Taking its name from the Blessed Virgin Mary, a focus of religious devotion in the sacred music of all ages, The Marian Consort is a young, dynamic and internationally-renowned early music vocal ensemble, recognised for its freshness of approach and innovative presentation of a broad range of repertoire.
This ‘astounding’ (The Herald) ensemble has given concerts throughout the UK and Europe, features regularly on BBC Radio 3, and is a former ‘Young Artist’ of The Brighton Early Music Festival.
Known for its engaging performances and imaginative programming, the group draws its members from amongst the very best young singers on the early music scene today. They normally sing one to a part (dependent on the repertoire) with smaller vocal forces allowing clarity of texture and subtlety and flexibility of interpretation that illuminate the music for performer and audience alike. The Marian Consort is also committed to inspiring a love of singing in others, and has led participatory workshops for a wide range of ages and abilities.
Their repertoire encompasses the music of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries with a particular focus on the exploration of lesser-known works, often bringing these to the attention of the wider public for the first time. The Marian Consort is also a proud exponent of contemporary music, juxtaposing latter-day pieces and Renaissance works in concert in order to shed new light on both. As part of this commitment to new music, the group has commissioned works from several leading British choral composers, including Cecilia McDowall and Andrew Gant.
The Marian Consort performs across the UK and Europe: recent highlights have included recitals at King’s Place, the Barcelona Early Music Festival and the Festival de Música Antiga Valencia; concerts for the Brighton Early Music Festival and the Leipzig A Cappella Festival; and performances at the Wellcome Collection and the British Academy.
The Marian Consort has released four CDs with Delphian Records which have met with considerable critical acclaim. Their disc of English and Continental Renaissance music from the Dow Partbooks received outstanding reviews in all of the major broadsheets, with the Scotsman giving it 5 stars for ‘performances that glow with golden purity and soul’, the Sunday Times commenting ‘exquisite…the ensemble sings with eloquence and expressive finesse’, and Gramophone Magazine calling it ‘superb’. Their CD of music by the Parisian Renaissance composer Jean Maillard attracted praise for its ‘precision and pellucid textures’, with the Guardian noting that ‘the performances are models of discretion and musical taste, every texture clear, every phrase beautifully shaped’. The ensemble’s most recent release, of a Christmas mass and motets by Jean Mouton, Cristobal de Morales and Annibale Stabile, was Christmas Choice in BBC Music Magazine, who commented that ‘the works are mellifluously performed by The Marian Consort, who shape the sinuous polyphony with winning pliability’, while the Sunday Times described the disc as ‘sublime – sung with impeccable polish and blend’ and the Observer lauded the group for ‘drawing the listener in by quiet persuasion and musical intelligence of the highest order’.
The Marian Consort is directed by Rory McCleery, a freelance singer, choral conductor and academic.
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Rory McCleery began his musical career as a chorister at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh under Timothy Byram-Wigfield and Matthew Owens. He gained a double first in music at Oxford University as both Organ and Domus Academic scholar of St Peter’s College, subsequently completing an MSt in Musicology with Distinction in 2009.
In addition to directing and performing with The Marian Consort, Rory greatly enjoys working as a soloist and consort singer with specialist early music ensembles including The Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen, The Gabrieli Consort, Contrapunctus, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Dunedin Consort, The Tallis Scholars and The Cardinall’s Musick, under conductors including Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Harry Christophers, Paul McCreesh, John Butt, and Andrew Carwood.
Recent solo performances have included Bach St John and St Matthew Passions; Handel Messiah and Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, Croft Odes for the Peace of Utrecht, Pärt Passio, Purcell Come ye Sons of Art, Ode to St Cecilia, and Welcome to All the Pleasures; Monteverdi Vespers of 1610; Rameau Grands Motets; and Britten Abraham and Isaac in venues across the UK and Europe. Rory has appeared as a soloist for broadcasts on ARTE, Radio France, BBC Radio 3 and German and Italian radio, and collaborates regularly with the Rose Consort of Viols. He studies singing with Giles Underwood.
Rory is currently completing his doctoral research in the French Renaissance composer Jean Mouton, and is a freelance academic and programming consultant for festivals and for many of the ensembles with whom he performs.
Rory is also a firm believer in the importance of vocal and music pedagogy, and is the assistant director of the Oxford Youth Choirs.