Adriatic Voyage | Project report for Angel Early Music

Despite some initial uncertainties due to the constantly-changing situation around COVID-19 last Autumn, the recording sessions for this project were able to go ahead from 21-24 September 2020, following a live performance to a (reduced) socially distanced audience for Stour Music at the beginning of the month.

The recording, which saw The Marian Consort collaborating with violinist Bojan Cicic and the Illyria Consort, took place in the sympathetic acoustic of Merton College Chapel in Oxford. A video of the opening track on the CD, Francesco Usper’s Ave Maria, was filmed during the sessions and gives a flavour of the recording:

The full personnel featured on the recording are as below:

The Marian Consort                                                          Lucinda Cox Soprano                                                              Rory McCleeryCountertenor/Director                                 Edward RossTenor                                                                    Ben DurrantTenor                                                                   Edmund Saddington Bass                                    


                                                                                                               The Illyria Consort                                                                  Bojan Cicic Violin/Director                                                    Gawain Glenton Cornetti                                                      Inga Maria Klaucke Dulcian                                          Joseph Crouch Violetta/Bass Violin                           David Miller Theorbo                                                              Steven Devine Organ                                                            Emily White Alto Sackbut                                                  Peter Thornton Tenor Sackbut                                                  Jam Orrell Tenor Viola                                                  Nicholas Perry Tenor Cornetto

As a result of the increase in the number of featured instrumental players (although many of these appeared in only one item, the Francesco Usper Battaglia per sonar e cantar a 8, which was a late addition to the programme after the Stour performance) the overall costs were slightly higher than projected, although this additional cost was met through some additional funding secured by The Illyria Consort and the project costs were otherwise as anticipated.

The CD was released on September 24 2021, and has received excellent critical notices: tracks from the recording have enjoyed significant exposure across BBC Radio 3’s programming, and Andrew McGregor on BBC Radio 3’s Record Review described “a constant movement of goods, people & arts in 16th-century Dalmatia, creating the cultural cross-currents so beautifully realised here by The Marian Consort and Bojan Cicic’s Illyria Consort”.

Charlotte Gardner in Gramophone Magazine begins her review “Well, this is rather gorgeous … highlights are numerous, but I’ll start with Rory McCleery’s soft, bright, buoyant countertenor tones floating over the sunnily secular madrigal Donna ingrata … this one has suavely merry theorbo support from David Miller, on to which further dancing instrumental interjections are dropped in as delicious little amuse-bouches, organist Steven Devine’s birdy flute song being a personal favourite.

 Equally ear-pricking are the vocal blending and superglued-together ornamentations from tenors Edward Ross and Ben Durrant … Or, for a shot of The Marian Consort’s clean, lucid-textured unaccompanied sound by way of sophisticated early Italian Baroque polyphony, head to the gently reverent Ave Maria by Giulio Schiavetto … An instruments-only highlight, meanwhile, is … Sonata 8’s conversation between Cicic’s nimble violin and Gawain Glenton’s florid, dulcet-toned cornett ornamentions.

 In short, this is a cornucopeia of sacred and secular instrumental and vocal music, performed with arresting, period-evocative beauty, which highlights not just what a fascinating period this was for Italian-Slav cross-cultural blending but also how little most of us know about it.” (the full review is available here)

We are enormously grateful to the Trustees of Angel Early Music for their support of this project, and delighted that we have achieved what we set out to do, namely to bring this fantastic and largely forgotten repertoire to life and to promote it to as wide an audience as CD distribution allows, in so doing educating the public in its merits and hopefully encouraging further performance.

The recording has also been of considerable benefit to the profile and wider perception of The Marian Consort: we have, since the release, been invited to perform in Croatia, and have also, helped too by other projects including our Angel Early Music-supported film of music by Heinrich Schutz, had fruitful conversations about programmes of Baroque consort/solo repertoire with Festivals and concert promoters who had previously pigeon-holed us as performing exclusively a cappella Renaissance/contemporary choral music.

On behalf of the singers of The Marian Consort and the players of the Illyria Consort, thank you again for your support.


Rory McCleery

Artistic Director, The Marian Consort