Spiritato - Report on Northern Light - Sonatas from the Düben Collection; recording project, September 2021

As an ensemble whose members enjoy busy careers performing across the world, the last twenty months have been a particularly difficult period. The Northern Light project, our second disc for Delphian Records, was devised to enable us to continue building our public presence and allow our players a valuable avenue of artistic expression. Recording being a more or less controlled environment, we were able to carry on working even though live performance was not possible.

Originally scheduled for February 2021, the project was postponed until September, as several members of the group and the record label itself were unable to travel due to the ongoing pandemic. We are extremely grateful to all our sponsors for accommodating this change of date. The project finally took place from 26th-30th September 2021 at All Hallow's Church, Gospel Oak, London.

Northern Light focuses on music found in the rare manuscripts of the Düben Collection. This fantastic resource is now available online, making searching the thousands of manuscripts for suitable repertoire a far less daunting task (the collection itself is housed at Uppsala University). We chose sonatas from throughout Europe, by composers both well-known and rarely heard. These works offer an extraordinary cross-section of the fashions at one of the most wealthy of Baroque Courts; that of the Kings and Queens of Sweden in the mid to late 1600s. 

The repertoire gave us the opportunity to include a wonderful variety of instruments (and musicians). The line up of players was: Natural trumpet: Russell Gilmour, William Russell Violin: Kinga Ujszaszi, Henry Tong Viola: Joanne Miller, Nichola Blakey, Stephanie Heichelheim, Kate Fawcett Cello: Alice Manthorpe Saunders Viola da gamba: Kinga Gaborjani Violone: Kate Aldridge Dulcian: Inga Klaucke Theorbo and guitar: Kristiina Watt Harpsichord and organ: Nicolas Mendoza.

Using the digital, original manuscripts, Kinga Ujszaszi and Russell Gilmour produced editions for almost all the works we recorded. In this way we were able to look at the music we were recording in great detail. Particular attention was paid to researching the variety of continuo instruments. 

Having begun our rehearsals on the 26th, we recorded for six hours a day from 28th to 30th September. We were slightly concerned that the petrol shortages at the time would impact on the record label's travel down from Scotland. However, the whole recording period went ahead on schedule and the mood throughout the sessions remained calm and focused. We are expeting first edits of the tracks over the next few weeks.

This project has been a fantastic opportunity to further develop the public profile of our group and enhance our reputation as exciting performers and champions or rare music. It has given us a vital focus as artists when so much was not possible. Once the disc is released in mid 2022, we hope to secure broadcast opportunities and press coverage, both extremely useful in promoting the future work of the group and widening our audiences.

We have been delighted by the generosity of our supporting Trusts and Foundations and our group of crowdfunders. Without the support of Vox Musica Trust, Golsoncott Foundation, Gemma Classical Music Trust and Angel Early Music, Northern Light would not have been possible. We are incredibly grateful for the support of these organisations and thanks to them, we have been able to bring some wonderful, forgotten music back to life. 

Spiritato, October 2021