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 Chief among those is The Great Service, a lavish, 10-part masterpiece, unpublished in his lifetime and only reconstructed when partbooks were discovered at Durham in 1922.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 Kenyon, Maggie 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 –
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” – Victor Hugo- Plato