DUNEDIN CONSORT IS FOUNDED BY BEN PARRY AND SUSAN HAMILTON
JOHN BUTT JOINS AS CO-ARTISTIC DIRECTOR BRINGING A RENEWED FOCUS TO BAROQUE MUSIC
OUR RECORDING OF HANDEL’S MESSIAH WINS A COVETED GRAMOPHONE AWARD
OUR RECORDING OF MOZART’S REQUIEM WINS A SECOND GRAMOPHONE AWARD!
TODAY THE FUTURE IS BRIGHTER THAN EVER
Dunedin Consort is one of the world’s Leading Baroque Ensembles. Whilst most art performing companies define themselves by their make up (an orchestra, an opera house, a dance troupe, a choir…) we define ourselves by the music in which we specialise. We focus primarily (but not exclusively) on the music of the renaissance, baroque and early classical periods, which jointly span approximately 250 years from 1550-1790.
Some of the best known composers worked during this period, Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, Monteverdi… These names are deeply ingrained in our musical heritage and most people will have heard one of their pieces before.
But for us, the time at which this music was written is only the beginning of the story. What drives us is getting to the very bones of it. How was life and music different back then? What were the composers trying to say and do in that particular moment? Is the way we have learned to perform it today the way it was performed back then? Why do it today? Is it relevant?
We of course believe that, yes, this music is still relevant (otherwise we wouldn’t do it) and that the challenges that arise during the journey reveal details about our cultural heritage and challenge preconceptions about how we approach music today.
Exploring the possible answers to all these questions is fascinating and for us — and, we hope, for our audiences too. Being able to share these processes with our audiences is worth the significant challenges that arise when we upturn old stones.
This historic and supremely important new recording restores Bach’s dramatic Passion to the setting for which it was designed.
John Butt is both the brain of the Dunedin Consort and its heart. Since 2003, his musical ideas and research have not only shaped our work but influenced how many other musicians present theirs. He is particularly respected for his research into the music of the JS Bach.
He is a smart chap too. He is professor of music at Glasgow University, has written several books for Cambridge University Press and in 2013 was awarded the OBE for his services to music in Scotland.
Whether in rehearsal, on the stage or working with a group amateur singers, John’s personality is endlessly compelling and brings a unique sense of discovery and achievement to the music making process.
He lives in Helensburgh, near Glasgow, with his wife Sally and five children.
John Butt is of that rare breed: a music academic who is also a genuinely thrilling performer. As one of the world’s foremost Bach scholars, he brings vigorous insight to the period ensemble he conducts from the harpsichord, the Edinburgh-based Dunedin Consort. But there’s flamboyancy and pathos in his musicianship, too, that always cuts to the heart of a work’s emotional drama.
DUNEDIN RANGES FROM 3-4 PERFORMERS FOR SMALL CHAMBER PROGRAMMES
TO 70 PERFORMERS OR MORE FOR OUR LARGE CHORAL WORKS
Many of our singers and instrumentalists have been working with us for years. Most of them are either Scottish or based in Scotland but Dunedin is a group of international scope and it is not rare to see musicians of many different nationalities involved in our concerts. What is important for us is that the artists involved are the best which ensures our audience enjoys some of the best music making around.
We also ask all our soloists to sing with and lead the choruses. This adds a soloistic element to our choruses which is quite unique but it also blurs the distinction between soloists and the larger ensemble. Whether a soloist appearing with us for the first time or whether it is one of our regular performers, everyone you see on the stage at one of our concerts is the Dunedin Consort.
Dunedin Consort can certainly be a choir but it is much more than that.
Dunedin was initially founded in 1997 as a vocal ensemble but since 2003, when John Butt joined, the definition of what we are, moved from the simple make up of the ensemble (voices) to the music period it primarily focuses on; we call ourselves a Baroque Ensemble. Vocal music remains very much part of our remit but depending on the repertoire we want to perform we take various shapes and forms: A few string players with a vocal soloist, a vocal group of 5 singers, a quartet of soloists with full choir and orchestra, an instrumental group… The key issue always is the piece of music, its period, and the approach we take when researching and performing the music.
One of the key things is that the instruments we use are so called period instruments. This means that our musicians use either original 18th Century instruments or replicas. String players use gut strings instead of the steel, metal ones you find nowadays, flutes are made out of wood instead of metal, oboes have 3 keys instead of the 2o-odd modern oboes have.
But it goes far deeper than the use of the tools. All our performers both singers and instrumentalist have spent years studying suitable techniques to use these instruments and perform this music. If you come to one of our concerts you will often find that the choir is perhaps a bit smaller than what you are used to and that they are always at the front. It is not what most people do these days but it does make a big difference to the music. The singers are further forward which means you can actually hear and understand what they are saying; the text gains far more clarity which in turn enhances the emotional impact of the music.
Then we go into really detailed analysis of the sources, the composers, the historical context, … Are you still awake?… the pitch, the function of the music…
We do this because it really does make a big difference to what the audience experiences.
I don’t get it.
OK, let us try explaining it a different way…
If Dunedin were a drink, it would be a smokey Islay whiskey;
The Spice Girls would be a carton of concentrated orange juice.
If Dunedin were a car it would be a classy vintage Stag;
The Berlin Philharmonic a big Audi number.
If Dunedin were a meal, it would be a slow cooked juicy Sunday roast;
Andre Rieu would be a microwave dinner.
I still don’t get it.
I think you need to come to one of our concerts to experience the real thing (words and fancy websites don’t really do it justice).