NCEM and I Fagiolini Commission a new work by Orlando Gough

Orlando Gough’s The Spell, commissioned by the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) on the occasion of their 10th birthday for early music specialists, I Fagiolini – themselves celebrating their 25th anniversary – receives its world premiere on Wednesday 17 November at Cadogan Hall, London.

A nationwide tour follows in spring / summer 2011 which is being partly organised by music promoters, Music in the Round, and includes a performance at the NCEM on Thursday 17 March 2011.

Delma Tomlin, Director of the NCEM says: “It is always thrilling to commission new work and this joint celebratory venture, made possible by the generous support of the PRS for Music Foundation, is made all the more significant by the opportunity to develop an extensive audience for this new piece in venues around the country next year.”

Gough’s new work is based on a moment in the life of one of the 16th century’s most important and flamboyant poets, Torquato Tasso, who inspired Monteverdi but finished life in a mental asylum with delusions that he was to be murdered. The Spell’s English text has been created by the librettist Timothy Knapman.

Orlando Gough Photo: © Copyright Matthew Andrews

Orlando Gough

Orlando Gough explains how The Spell began: “Robert and I chose the madrigal sequence Qual musico gentil by Giaches de Wert. The lyrics of this gorgeous piece are from Canto 16 of Tasso’s epic poem about the First Crusade, La Gerusalemme liberata – the story of Armida, an enchantress, who lures a Christian knight, Rinaldo, to her magic island. De Wert’s piece sets five stanzas in which she begs him, unsuccessfully, to stay.
“Our piece treats this as the main scene of the story, and invades it with fourteen tiny songs, which present potent images from the rest of the story: a maze, a magic garden, a talking bird, a running queen, a deserted shore, a vaporised palace, a flying chariot…

“The text consists of fourteen intense miniature poems; the music is very varied, exotic and dramatic, with obvious influences from Messaien and certain types of world music.”

Robert Hollingworth, Director of I Fagiolini adds: “I’ve long been fascinated by the ‘lyric poetry meets dungeons and dragons’ world of Tasso’s ‘Jerusalem freed’, a late 16th century crusading epic that Monteverdi and others found so inspiring. I wanted a new piece based on it but which would be relevant to the exciting music of this period that I love. Orlando Gough and Timothy Knapman have solved this with a brilliantly conceived series of episodes to be inserted between the pages of a moving cycle of pieces by Monteverdi’s inspiration, Giaches de Wert. The score looks a challenge but inherently singable and great fun!”

I Fagiolini’s programme on Wednesday 17 November at Cadogan Hall, which features the newly commissioned piece The Spell, is entitled ‘Dial ‘M’ for… Madrigal, Mannerist, Monteverdi and Misunderstood!’ and includes English madrigals by Weelkes, Tomkins and Nicolson, German madrigals by Schűtz and Hassler, Monteverdi madrigals from books III and IV, and De Wert ‘Qual musico gentil’.
Tickets are available online at t: 020 7730 4500.

The commission is sponsored by PRS for Music Foundation and the National Centre for Early Music.

The National Centre for Early Music is administered by the York Early Music Foundation and funded by Arts Council England, Yorkshire.

Press Contact:
Shona Galletly, on behalf of National Centre for Early Music
t: 0113 255 1308
m: 07813 796 733

Notes to editors:

1. The National Centre for Early Music which is based at St Margaret’s Church, York, was opened in 2000 thanks to a grant of £1.5million from the Arts Council Lottery Fund. The NCEM administers York Early Music Festival, which was established in 1977, and has grown to be the largest celebration of early music in the UK. The 2011 Festival runs from 8 to 16 July and celebrates the spirit of the 1951 Festival of Britain.

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2. The PRS for Music Foundation (PRSF) is the UK’s leading independent funder of new music across all genres. Widely respected as an adventurous and proactive funding body, the Foundation supports an exceptional range of new music activity – from unsigned band showcases to composer residencies, from commissions for new music to experimental live electronica. Since March 2000 PRSF has given more than £13.5 million to over 4,000 new music initiatives.

For more information please visit

3. I Fagiolini. Despite the constant label of ‘that innovative young ensemble’, in 2011 I Fagiolini will celebrate their silver jubilee. The only early music ensemble ever to win the Royal Philharmonic’s Ensemble prize (2005), they are in fact as at home with contemporary as Renaissance music. Their brand has become thought-provoking and unusual productions of solo-voice ensemble music from Tallis in Wonderland and The Full Monteverdi to their masked L’Amfiparnaso and contemporary (unconducted) opera The Birds. Although they have performed all over the world from the Lincoln Center to South African townships, their particular mix of music, their almost evangelical approach to their repertoire and the undeniably British sense of humour that lies under the surface of some of their work, makes a UK tour an important part of this celebratory year.

4. Orlando Gough was a founder member of the bands The Lost Jockey & Man Jumping. He writes music mostly for the theatre – operas, plays, dance pieces, music-theatre, directs The Shout, an extraordinary choir of diverse soloists (, and devises and directs large-scale site-specific choral pieces.

Recent work includes The Singing River for 12 choirs, 18 boats, two cranes and a locomotive (Theater der Welt, Stuttgart), We Turned On The Light (BBC Proms), Open Port the closing event of Stavanger 2008 European Capital of Culture, for 750 singers, brass band and wooden trumpets, Raketensymphonie the opening event of Linz09 European Capital of Culture, for voices and fireworks, On The Rim Of The World, a piece for children commissioned by all the major opera houses in the UK, a dance work Just Add Water? with the choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, and The World Encompassed for the viol consort Fretwork.

In June 2010 the Linbury Studio hosted Gough’s new opera A Ring, A Lamp, A Thing with libretto by Caryl Churchill.

For further information visit

5. Timothy Knapman studied history at Oxford. Since then he has spent his time writing plays, opera libretti, song lyrics and children’s books.

With Alex Silverman and Ed Jaspers, he wrote Hamlet! The Musical, which was a big hit at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010 and won the Theatregoers’ Choice award for Best Musical.

Tim’s books, including the successful Mungo series, have been translated into eleven languages and are often read on CBeebies Bedtime Stories. New stories are forthcoming from Macmillan, Scholastic, Puffin and Simon & Schuster.

His stage and music theatre work has been commissioned and performed by I Fagiolini, Trestle Theatre Company, Handmade Opera, the University of Madison, Wisconsin, and many others in the UK and across the world, with premières at the BBC Proms, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Cheltenham Festival, the Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, the Holywell Music Room, the Dartington International Summer School and the Café de Paris.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment commissioned Tim to write a poem in celebration of its 21st birthday. The poem was performed by Simon Callow at the Royal Festival Hall.

Tim has appeared on Radio 3’s In Tune and his work has been featured on Classical Collection and The Choir with Aled Jones.

For further information visit:

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