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 Gramophone Award-nominated and internationally renowned early music vocal ensemble, recognised for its dynamic freshness of approach and innovative presentation of a broad range of repertoire. Under its founder and director, Rory McCleery, this ‘astounding’ 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.
Their repertoire encompasses the music of the fifteenth to eighteenth 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, Matthew Martin and Cheryl Frances Hoad.
The Marian Consort is also committed to inspiring a love of singing in others, and has led participatory educational workshops for a wide range of ages and abilities.
The Marian Consort often collaborates in performance and recording with a variety of vocal and instrumental ensembles: recent project partners have included the Carducci Quartet; the Choir of Merton College, Oxford; the Berkeley Ensemble; the Rose Consort of Viols; the Monteverdi String Band; and Ludus Baroque in repertoire ranging from Byrd, Parsons, Bach and Monteverdi to Arvo Pärt and Michael Berkeley.
Together, the members of The Marian Consort perform across the UK and Europe: recent highlights have included recitals for Aldeburgh Music, the Tage Alter Musik Regensburg and the Festival de Música Antiga Valencia; concerts for the Leipzig A Cappella Festival and the St Magnus International Festival; and performances at the Festival Alte Musik Knechtsteden and the British Academy.
The Marian Consort has to date released eight CDs with Delphian Records, all of which have met with considerable critical acclaim. Their discs have been praised for ‘performances that glow with golden purity and soul’, ‘precision and pellucid textures’, ‘impeccable polish and blend’ and for ‘drawing the listener in by quiet persuasion and musical intelligence of the highest order’. Their latest recording, ‘Music for the Queen of Heaven’, a collection of contemporary Marian anthems including several commissions, was released in October 2017 and has been universally lauded, with reviewers describing it as ‘deliciously outstanding’, ‘a glorious vocal coup-de-theatre’ and ‘flawless throughout’.
The Marian Consort is also a pioneer of innovative and exciting projects which move beyond the confines of the traditional concert in order to bring the music of the past to today’s audiences. These have included several collaborations with musician and playwright Clare Norburn, whose concert drama ‘Breaking the Rules’ The Marian Consort has performed at Festivals across the UK, including Lichfield, Buxton, Cheltenham, Bath, and most recently ‘Baroque at the Edge’ at LSO St Lukes, where it garnered five star reviews. This success has led to another joint project, ‘Galileo’ on the life of the great philosopher, musician and scientist, in partnership with The Monteverdi String Band.
McCleery elicits performances that glow with golden purity and soul’ (The Scotsman)
‘McCleery, a countertenor and academic as well as conductor, introduced the items with a lucidity combining boyish geniality with quite startling erudition.’ (The Sunday Times)
Rory McCleery began his musical career as a chorister at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh. 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.
Rory is the founder of The Marian Consort, with whom he performs across the UK and Europe. Under his direction, The Marian Consort has become renowned for its compelling interpretations of a wide range of repertoire, particularly the music of the Renaissance and early Baroque, but also of works by contemporary British composers, and in 2017 was nominated for a Gramophone Award.
As a countertenor, Rory greatly enjoys performing as a soloist and consort singer in concert and recording with ensembles including The Dunedin Consort, Contrapunctus, The Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen, The Gabrieli Consort, Le Concert d’Astrée, The Academy of Ancient Music, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and The Cardinall’s Musick.
Recent solo performances have included Bach St John and St Matthew Passions; Handel Messiah, Dixit Dominus and Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne; 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.
Rory is much in demand as a guest conductor, workshop leader and programming consultant, and is a passionate believer in the importance of music education and singing for young people.
"Singing one person to a part, the Marian Consort give sublimely refined, spacious and impeccably tuned performances."
"The singers perform with a yearning intensity which is just exquisite."
"Exemplary one-to-a-part performances ... the singing is as impassioned as it is effortlessly elegant."
"The Marian Consort has built an enviable reputation for coolly poised and precisely balanced performances and indeed there are times here when the listener can only sit back and admire, seduced by the sheer beauty of sound."
"There’s earnest beauty in it and the instrumental playing on this recording is spot on – the Berkeley Ensemble under David Wordsworth clinches the balance of chaste, plaintive and urgent."
"You are left in no doubt of the agony of the crucifixion in the vocal and horn climax of the opening chorus of Stabat Mater ... intense and riveting."
"The Marian Consort’s performances deliver full value in terms of expressive range and sophistication. Pitch-perfect tuning and immaculately clean ensemble … add further to the attractions of this eminently listenable recital."
"The Marian Consort’s background in early music pays dividends in their superb precision of pitch, impeccable rhythmic placing and beautiful diction … the lush harmonies that open [Judica me] are sumptuously delivered and beautifully recorded."
"Little is known about the 16th-century composer, except that his beautifully smooth polyphony was much admired ... As revealed with pellucid clarity by Rory McCleery’s young Marian Consort on this first recording devoted exclusively to Maillard, he was a subtly expressive composer."
"With two women in the group, they make no pretence at emulating what might have happened in the 16th century; but that lets them sing out with more freedom. So this is no-nonsense musicianship, but for all that thoroughly musical ... The unfussy performance helps the music enormously."
"The motets are more adventurous, declamatory and cleverly nuanced, with a recognisable house style. The Marian Consort produces a very pleasing sound."
"The most striking feature of this entertainingly varied collection is the consistently fresh, fruit-ripe tonal quality of the Marian Consort's singing … poised and flexible, the text responded to with notable insight and maturity."