‘The singers radiate a lot of tranquility, despite their agility and clear declamation, they create an atmosphere of devotion.’

– Concerto, July/August Edition, 2020 – 

La Clef du Mois ★★★★★

‘The management of Colm Carey promotes the clarity of the lines of each desk for a perfect approach to the rich counterpoint of this music. The roundness of sound, the variety of colors delicately brought, the homogeneity of the voices, favor the spiritual fullness of this music. The conviction of all and the permanent commitment of each one vigorously deploy the majesty of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.’

– ResMusica, June 2020 –

Odyssean Ensemble ★★★★★

‘Beautifully rounded sound on this recording combines with the freshness, vivacity and energy of very fine performances, shaped with taste, understanding and lovely legato lines by Colm Carey who, turning his hand more to choral directing nowadays, truly owns this repertoire. Here is Byrd composing for Protestants: and what wondrous stuff it is – both a magnificent expression of the aesthetic liturgical leanings encouraged by Elizabeth I, and an anti-Calvinist celebration of quality music as God’s gift and blessing. The excellent liner notes include a spot of fascinating organ geekery for those that want it.’

– Choir and Organ, July 2020 –

Odyssean Ensemble ★★★★★

‘This is the debut ensemble of the Odyssean Ensemble, directed by the Master of Music at the Tower of London, Colm Carey. It’s not clear whether that’s where the album was recorded, but wherever it may have been, it’s gorgeous, with brilliant individual voices keeping their integrity in a complex texture. The album, in fact, offers an ideal combination of performance forces and work performed. The Great Service of William Byrd, paired with some anthems (as likely would have been done in Byrd‘s time), is not often performed. After you hear this performance, you’ll feel there is no good reason for its neglect, but it may be that it doesn’t fit into any of the conventional boxes of late Renaissance English sacred polyphony. It was written for the Protestant royal chapel (exactly when, and whether for Elizabeth I or James I is not clear), and is in English, but it does not have the usual limpid quality of Protestant service music. Instead, it is a big work, constantly polyphonic, but it does not have the monumental intricacy of Byrd‘s three great Catholic masses of about the same time. Byrd devises a unique structure of constantly shifting polyphonic combinations from among the ten total parts, and he keeps the text clear as Protestant requirements dictated. Carey and his Odyssean Ensemble respond to this ideally, with crisp, sparkling vocal lines, and the ensemble members, all experienced singers from various London choirs, have the chops to realize Carey‘s reading. Sample one of the anthems, perhaps O God, the proud are risen against me (elegantly placed in context by annotator Andrew Johnstone, who prepared new editions of all the works here), for an idea. An unusually strong recording of English Renaissance sacred music.’

 James Manheim – All Music, June 2020 –

Odyssean Ensemble ★★★★★   

‘The Catholic composer William Byrd enjoyed the protection of the actual Elizabeth I when working at the Chapel Royal, producing not only polyphonic Latin mass settings but homophonic works for the new Anglican rite, drawn from Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. Chief among those is The Great Service, a lavish, 10-part masterpiece, unpublished in his lifetime and only reconstructed when partbooks were discovered at Durham in 1922.

 The years fell away last week when the excellent Odyssean Ensemble sang sections from this choral rarity (newly recorded on the Linn label) at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London, the once grim prison that housed so many recusants, Byrd’s friends among them. Such sweet music springing from such dangerous times.’

Stephen Pritchard – Observer 10 March 2019 –

For those whose image of the Tower of London is of a crowded place swarming with photo-snapping tourists, wandering by moonlight through the virtually empty courtyards is a truly magical experience — and the magic was finessed by the launch at the Chapel Royal of William Byrd: Great Service and Motets from Linn Records with Colm Carey of Odyssean Ensemble fascinatingly holding forth on the luminaries buried in the Chapel Royal and giving the assembled audience a taste of the album. As we sipped wine at the event ably curated by Anna KenyonMaggie Hamilton, editor of Choir & Organ (and her predecessor at the magazine Matthew Power) remarked to me how the superb acoustics of the Chapel allowed every strand of Byrd’s impeccable writing for voices to shine in coruscating detail, a sentiment echoed enthusiastically by Stephen Pritchard of the Observer. The Barbican’s Nick Kenyon and I were shown some of the hidden nooks and crannies of the Chapel by the personable Colm Carey, who clearly has an alternative career in store as a historian if he ever decides to abandon the human voice. Other attendees at the event included Cathy Hogg of Linn Records and Peter Quantrill of the Gramophone — all of us heading out to a glowing Tower Bridge after a very civilised evening.

Barry Forshaw – Classical CD Choice (Online Review of Debut CD and CD Launch, March 4, 2019) – 

 ‘The evening’s main concert was a stunning performance of Byrd’s Cantiones Sacrae by the Odyssean Ensemble, directed by Colm Carey. This set of motets, obliquely addressing the terrible situation of Catholics at the time, is mostly bleak yet still inspiring, and the performance was all the more affecting for having been sung in the very chapel where so many Catholic martyrs (including John Fisher and Thomas Moore) are buried. The music was interspersed with some very moving readings, notably of Edmund Campion’s “I am a Catholic” in which the poet says that “You cannot reason with those who do not love Reason” – a statement which one might feel remains especially relevant today.’

– Music OMH, Spitalfields Festival, December 2, 2018 – 

‘The result vividly conjured up the period, while profiling the Odyssean’s attention to detail. Nothing was less than meticulously blended. Nothing was over-boiled. Directed by its founder Colm Carey, the ensemble brought an understated lyricism to the most flamboyant works..’ 

– Financial Times –

‘…the Odyssean Ensemble conducted by Colm Carey, their ten members singing one to a part, and bringing great clarity to Byrd’s text settings in a rewarding acoustic. Their harmonies were crystal clear, the pronunciation likewise – and the melodies were carefully woven into a beautiful tapestry.’

– Arcana –

 

 

 

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“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” – Victor Hugo

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