REVIEW – The Cardinall’s Musick – Howard Assembly Rooms


Founded in 1989, The Cardinall’s Musick is a highly successful and innovative ensemble. Taking its name from the 16th-century cardinal, Thomas Wolsey, the group is known for its extensive study of English Renaissance music. Although primarily a vocal group, The Cardinall’s Musick also has its own period instrumental ensemble, and now embraces a wide range of styles and periods: from complete reconstructions of historical events (the Field of the Cloth of Gold) to world premieres of commissioned music from composers such as Michael Finnissy, Simon Whalley, Matthew Martin and Judith Weir.

Add a sincere love of the music and a deep personal commitment in performance, and ‘the voices of Andrew Carwood and his eight cohorts could probably start a blaze in the Antarctic!’ (The Times). Their thoughtful, themed programmes are designed to stimulate and enlighten, to broaden horizons and bring a fresh approach to standard repertoire.

xt257_01.tifClassical Music is an area that I know woefully little about. A few years ago, I decided to complete a Lenten Challenge to listen to a new piece of classical music each day.

At the end of the Lenten period, I was very aware of 44 pieces of music but only marginally more knowledgeable! However, I had learned one valuable thing. It is possible to enjoy and delight in classical (and indeed most) music, regardless of information about it.  I’d lost my fear.

Which lead me to the Howard Assembly Rooms on the 1st of April, preparing to listen to an 8 piece emsemble, specialists when it comes to the interpretation and performance of English Renaissance music! Thankfully, the HAR provided a detailed programme.

The Cardinall’s Musick would be preforming pieces written by Thomas Tallis:

  • Mass for Four Voices
  • Motets and Plainsong
  • Christ Rising Again
  • A new commandment
  • O come in one to praise the Lord
  • Communion Service (from the Dorian Service)
  • Lamentations of Jereniah I and II

As this included pieces in both Latin and English – translations were provided. Between each of the pieces, the conductor provided us with a brief historical context for the Mass and Lamentations and so on. This was fascinating – especially the information provided about music written during the brief reign of King Edward VI. Given what I’ve learned about the Reformation, it all made sense but I’ve never really considered the impact this would have on the music of the period – particularly religious ones.

Each piece from the mass was perfectly paired with a motet and the voices of the 8 gents involved were just incredible. Every song involved a different set up meaning the stage never became staid; there was always an element of movement. Depending on each song, the vocalists would hit incredible highs or the deepest of lows with seeming ease.

The set up of the Howard Room meant that the stage was reminiscent of sacred spaces which really added to the overall effect. Personally, I preferred the Latin pieces. It’s so rare that I hear anything in the language, let alone male only and to have every word sung with such proficiency and confidence – I was enthralled! Mind you, during the English pieces I was presented with the opportunity to marvel at the interpretation – I’m not sure a single word was pronounced exactly as written!

For me the only let down was that there weren’t any CD’s for sale at the end of the show.


xt257_09.tifVisit The Cardinall’s Musick website HERE



howard assembly room

Visit the Howard Assembly Room  HERE


Visit the Opera North website HERE



Theatre Reviews


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