Robert founded I Fagiolini in 1986 and has spent much of his life thinking around how to present music of a different time and context to contemporary audiences. He has presented all the group's signature projects but also directed the English Concert, Academy of Ancient Music, BBC Concert Orchestra and some of the world’s finest chamber choirs including Accentus, NDR Chor, BBC Singers, RIAS Kammerchor, Capella Cracoviensis, VOCES8 and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble. He succeeds Mark Deller as Artistic Director for the Stour Music festival from 2020, and is Reader in Music at the University of York where he directs ‘The 24’ and runs an MA in Solo-Voice Ensemble Singing. He likes Monteverdi and Monty Python.
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I Fagiolini is internationally renowned for its genuinely innovative productions: “The group are musical shapeshifters, following Hollingworth’s giddy, eclectic imagination wherever it leads” (The Spectator). Signature projects have included The Full Monteverdi by John La Bouchardière; Tallis in Wonderland, a new way of hearing polyphony with live and recorded voices; Simunye, the South African collaboration; How Like An Angel (HLAA), with Australian contemporary circus company C!RCA for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad and performed at the Perth International Arts Festival, New York and in cathedrals across Europe; and Betrayal: a polyphonic crime drama (with John La
Bouchardière), an immersive theatre piece sung to the music of Gesualdo with dancers and singers set in ‘crime scenes’.
A year-long celebration of Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary in 2017 featured performances of The Other Vespers and L’Orfeo at venues including Glyndebourne, Cadogan Hall for the BBC Proms and Queen’s Hall as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Monteverdi: The Other Vespers was released on Decca Classics to great acclaim and shortlisted for a Gramophone award; “achieving a
thrilling synergy of articulate instrumental playing, fulsome choral ripienos and dexterous solo singing”(Gramophone). The celebrations continued in 2018 with performances of L’Orfeo in Antwerp (AMUZ) and further afield. In 2019 the production developed with director Thomas Guthrie’s use of masks, with performances in Stour, York and London.
I Fagiolini explored ‘Art through the prism of Music’ with leading da Vinci expert Professor Martin Kemp in Leonardo: Shaping the Invisible. Touring extensively throughout 2019, the programme celebrated the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in music and image. The album was released on CORO to high acclaim; “Yet again, the eight-strong vocal ensemble... has come up with an ingenious ‘concept’ programme that stirs the mind and heart, illuminates the past, and ravishes the ear” (The Telegraph). Tracks were premiered at The National Gallery in its own da Vinci celebrations; films and further commentary feature in Apple Music, Gramophone Magazine and Classic FM’s online galleries. Following its success, Robert and music from the album appeared in Phil Grabsky’s new da Vinci film for Exhibition on Screen Leonardo: The Works. The film received its UK premiere at Chichester Film Festival and appeared in cinemas across the world including Dubai and Vancouver film festivals - it will appear in Exhibition on Screen’s ITV series.
Touring more art and music, I Fagiolini – Au Naturel is a rich choral calendar inspired by Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Seasons, particularly poignant in our changing climate. The programme featured in I Fagiolini’s Moscow debut as part of the British Council’s ‘UK-Russia Year of Music’. A new programme based on T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ will showcase a series of five modern Nocturns including Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories, the Lamentations of Jeremiah and Lassus’ Sibylline Prophecies premiering in 2021 for the Tenebrae Festival. Reprising its collaboration with Scottish Ensemble, an immersive Purcell dance programme, A Purcell Phantasy, is also in planning.
Previous Decca Classics discs include Striggio Mass in 40 parts (2011 Early Music Gramophone and Diapason D’or Award), Amuse-Bouche - French Choral Delicacies, and 1612 Italian Vespers. The group is delighted to be Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of York. I Fagiolini is managed worldwide by Percius. www.percius.co.uk
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Anna Crookes has been a member of I Fagiolini since the very first rehearsal in November 1986. As a result of winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 1982 she has had joyous and varied careers as a pianist, singer and teacher for the last thirty-seven years. She performs with many other leading ensembles including The Sixteen and the BBC Singers and is a founder member of both Tenebrae and Britten Sinfonia Voices. Recently she has become a member of Pixels Ensemble, a collective of established chamber music players based in the North West. Career highlights with I Fagiolini include the eighty-seven performances of The Full Monteverdi and recording and performing Roderick Williams’ wonderful arrangement of the slow movement of Ravel's G major Piano Concerto with her beloved friends and colleagues.
Rebecca graduated from Oxford University and the Royal Northern College of Music and now enjoys a versatile career performing just about everything from John Sheppard to Michael Finnissy. She was a finalist in the 2017 London Bach Competition and became a member of the BBC Singers in the same year. She also enjoys singing with I Fagiolini, EXAUDI, Dunedin Consort, The Sixteen and Sonoro and as a soloist with The Academy of Ancient Music, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Northern Sinfonia. Recent highlights include discovering Daniel Lesur's ‘Cantique des Cantiques’ with I Fagiolini, solos in Handel's Israel in Egypt and singing whilst banging billiard balls on a saucepan with EXAUDI and the Knussen Chamber Orchestra at the Aldeburgh Festival.
Clare has been a member of I Fagiolini since 2004, and enjoys the group's broad spectrum of musical experiences, from staged Monteverdi madrigals to banana gags. She has performed and recorded widely (a number of her disks have won Gramophone awards) with Gardiner, Parrott, the Dunedin Consort, Fretwork, the Rose Consort of Viols, Gothic Voices, Alamire & Ensemble Plus Ultra, amongst others. Many new songs have been written for Clare, including a number by her father Stephen. She also runs Courtiers of Grace, a group specialising in lovingly-crafted programmes which tell the story of a historical character, and has a regular lute-song duo with Jacob Heringman. She lives in Belgium.
Eleanor trained at Trinity Laban before embarking on a singing career some ten years ago. She has worked extensively with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir, performing and recording as a soloist in Bach's St. Matthew Passion, Magnificat, B Minor Mass and an assortment of Cantatas. Eleanor is also a member of the BBC Singers and Tenebrae, and sings with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Academy of Ancient Music, The Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen. She has been singing with I Fagiolini since 2015 and has since had an absolute blast singing interesting repertoire (with lovely people) all over the world, including the group's debut at Carnegie Hall. Highlights include getting to grips with Janequin, recording Daniel-Lesur's 'Cantique des Cantiques' (all-time favourite choral work!) and touring Australia.
Ciara studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the opera studio of L’Opéra National du Rhin and was one of the OAE Rising Stars. With a passion for Early Music, recent engagements include Daniel (Handel’s Susanna) at the Göttingen Fetival, Fortuna/Valetto (Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea) for Opera North, Ino (Handel’s Semele) with the OAE, Mesaggiera (Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo) with I Fagiolini, Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Dunedin Consort and a collaboration with renowned violinist, Rachel Podger. Recordings include Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Dunedin Consort; Venus in the award-winning recording of Pepusch’s Venus and Adonis and Juno in Daniel Purcell’s The Judgement of Paris with Spiritato.
NICHOLAS HURNDALL SMITH
Nicholas Hurndall Smith was organ scholar at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, before training as a singer at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under David Pollard. He has since been equally at home on the operatic and concert stages, in roles by Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Stravinsky and appears all over the world with a variety of conductors and ensembles, with Monteverdi and Bach being special favourites. Nicholas is visiting singing teacher at Sidney Sussex College and Homerton College, Cambridge. He also enjoys adding alpine and rock climbs to his repertoire. In 2012 he climbed the Matterhorn to conquer blood cancer, and in the past year he has climbed in the Cordillera Blanca and in Sikkim, and summited Mount Kenya with members of the Alpine Club.
Born in Liverpool, Nicholas has enjoyed singing, on and off, with I Fagiolini for almost 20 years. In the outside world, he is particularly associated with baroque repertoire, having sung Monteverdi’s Vespers at New York's Carnegie Hall and the Salzburg Festival, and Bach’s Passions in Leipzig's Thomaskirche and at the BBC Proms. Away from singing, he shares Robert’s love for cake and cricket.
As a treble soloist, Matthew sang the role of Miles in Britten’s Turn of the Screw for Italian Opera houses. He studied music at the University of York and later at the RCM. Whilst there he was a Susan Chilcott Scholar and an RPS Young Artist. His solo appearances include the Boston Handel and Haydn society, RIAS Kammerchor Berlin, Copenhagen Philharmonic, Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla, Northern Sinfonia and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and the title role in Monteverdi's L’Orfeo with I Fagiolini. Matthew’s debut solo disc with the LPO and accompanist Malcolm Martineau, ‘Till the Stars Fall’, was released in 2015: gems from the English song repertoire alongside folk songs in celebration of some of Britain’s finest music. Matthew is a keen photographer and follower of wildlife conservation. He lives near Brighton with his daughter and wife, with whom he has released a series of original children’s music CDs.
Canadian baritone and conductor Greg Skidmore moved to the UK as a teenager to pursue a career in choral and consort music. He landed first in the English cathedral tradition (Wells, Gloucester, and Christ Church Oxford) before going on to sing with most of the top ensembles and building a significant solo career as an oratorio soloist. His life as a conductor has seen him found an amateur consort in London (The Lacock Scholars) and a week-long choral course in his homeland (The Canadian Renaissance Music Summer School) as well as lead workshops in the UK, Europe, and the USA.
Eamonn has performed with I Fagiolini for 15 years in a huge range of repertoire, including the audience-immersive The Full Monteverdi, Tallis in Wonderland, various world premieres and a number of silly pieces. He now spends much of his time wearing a different hat, conducting choirs and orchestras in various corners of the globe, but can still be heard singing, also with The Sixteen. He and Robert are currently hatching plans for podcasts.
Born in Bristol, Charles Gibbs read Modern Languages at Cambridge University before studying singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London as a postgraduate. He spent a year in London’s West End in Les Misérables playing the Bishop of Digne and understudying Javert, before deciding to concentrate on his career as a concert singer. Performing with a wide variety of British ensembles, he has travelled extensively both in Europe and further afield. Since 2006 he has been a member of the BBC Singers, mostly singing but occasionally presenting and narrating as well. Outside music, he runs, gardens and attempts to make things out of wood, with varying degrees of success in all three endeavours.