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Oxford Camerata

Biography (inaugural concert 22 May 1984)

Oxford Camerata was founded by Jeremy Summerly, David Hurley, and Henrietta Cowling and gave its first concert at the Maison Francaise in Oxford on 22 May 1984. Since then the choir has given concerts throughout Europe and has made almost thirty CD recordings. The core group comprises twelve singers with or without keyboard accompaniment, but for certain projects the choir has been made up of as few as four singers and as many as twenty. After a performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion in the Snape Maltings on Good Friday 1986, Sir Peter Pears, who was at the performance, agreed to become the Oxford Camerata's first patron: sadly Sir Peter died within days, but his place was immediately taken by Philip Ledger; Lord Bullock subsequently also agreed to become patron to the choir; Lord Bullock died on 2 February 2004 after two decades of serving as the choir's President.

While Oxford Camerata was initially recognised as a specifically early-music group, since the early 1990s the choir has expanded its repertory to include music from Gregorian chant to the present day. Hand in hand with this went the formation of the Oxford Camerata Instrumental Ensemble in 1992 and the Oxford Camerata Baroque Orchestra in 2007.

Like the choir itself, the instrumental ensembles are of flexible size and can comprise from four to twenty players working with either modern or period instruments.

Oxford Camerata is regarded as one of the finest ensembles of its type in Europe, and in recognition of this Oxford Camerata was awarded a European Cultural Prize by the Fördergemeinschaft der Europäischen Wirtschaft in 1995 (see picture below).

Standing: Robert Evans, Alison Coldstream, Daniel Norman, Andrew Carwood, Jeremy Summerly
Sitting (middle row): Deborah Mackay, Robin Blaze, Carys-Anne Lane, Jonathan Arnold, Michael McCarthy
Sitting (front row): Rebecca Outram, Lisa Beckley

About Jeremy Summerly

Jeremy Summerly graduated from Oxford University with First Class Honours in Music in 1982. After graduation, he worked as a Studio Manager for BBC Radio (1982-89), founded the Oxford Camerata (1984), and undertook musicological research at King's College, London (1987-97). In 1989 he joined the professorial staff of the Royal Academy of Music, and from 1990-96 he was conductor of Schola Cantorum of Oxford. He has also acted as guest conductor for the New London Chamber Choir, The Cardinall's Musick, the Chalice Consort (San Francisco), Ensemble Gombert (Melbourne), the Tallis Chamber Choir, and the Elysian Singers of London. He has conducted fifty commercial recordings spanning the music of nine centuries, and as a writer he has contributed articles to Early Music, The Musical Times, BBC Music Magazine, Leading Notes, and Classic CD; he is Choral Music Editor of Choir & Organ magazine. From 1996 - 2007 he was Head of Academic Studies at the Royal Academy of Music and from 1999 - 2007 he was also Head of Undergraduate Programmes. In 2007 he was appointed Sterndale Bennett Lecturer in Music.

Jeremy Summerly has given concert tours throughout Europe and the United States as well as in Israel, Palestine, Southern Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Japan. He has conducted at the BBC Proms, the Berlin Philharmonie, the Palestine Mozart Festival, and at the Tage Alter Musik in Regensburg. He has conducted world premières of music by John Tavener, Giles Swayne, Viktor Ekimovsky, Dmitri Smirnov, and Nico Muhly, UK premières of music by Franco Donatoni and Maciej Zielinski, and the London première of I am the true vine by Arvo Pärt. As well as working with choirs, he founded the Oxford Camerata Instrumental Ensemble in 1992 and the Royal Academy Consort in 2002; he has also conducted the Northern Chamber Orchestra in Manchester, the Ensemble Ste Geneviève in Paris, the Britten Sinfonia in Oxford, the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, and Ironwood in Melbourne. In 1995 he was a recipient of a European Cultural Prize from the European Association for the Encouragement of the Arts (Basel, Switzerland) and in 2006 he was made an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music. As a liturgical musician he sang for over a decade (1987-98) at St Margaret's Westminster and from January 1999 until June 2002 he was Director of Music at Christ Church, Chelsea; he is Director of Music at St Luke's, Chelsea. As a BBC Radio 3 writer and presenter he has made programmes in locations all around the UK as well as in Belgium, France, Holland, Iceland, Israel, and the USA. He has published four volumes for Faber Music: Gaudete! - Medieval Songs and Carols for upper voices (1999), Passetime with good company - Medieval Songs and Carols for mixed voices (2000), Fair Oriana - Madrigals in celebration of Elizabeth I (2002), and Thomas Tallis - English Sacred Music (2004). Since 1992 he has been a reviewer for Radio 3's CD Review (formerly Record Review) and since 2003 a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's arts programme Front Row.

2014 Programme Available