Photo © Sim Canetty-Clarke


Eric Whitacre: This Marriage
Bob Chilcott: Marriage to my Lady Poverty
arr. Nigel Short: The Dying Soldier
Eric Whitacre: Sleep
arr. Bob Chilcott: She’s Like The Swallow
Juan de Anchieta arr. Bob Chilcott: Con Amores la mi Madre
arr. Bob Chilcott: The Lazy Man


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.

Under the direction of Nigel Short, Tenebrae performs at major festivals and venues across the globe, including the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, Leipzig Gewandhaus (Germany) and Melbourne Festival (Australia). The choir is renowned for its highly-acclaimed interpretations of choral music ranging from the hauntingly passionate works of the Renaissance through to contemporary choral masterpieces, and is a dedicated advocate for contemporary composers, having worked with Judith Bingham, Ola Gjeilo, Alexander L’Estrange, Alexander Levine, Paweł Łukaszewski, Paul Mealor, Hilary Tann, Joby Talbot, Sir John Tavener and Will Todd. Tenebrae is also frequently engaged with the world’s finest orchestras, regularly appearing alongside the Academy of Ancient Music, Aurora Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia, and also curates an annual Holy Week Festival in partnership with St John’s Smith Square.

Photo © Sim Canetty-Clarke

Choral development is also central to Tenebrae’s ethos, and the choir has pioneered an inspirational workshop method, The Tenebrae Effect, designed to challenge and advance every participant by instilling skills essential to a Tenebrae performance. Since 2016 it has provided crucial training and performance opportunities to a quartet of outstanding young professional singers through its Associate Artist Scheme. As part of this fellowship, these young singers deliver regular choral development workshops in collaboration with Tenebrae’s education partners, Music Centre London and London Youth Choir.

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. The following year Tenebrae’s Fauré Requiem with the London Symphony Orchestra was nominated for the Gramophone Awards, having been described as “the very best Fauré Requiem on disc” and “the English choral tradition at its zenith” (Richard Morrison, Chief Music Critic, The Times). In 2014 the choir’s recording of Russian Orthodox music, Russian Treasures, reached number 1 in the UK Specialist Classical Chart. 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, and in 2018 it received a Grammy nomination for Music of the Spheres, its album of part songs from the British Isles.

‘Passion and Precision’ are Tenebrae’s core values. Through its continued dedication to performance of the highest quality, Tenebrae’s vision is to deliver dramatic programming, flawless performances and unforgettable experiences, allowing audiences around the world to be moved by the power and intimacy of the human voice.

Photo © Sim Canetty-Clarke

Nigel Short

Award-winning conductor Nigel Short has earned widespread acclaim for his recording and live performance work with leading orchestras and ensembles across the world.

A former member of renowned vocal ensemble The King’s Singers (1994–2000), in 2001 Nigel formed Tenebrae, a virtuosic choir that combines the passion of a cathedral choir with the precision of a chamber ensemble. Under his direction, Tenebrae has collaborated with internationally acclaimed orchestras and instrumentalists and now enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s finest vocal ensembles.

To date, Nigel has conducted the Academy of Ancient Music, Aurora Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, English Chamber Orchestra, English Concert, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Scottish Ensemble and Britten Sinfonia. He has directed the London Symphony Orchestra alongside Tenebrae in a live recording of Fauré’s Requiem, which was nominated for the Gramophone Awards (2013) and since then, he has conducted the orchestra at St. Paul’s Cathedral as part of the City of London Festival. Other orchestral recordings include Mozart’s Requiem and Ave Verum Corpus with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and a new release of music by Bernstein, Stravinsky and Zemlinsky with the BBC Symphony Orchestra described as a “master stroke of programming” (Financial Times). Recent guest conducting appearances include the BBC Singers, Leipzig’s MDR Rundfunkchor and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble.

Nigel has vast recording experience having conducted for many of the world’s major labels including Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI Classics, LSO Live, Signum and Warner Classics. In 2018, he received a Grammy nomination in the category of ‘Best Choral Performance’ for Tenebrae’s album of parts songs from the British Isles, Music of the Spheres. As a Gramophone award-winning producer, Nigel works with many of the UK’s leading professional choirs and vocal ensembles including Alamire, Ex Cathedra, Gallicantus and The King’s Singers.

Programme notes

Bob Chilcott - Marriage to my Lady Poverty
Written for Stephen Williams and the Chapter House Choir, York, this is a contemporary treatment in the English partsong tradition. The piece as a whole is vaguely modal, and colour contrast is provided by forays into the ‘flatter’ side of the key and then on the ‘sharper’ side. The constant use of adjacent notes is at once dissonant and soothing, before the work culminates in a beautifully radiant ending in a conventional major sound. The text is by Chilcott’s contemporary, Charles Bennett, full of pastoral and romantic imagery, speaking of a mystical marriage to a female virtue: poverty. There is certainly an echo of the Theology of St Francis, an artistic marriage of creativity with the natural world, who said: ‘My life was marriage to my Lady Poverty’.

Eric Whitacre - This Marriage
Composed in 2004 the composer describes this beautiful lyrical composition as just a small and simple gift to his former wife on the occasion of their seventh wedding anniversary.

arr. Nigel Short - The Dying Soldier
The Dying Soldier (also known as ‘Brother Green’) is the lament of a less fortunate fighting man, shot and expiring during the American Civil War. Lying on the cold ground, he asks his friend to stay by his side and relay his final thoughts to his wife and children, secure in the knowledge that he will, in time, be reunited with them in heaven. The tune, arranged by Nigel Short, is a version of another famous song of death - the old Scots ballad, ‘Barbara Allen’.

Eric Whitacre - Sleep
In the winter of 1999 the composer was contacted by Ms Julia Armstrong from Austin, Texas. She wanted to commission a choral work in memory of her parents, who died within weeks of each other after more than fifty years of marriage. She wanted her favourite poem, Robert Frost’s immortal ‘Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening’, used and the piece to be premiered by the Austin ProChorus (Kinley Lange, cond.) - a terrific chorus in which she regularly performed. Eric Whitacre was deeply moved by her spirit and her request, and agreed to take on the commission. However, after some difficulties, the final exquisite lyrics used were by Charles Anthony Silvestri.

Juan de Anchieta arr. Bob Chilcott - Con Amores, la mi Madre
A luminous declaration of maternal love, Con amores, la mi madre (‘With loving, my mother’) was composed by the Spanish Renaissance composer Juan de Anchieta. Slow and serene, it has the quality of a hymn, its lilting rhythm and high-lying female voices supported by hushed male tones to imbue it with a pure, still sincerity.

arr. Bob Chilcott - She’s Like The Swallow
The haunting She’s Like the Swallow offers a more chastened view of love, or rather its loss. Heard here as a diaphanous lament, its succession of similes forlornly allude to the terrible cost of love scorned, with the stridency of the beloved’s shattering “I take delight in everyone” countered by the bittersweet denouement: “She loves her love but she’ll love no more”. It’s a bleak tale couched in music of softly compassionate lyricism.

arr. Bob Chilcott - The Lazy Man
The Lazy Man is another American fable with a chastening moral: idleness never won fair heart. This delightfully airy arrangement is marked “Breezy”, a quality that imbues the setting of female voices in largely wordless, meringue-light commentary against the sorry, male-led narrative with a brisk, bright counterpoint. Listen out for the feckless young man whiling away his life with a jaunty whistle.

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