Tenebrae bring their trademark passion and precision to this live performance of music by J. S. Bach and Sir James MacMillan, recorded live at Snape Maltings in May 2023. Renowned for their technical difficulty, Bach's motets are pillars of the choral repertoire, requiring minute attention to detail as well as a full emotional range. Here, Tenebrae performs the three most well-known of the set, culminating in the joyful Singet dem Herrn. Like Bach, Sir James MacMillan has written much of his music for the church, and his settings of the Tenebrae responsories paint a vivid picture of the events of Holy Week. This album also features the premiere recording of I saw Eternity the other night, which MacMillan composed for Tenebrae in 2021 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the London Bach Society.
Described as “phenomenal” (The Times) and “devastatingly beautiful” (Gramophone Magazine), award-winning choir Tenebrae is one of the world’s leading vocal ensembles, renowned for its passion and precision.
For purity and precision of tone, and flawless intonation, Nigel Short’s chamber choir Tenebrae is pretty much unbeatable.
– The Times
Under the direction of Nigel Short, Tenebrae performs at major festivals and venues across the globe, including the BBC Proms, Wigmore Hall, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Rheingau Musik Festival and Sydney Festival. The choir has earned international acclaim for its interpretations of choral music ranging from the Renaissance through to contemporary masterpieces, and it regularly commissions new music. Previous commissions have included works by Judith Bingham, Joanna Marsh, Owain Park, Josephine Stephenson, Joby Talbot and Roderick Williams. Tenebrae has enjoyed collaborations with some of the UK’s leading orchestras, appearing alongside the London Symphony Orchestra, Aurora Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music and Britten Sinfonia. The choir also produces an annual Holy Week Festival in partnership with St John’s Smith Square, London.
Choral development is central to Tenebrae’s ethos, and through its Associate Artist Programme it provides crucial training and performance opportunities to young professional singers. Alongside its performance and recording schedule, the choir also runs a thriving Learning & Connection programme which encompasses partnerships with Music Centre London and London Youth Choirs, Tenebrae Effect workshops with amateur choirs, and its newest programme Singing Schools. Run in partnership with Ealing Music Service, Singing Schools aims to embed a long-lasting singing culture in local schools which might otherwise face barriers to music-making.
A concert by the British choir Tenebrae is more than a performance. It’s an experience that envelops the audience… this is one of the best choirs in the world.
– St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Tenebrae’s ever-increasing discography has brought about collaborations with Signum, Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI Classics, LSO Live and Warner Classics. In 2012 Tenebrae was the first-ever ensemble to be multi-nominated in the same category for the BBC Music Magazine Awards, securing the accolade of ‘Best Choral Performance’ for the choir’s recording of Victoria’s Requiem Mass, 1605. In 2016 Tenebrae received its second BBC Music Magazine Award for a recording of Brahms and Bruckner Motets, the profits from the sale of which benefit Macmillan Cancer Support. In 2018, the choir received its first Grammy nomination for its album of part songs from the British Isles, Music of the Spheres.
Signum’s current roster includes many excellent ensembles but the choral jewel in the crown is surely Tenebrae – Nigel Short’s outstanding chamber choir.
– Gramophone Magazine
‘Passion and Precision’ are Tenebrae’s core values. Through its continued dedication to performance of the highest quality, Tenebrae’s vision is to inspire audiences around the world through dramatic programming, flawless performances and unforgettable experiences.
James MacMillan is one of today’s most successful composers and is also internationally active as a conductor. His musical language is flooded with influences from his Scottish heritage, Catholic faith, social conscience and close connection with Celtic folk music, blended with influences from Far Eastern, Scandinavian and Eastern European music.
MacMillan first became internationally recognized after the extraordinary success of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie at the BBC Proms in 1990.
His prolific output has since been performed and broadcast around the world. His major works include percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, which has received more than 400 performances, a cello concerto for Mstislav Rostropovich and three symphonies. Recent major works include his St John Passion co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Radio Choir, his Violin Concerto, Viola Concerto, St Luke Passion and, most recently, his Percussion Concerto No.2 for Colin Currie, co-commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Edinburgh International Festival, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
MacMillan enjoys a flourishing career as conductor of his own music alongside a range of contemporary and standard repertoire, praised for the composer’s insight he brings to each score. He was Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic until 2013 and was Composer/ Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic from 2000-2009; he has conducted orchestras such as the Baltimore Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony, Danish Radio Symphony, Gothenburg Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and NHK Symphony Orchestra among others. MacMillan was Composer in Residence at the 2012 Grafenegg Festival and a London Symphony Orchestra Portrait Artist in the 2009/10 season.
In spring 2014 MacMillan conducted three projects with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, culminating in a ground-breaking tour to India with Nicola Benedetti performing in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi including public concerts, schools concerts and outreach work. In the 2014/15 season, MacMillan conducts orchestras including the Bergen Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Britten Sinfonia. In January 2015 he conducts a new production of his opera, Inés de Castro, at Scottish Opera and elsewhere this season conducts choral concerts in Sao Paulo and with the BBC Singers. In October 2014 MacMillan founded his music festival, The Cumnock Tryst, which takes place in his native Ayrshire.