Biography Tenebrae Choir & Nigel Short

hailed as “one of the country’s most outstanding vocal ensembles” (Evening Standard), Tenebrae has established itself as the chamber choir of choice for critics and audiences in the UK and around the world. Founded and directed by Nigel Short, the group blends the passion of a large Cathedral choir with the precision of a chamber ensemble to create a unique and enchanting sound, one which is dazzlingly effective in mediaeval chant as it is in contemporary works. With every performance exploiting the unique acoustic and atmosphere of each venue in which they perform with movement and light, often using candlelight as the sole means of illumination, the carefully chosen team of singers enable the audience to experience the power and intimacy of the human voice at its very best.

Formed in 2001, the group was launched to critical acclaim with a performance of Nigel Short’s own composition, The Dream of Herod. Since then they have collaborated with Sir John Tavener, Karl Jenkins, Pierre Thilloy, Alexander Levine, Will Todd and Joby Talbot. Their dedication to the music of today is complemented by a commitment to the music of the past; from medieval chant to Romantic masterworks, they respond to the demands inherent in whatever they sing with equal passion and musicality.

The group has toured all over the world, extensively throughout Europe, the USA and Bermuda, performing in many renowned festivals (BBC Proms, Montreux Choral Festival, Edinburgh Festival) and tailoring their distinctive performances to many venues (Royal Albert Hall, King’s College Chapel, Lausanne Cathedral). Working with the LSO under Sir Colin Davis, the English Concert, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The English Chamber Orchestra, the Scottish Ensemble, and the Endymion ensemble, the choir have proved themselves as adept at larger orchestral works as the a cappella repertoire for which they are so well known.

Recording on the Signum, LSO Live, Warner Classics, EMI Classics, Deutsche Grammophon and Decca labels, the group has so far released eighteen albums; from Christmas carols to solemn vespers, with their recent Victoria Requiem disc winning the ‘Choral’ category of the 2012 BBC Music Magazine Awards. These revelatory performances have thrilled listeners across the world and ensured their continued position as one of the world’s favourite choirs.

Nigel Short
began his musical life as a chorister at Solihull Parish Church going on to study singing and piano at the Royal College of Music in London. He was a member of The Tallis Scholars, Westminster Abbey and Cathedral choirs and The King’s Consort before going on to concentrate on work as a soloist in Oratorio and Opera. He sang many roles in opera productions all over Europe and for ENO and Opera North here in the UK.

In 1993, Nigel joined the world-renowned vocal ensemble the King’s Singers. Whilst touring the world with them Nigel began to seriously consider the possibility of starting up a new choral group which would combine a larger force of singers with movement around the performance venue as well as considerations of lighting, ambience, time and space. It would not only mean that the singers were more physically involved in the performance but also that the audiences could become caught up in the experience. This would be a team that had all the discipline and precision of a world-class ensemble yet with the dynamic power and range of a large choral group. Such a team would be able to use ecclesiastical buildings as a performance space, combining his love of traditional choral repertoire with a more “theatrical” style of performing.

Like many such ideas, the realisation of the dream eventually came about through discussions with like-minded musicians, singers and friends, who together realised the formation of Tenebrae – a combination of talented composers and arrangers, pianists and organists, specialists of jazz and renaissance, instrumentalists and singers.

In 2001 Nigel started working with writer Richard McDonald in Switzerland to create a work that could be the vehicle with which to launch Tenebrae. The result was Nigel’s own composition The Dream of Herod, a production that captured not only the sound of Tenebrae but also incorporated strong visual images, movement and lighting effects in beautiful performance spaces. A CD recording and a DVD of the work were made and the group gave its debut performance and the world première of the piece at St Bartholomew the Great in London (the church featured in films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth the Golden Age and most recently Sherlock Holmes).

Since then, Nigel has continued the touring life with Tenebrae as they perform in many of the worlds most prestigious music festivals. USA, Bermuda, Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany and the UK are countries where the group has enjoyed particular success and the list of destinations continues to grow.

Nigel has now conducted several of the world’s finest orchestras alongside Tenebrae both in concert and in recordings including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra and in Baroque repertoire the English Concert. He has also made recordings with many of the world’s major Record labels including EMI Classics, Warner Classics, Decca Records, LSO Live and the fast-emerging independent label Signum Records with whom Nigel has worked closely on many projects right from the start of Tenebrae’s existence with Signum’s director Steve Long.

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