day you are supporting the bass line, others you are part of the harmony and others you need to play the most difficult solo pieces. Is there a particular role you enjoy better?
I feel very lucky to have such a variety of roles, often on different instruments, which all help me to get different perspectives on the music. The difficulties involved in playing a concerto are obvious, but the craft of playing a bass line - which involves being responsive and flexible but also guiding the music with conviction - has particular challenges which I relish. Playing middle parts, which I usually do on the tenor viol, is also great fun as one usually gets the juiciest harmonies.
The cello concertos you will be performing in August (Vivaldi) and September (CPE Bach) are very different. What challenges do each one bring?
The Vivaldi C minor concerto is a wonderfully atmospheric piece, but it's concentrated into a shorter and denser format so there is less time to develop the musical ideas: one has to grasp each character quickly before it changes again. The CPE Bach concerto, on the other hand, is conceived on a bigger scale and uses a much greater range of the instrument. The fastest movement is the last, so the challenge is to pace yourself so that you have enough energy left for the tiring passagework that comes just before the end.
What's your idea of perfection?
As I'm writing this in the middle of a heatwave, my idea of perfection right now would be standing on top of a mountain in Sutherland with a fresh sea breeze blowing in my face...
What living person do you admire the most?
David Attenborough, who has done more than anyone in the last 50 years to raise awareness of the importance and extraordinary variety of the natural world.
What is special about working with the Dunedin Consort and John Butt?
One of the things I appreciate the most is the working atmosphere in the group: the focus is always on the music and how we can best serve it, rather than on personalities and politics. I'm sure we are all infected by John Butt's generous, inventive and open-minded spirit, which helps us all to feel involved in the delight of 'rediscovering' the music. I find it fascinating that pieces I've played hundreds of times before can seem so fresh and vivid when we've worked on them with John. And his razor-sharp wit keeps us all amused, which is an added bonus!
25 March 2013
Our new recording of Bach's John Passion has stormed to the top of the UK Specialist Classical Chart after its first week of release! It is also at Number 10 in the UK Classical Artist Chart1
This is another great result with this album selected as 'Recording of the Month' by not one, but three different publications!
Recording of the Month: 'a dramatic, profoundly considered reading.' ***** BBC Music Magazine
Recording of the Month: '...[a] perfectly paced ensemble Passion.' Gramophone
Recording of the Month: 'an exceptionally fine small-scale performance' MusicWeb International
'wonderfully pure, buoyant and transparent.' Financial Times
'the liturgical experience offers benefits to heart and mind.' The Times
'A breakthrough on Bach's John Passion.' The Herald
'historic and supremely important new recording' The Observer
'This Johannes Passion performance is without doubt the most involving and dramatic I have encountered.' McAlister Matheson Music
'The impact is huge. The architecture, emotion and implication of Bach's music all change.' The Big Issue
16 March 2013
John Butt has been awarded the Royal College of Organists highest honour. He was amongst the three Medal recipients honoured at the College’s Conferment of Diplomas ceremony at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday 11th March were. The three recipients were:
• Prof. John Butt OBE, for organ playing, organ- and choral-related scholarship, and choral conducting
• Dr Peter Hurford OBE, for organ playing, choral conducting, organ teaching, organ and choral composition, and organ-related administration
• Mr Mark Venning, for organ building, organ-related scholarship, and organ-related administration.
Photography by RCO / Simon Jacobs
04 March 2013
We catch up with Nicholas Mulroy ahead of his appearance as the Evangelist in our upcoming concerts next week.
When did you decide to become a singer?
There probably wasn't a specific timing to the decision. I studied languages at university, and when I spent a year in South America I missed the collective act of music making a lot; perhaps that was when the seed was initially sown.
What would have you become if you had not pursued music professionally?
I worry that I'm unemployable otherwise, but I think I might have followed my parents into some sort of educational job. I enjoy the bits of teaching I do at the moment, and those times when you can see or feel something getting through to someone for the first time can be incredibly satisfying, which isn't unlike something we aim for in performance - a moment of direct communication.
Tell us about one of the highlights of your career to date?
That's a difficult one! I tend not to look back very much (also, my memory isn't what it was...), and often find that people's ideas about any given concert can differ hugely anyway. But I work regularly with some extraordinary musicians (very much including the Dunedin Consort), and have been incredibly privileged to hear quite amazing performances of all kinds of things in all kinds of places. There are, of course, certain places where it's always a thrill to sing - the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is very special, for example - but the main thing is the connection between the performers, the music and the audience; when you get that right it's quite something.
Are stereotypes about tenors true? Do you all really want to sing as high as you can?
I might not be the best person to answer that.. Though I do think that performing can cause stress in every musician. In Britain the more neurotic types don't tend to be indulged too much, whereas on the continent I've found there to be more concessions given. Having said that, singing tenor can feel a bit like a high wire act (mostly without a safety net!), and there is of course always an element of macho competition in any extreme sport like that.
What's special about working with John Butt and the Dunedin Consort?
There's always a strong sense of discovery in everything John does - no two performances are the same, and he creates a fantastic working atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable trying new things, and pushing themselves and each to new places with the music. John wears his huge amount of knowledge very lightly, but is endlessly compelling and never fails to shed new light on what we're performing, more often than not with unusual and entertaining turns of phrase. It also helps that the musicians of the group are all amongst the very best around.
What keeps you awake at night?
At the moment, my four month old son, Michael.
What is the hardest thing about performing the Evangelist role you will be singing with us?
It's a fantastic role to sing. In telling the story, a big part of the piece belongs to the Evangelist, and the way Bach sets the story, harmonically and dramatically, is - in both Passions - completely masterful. But it's not easy! Firstly, it's long (and the way we do it with Dunedin means that I sing in all the choruses and the tenor arias, too, so not much time off), so the question of pacing is key. It's not completely clear how 'involved' the Evangelist should be: in the St John, for example, it always seems to me that the storyteller is really very close to the action - he could well be the 'well-beloved disciple' mentioned - so one has to consider how emotionally bound up with it the Evangelist should be, and to what degree one is outraged or bereaved by what happens. Bach gives lots of clues, though: harmonically you can feel the story ebb and flow, peak and trough as you go through, all of which helps you along the journey of these extraordinary pieces.
21 February 2013
Gramophone has awarded the Dunedin Consort’s gripping new performance of Bach’s 'John Passion' its highest accolade naming it ‘Recording of the Month’ in the March issue of the magazine!
This new recording marks the first time on record listeners can experience the Passion within its original liturgical context and features a star-studded cast including, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Robert Davies, Joanne Lunn and Clare Wilkinson.
‘...the increasingly impressive Nicholas Mulroy’s alert, lightly coloured Evangelist strikes a balance in which declamation and lyricism are equally ardent and equally touching, while Matthew Brook is a supple and authoritative Christus.’ Gramophone
Fans of Dunedin Consort will know that director John Butt is a master at using historical context to shine new light upon well-known choral works. Recreated for this recording is a Good Friday Vesper liturgy of a passion performance as it would have occurred during Bach's time at Leipzig.
‘...naturalness and emotional honesty are what emerge from this tight-knit and perfectly paced ensemble Passion, in which Bach’s complex succession of recitatives, arias, choruses and chorales has surely seldom sounded so convincingly of a piece.’ Gramophone
your copy now, join us for our tour dates (below) or visit Linn website
to learn more about this exciting new recording!
16 January 2013
To mark the release of our latest CD, Bach's John Passion, we embark on a tour that will see both of Bach's passions performed accross Scotland during March.
09 January 2013
Dunedin's popular workshops return this year! We will focus one of the greatest pieces of the classical period: Mozart's Requiem.
The workshops will be led by John Butt and our regular Dunedin singers.
As in previous years the project will culminate in a performance, in conjunction with Glasgow University Choral Society, in Glasgow’s Bute Hall on Saturday 23 March. The weekend course will once again take place in Edinburgh, with day workshops planned for Aberdeen and Glasgow. Online bookings are now open. Remember if you attend our intensive weekend, you can participate in the day workshops free of charge!
You can find further details on our diary:
29 December 2012
We are delighted to announce that John Butt is to become an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to music in Scotland.