Sheaf of Gold, The Forge, Camden

Sheaf of gold square

Saturday 20 September 2014, 12.30pm

Exmoor Singers of London make their debut at The Forge, an exciting performance space in Camden, with a golden harvest of modern choral classics.

Our selection includes music by British composers Chilcott, MacMillan, Maxwell Davies, Rutter and Sting, and Americans Billy Joel, Cole Porter and Eric Whitacre.

Download a concert flyer (pdf, 3MB, opens in new window)

Nearest tube Camden Town. Location map and contact details (opens in a new window).

Tickets £10 (concessions £8) available through our page on The Forge website (opens in a new window).

The Forge, Camden logo

Exmoor Singers Concert Dates 2014-2015

Future Exmoor Singers concert dates for your diary. More information on all the venues can be found here.

Saturday 20 September 2014, 12.30pm: The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden, London NW1
Sheaf of Gold – a lunchtime concert in an exciting venue, new to Exmoor Singers. Further details.

Sunday 7 December 2014: St Stephen Gloucester Road, London SW7
Christmas Concert – join us for a traditional festive concert

Sunday 8 February 2015: St Andrew Holborn Circus, London EC4
Tallis Festival 2015 Closing Concert, centred on Thomas Tallis’s 40-part motet Spem in alium

Exmoor Singers Commissions: Tentatio

Tentatio – Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

'Hell' from the Hortus Deliciarum, a manuscript compiled 1167-1185 by Abess Herrad of Landsberg. This version is a copy of 1818 by Christian Maurice Engelhardt.One of the works included in the Tallis Festival 2014 is Tentatio by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi. This was the first-ever Tallis Festival commission in 2006, with the aim of increasing the range of companion-pieces for Spem in alium, the 40-part motet by Thomas Tallis that forms the centre-piece of the Festivals.

Tentatio is an unaccompanied 40-part choral work setting (in Latin) the biblical account of Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness; it is written for five separate eight-part choirs. Jaakko Mäntyjärvi discusses Tentatio further below.

The links below are a recording of the world première, at the final concert of the Tallis Festival, on 19 November 2006 at St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, London.


Mantyjarvi – Tentatio Part 1 – Tallis 12 Festival Choir

Mantyjarvi – Tentatio Part 2 – Tallis 12 Festival Choir

Mantyjarvi – Tentatio Part 3 – Tallis 12 Festival Choir

Mantyjarvi – Tentatio Part 4 – Tallis 12 Festival Choir

Jaakko Mäntyjärvi discusses the origins of Tentatio in 2006

Jaakko Mantyjarvi, 2005. Photo: Maarit Kytöharju / Fimici“It started as a mad idea. But these things usually do. Exmoor Singers is a London-based chamber choir which first came to my attention when they performed my Four Shakespeare Songs in 2004. In autumn 2005, I found out that Exmoor Singers was in the habit of organising a regular Tallis Weekend, involving inviting 100+ choral singers – friends, acquaintances and former members of the choir – to rehearse and perform a concert programme that always included the 40-part motet Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis. On this particular occasion, the programme also included Rachmaninov’s All-night Vigil, and it was principally because of these two pieces (and also, though secondarily, because my Psalm 150 in Grandsire Triples also happened to be on the programme) that my wife and I decided to go to London for the Tallis Weekend. It was a fascinating experience both musically and socially, and in the course of this weekend I began to contemplate a companion piece to Spem in alium, using the same 40-parts.

A Biblical text in Latin seems a logical choice to match Spem. The number 40 appears in several places in the Bible, and a suitable topic soon suggested itself: Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness while being tempted by the Devil. The passage is almost complete in dialogue and thus lends itself well to antiphonal writing. I immediately realised that by regrouping the eight five-part choirs of Spem (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass) into four eight part choirs SSAATTBB, I would have eight baritones left over who could then form the ensemble singing the lines of the Devil.

At the Tallis weekend party I floated this idea to James Jarvis, music director of Exmoor Singers, and rather to my surprise he seized on it enthusiastically. So much so, that a few months and a number of emails later I found myself writing this piece to a commission from Exmoor Singers! The name Tentatio was chosen as a working title. I thought I would come up with something with a bit more punch later; yet here we are, and Tentatio is still the title of the piece. Temporary solutions do tend to become permanent; even the Finale file that contains the final score of the piece is entitled tentatio final layout test

The story goes that Spem in alium was written by Tallis in response to the likewise 40-part motet Ecce beatam lucem by Alessandro Striggio in a sort of musical arms race, and it must be said that Spem did come out as a more substantial piece than Ecce, even if the gargantuan scale on which it was conceived placed great restrictions on the scope of the vocal writing. Like EcceSpem is very much a spatial piece; a major part of its impact comes from the placement of its performers around the audience. This provided the incentive for me to use the spatial dimension in a slightly different way in Tentatioand for using a ‘blocky’ structure (antiphonal homophonic textures, to use the proper technical term) instead of through-composed polyphony. Indeed, it would have been an exercise in futility to try to emulate and or exceed Spem.Tentatiois better described as a homage to Tallis and an exercise in choral scoring and the use of the spatial dimension rather than as a piece that specifically requires 40 independent voices parts to perform. The climax of the piece is, however, a 40-note cluster…

Practical consideration led to the extensive use of an E-flat pedal point and to punctuating the piece with one or more handbells, to faciliate the choir keeping on pitch. And, of course, the Devil being involved, there are lots and lots of tritones (diabolus in musica).”

Go to full information and booking form for Tallis Festival 2014 here.

John Tavener (1944-2013) “Funeral Ikos”

John Tavener (1944-2013) – Funeral Ikos

Why these bitter words of the dying,
O brethren, which they utter as they go hence?
I am parted from my brethren.
All my friends do I abandon and go hence.
But whither I go, that understand I not, neither
what shall become of me yonder; only God,
who hath summoned me knoweth.
But make commemoration of me with the song: Alleluia.

But whither now go the souls?
How dwell they now together there?
This mystery have I desired to learn,
but none can impart aright.
Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them?
Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them
and make the song: Alleluia.

We go forth on the path eternal, and as condemned,
with downcast faces,
present ourselves before the only God eternal.
Where then is comeliness?
Where then is wealth?
Where then is the glory of this world?
There shall none of these things aid us,
but only to say oft the psalm: Alleluia.

If thou hast shown mercy unto man,
O man, that same mercy shall be shown thee there;
and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion,
the same shall there deliver thee from want.
If in this life the naked thou hast clothed,
the same shall give thee shelter there, and sing the psalm:

Youth and the beauty of the body fade
at the hour of death,
and the tongue then burneth fiercely,
and the parched throat is inflamed.
The beauty of the eyes is quenched then,
the comeliness of the face all altered,
the shapeliness of the neck destroyed;
and the other parts have become numb,
nor often say: Alleluia.

With ecstasy we are inflamed
if we but hear that there is light eternal yonder;
that there is Paradise,
wherein every soul of Righteous Ones rejoiceth.
Let us all, also, enter into Christ, that all we may cry
aloud thus unto God: Alleluia.

from our CD “Curtain”



Elliott Carter (1908-2012) “Musicians wrestle everywhere”

Musicians wrestle everywhere –
All day – among the crowded air
I hear the silver strife –
And – waking – long before the morn –
Such transport breaks upon the town
I think it that “New Life”!

It is not Bird – it has no nest –
Nor “Band” – in brass and scarlet – drest –
Nor Tamborin – nor Man –
It is not Hymn from pulpit read –
The “Morning Stars” the Treble led
On Time’s first Afternoon!

Some – say – it is “the Spheres” – at play!
Some say that bright Majority
Of vanished Dames – and Men!
Some – think it service in the place
Where we – with late – celestial face –
Please God – shall ascertain!            (Emily Dickinson)

from our CD “Curtain”