Tenebrae

Tenebrae

Choir

• Founded 2001

Editor's Choice

When he was a young man, someone asked British countertenor Nigel Short what he was going to do with his life. He didn’t know, but hit upon the idea of starting his own choir. And so, Tenebrae was born. It’s a choir like no other: extraordinarily flexible, and capable of a kind of precision and mountain-water clarity that will make your mouth fall open in astonishment. Since its inception in 2001, Tenebrae has brought its very special brand of musical exactness to works from across the past 500 years, and sampling just about anything they’ve recorded would make their special qualities instantly clear. For something really dazzling, though, try their recording of Francis Poulenc’s Figure Humaine, his 1943 setting of texts by the French surrealist poet Paul Éluard, and listen to the total transparency with which they render Poulenc’s distinctive harmonies in the penultimate part, “Un feu sans tache”.

Biography

Tenebrae is a professional chamber choir formed and founded by King's Singers alum Nigel Short. It has established itself as a leading international choir through its performances, active touring schedule, and growing recording catalog.

Tenebrae was conceived by Short while he was a member of the King's Singers; he was looking for a group with more flexibility for performing. Tenebrae was founded by Short and Barbara Pollock, with Short serving as the artistic director since the founding. Tenebrae's premiere came in London in 2001, with a performance of Short's The Dream of Herod. The group's main focus has been on medieval chant and Renaissance pieces, but it has also taken into account more contemporary source material for a new take on a very old sound. The choir, whose members have backgrounds in some of the U.K.'s leading choral groups, has toured all over the world and performed in such places as Spain, Bermuda, and the U.S. A unique aspect of Tenebrae's performances is in performing only in candlelight and that the choir moves about the venue during its appearances. The difficulty of which led to the lighting -- as it were -- being taken care of in-house, by Short and Tenebrae.

The majority of Tenebrae's recordings have been released on Signum Classics, though the group has recorded for other labels. One of these was a performance of Mozart and Haydn with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe on Warner Classics. In 2016, Tenebrae released Music of the Spheres on Bene Arte, earning a Grammy nomination, and in 2018, the group issued A Walk with Ivor Gurney, on Signum Classics.

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