The beginnings

In 2008 the Magdalena Consort gave its inaugural concert in the prestigious Festival of Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain. The team of singers was Gillian Keith, Daniel Taylor, James Gilchrist, and Peter Harvey, who also directed. The players, led by Matthew Truscott, were a very distinguished group, and their enthusiasm was key to the tremendous reception the performance received. Some of the concert can be heard on this website (see 'Magdalena Music Player' on the home page). The following year the group was enthusiastically received in the 'Bach town' of Arnstadt,as part of the MDR 'Musiksommer' festival in Germany. Appropriately for a young ensemble performing for the first time in a place of such significance, the programme consisted of two cantatas on the theme of baptism (BWV 7: 'Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam', and BWV 37: 'Wer da gläubet und getauft wird', together with the Mass in G major, BWV 236. The soloists on this occasion were Gillian Keith, Robin Blaze, James Gilchrist and Peter Harvey.

The Magdalena Consort was launched in the UK in June, 2010 with a concert before an invited audience in the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield. We performed extracts from the Ages of Man programme and celebrated in the cloisters afterwards with pudding wine and our signature madeleines. We were delighted that several guests offered their support for our work by joining the newly-founded Bach Family. Shortly afterwards, the Magdalena Consort appeared in the Early Music Days festival in Sopron, Hungary, for a performance of the complete 'Ages of Man' programme. The audience responded warmly to the concert which involved them in a musical journey through the stages of a human life, from the opening wedding cantata through meditations on marriage, birth, baptism, illness and death to a cantata celebrating the believer's hope of the world to come. They also gave a performance in the Istanbul International Festival in a programme including Bach's Ich habe genug, a piece for which Peter Harvey's performances have been widely praised. In July that year the group gave a high-profile and enthusiastically-received performance of Monteverdi's 'Vespers' in the Cheltenham Festival.

Last year...

Following the 'stunning success' of the Magdalena Consort's Monteverdi Vespers in 2010, they were invited back by the Cheltenham Festival for another high-profile concert in Tewkesbury Abbey, this time in a programme of music by J.S. Bach, which was given on July 6th. The concert was broadcast live on Radio 3, and two tracks (from Cantata 147) can be heard on the Magdalena Music Player. Here is the full programme of the concert:

To the Power of 3:

Sinfonia to Cantata 42
Cantata 78: Jesu, der du meine Seele
Brandenburg Concerto III
Motet: Lobet den Herrn
Cantata 147: Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben


The soloists were Julia Doyle, Robin Blaze, James Gilchrist and Peter Harvey. The instrumental band was led by Lucy Russell.


In September, the consort gave a pair of concerts in the beautiful surroundings of Forde Abbey in Dorset, and Cranbourne Farm, Hampshire. These was chamber-music, with single-strings and just two singers presenting a range of German baroque sacred music, but with the group's predilection for the music of J.S. Bach very much in evidence. The programme was:

Heinrich Schütz: Motet: Es steh Gott auf
Schmelzer: Sonata: Lamento sopra la morte Ferdinandi III
Dieterich Buxtehude: Sonata to Jesu, meine Freude / Motet: Herr, wenn ich nur dich hab
J. S. Bach BWV 82: Ich habe genug
J. S. Bach BWV 84: Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke
J. S. Bach BWV 57: Selig ist der Mann

Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano) and Peter Harvey (bass) were the vocal soloists, while the instrumentalists James Eastaway (oboe) and Jean Paterson (violin, and leader) also had prominent solo rôles.