Fantastic Lute Songs and Where to Hear Them

Monday 3rd February 2020, 8pm
The Deanery, Christ Church, Oxford

At the turn of the 17th Century, the brief explosion in popularity of the English madrigal began to wane and a new genre took the country by storm: the lute song.

This pinnacle of domestic music-making was a perfect marriage of poetry and musical affect far from the frivolous hey-nonny-nonny-ing of the 1590s.

Or maybe it was just business as usual, only with more plucking and better hair.

Join us in the intimate surroundings of the Deanery of Christ Church, Oxford, as we explore this era-defining genre and its impacts on the composers who became obsessed with it some 300 years later.

Featuring music by John Dowland, Thomas Morley, Mary Harvey, Madeleine Dring, Rebecca Clarke, Peter Warlock, and others.

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All the Powers of Creation

Friday 22nd November 2019, 8pm, St Michael at the North Gate, Oxford

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The breath of the wind; the breaking of dawn; the terror of the earthquake. Throughout history, composers have been fascinated by the natural forces beyond our control that shape our lives.

From Antoine Brumel's seismic "Earthquake" Mass and Orlando di Lasso's "Aurora Lucis Rutilat", to Lili Boulanger's full-throated "Hymne au Soleil" and Eric Whitacre's ecstatic "Cloudburst", join us as we explore some of the most dramatic large-scale consort works ever composed.

Also featuring music by Raffaella Aleotti, Margarita Cozzolani, Joao Rebelo, Claudia Rusca, Hieronymus Praetorius, Judith Weir, and Stephen Leek.

Ch'io t'ami - Madrigals and more

Wednesday 31st July 2019, 1:10pm, St Stephen's Church, Bristol

Friday 2nd August 2019, 7:30pm, St Mary Magdalen's Church, Oxford

The madrigal of the late 16th and early 17th centuries was a hotbed of experimentation in new forms of musical and poetic expression, as composers and performers pushed the boundaries of harmony, rhetoric, and virtuosic display.

untune the sky presents a programme exploring the joys and contradictions of love in madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi, Vittoria Aleotti, Salamone Rossi, Maddalena Casulana, and others.

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The Jabberwock and other animalsA Concert of Beastly Nonsense

Monday 8th July 2019, 7:30pm, Christ Church Cathedral

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
      The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Nonsense these words may seem, but they carry a deadly warning - the world is full of a host of strange and wonderful beasts against which our only defence may be laughter.

From the tale of Jim (who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion), to the hazards of the Tsetse fly and the gently smiling crocodile, we've assembled a menagerie of over a hundred years of music exquisitely detailing the surprising silliness of the world around us.

Centred around Liza Lehmann's 1908 setting of "The Songs that Came out Wrong" from Alice in Wonderland, and also featuring music by Judith Weir, Thea Musgrave, and others, join us in Christ Church (the spiritual home of Alice) for a frivolous evening of whimsical ditties, cautionary tales, and general nonsense.

A Good Night - Poetry of Sleep and Dreams

Friday 7th June 2019, 8:30pm - Exeter College Chapel,

Evoking hazy summer evenings and restless summer nights, Untune the Sky presents music from twentieth and twenty-first century Britain.

Reflecting the beauty of the coming season and the joys and complexities that continue throughout it, the programme features music by Judith Weir, Thea Musgrave and Richard Rodney Bennett, alongside late works by Peter Aston, Peter Warlock and Herbert Howells.

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The Scheining - A Journey through the German Baroque

Friday 10th May 2019, 8:30pm - New College Chapel, Oxford

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During the 17th Century, successive generations of German composers developed a dramatic, rhetorical musical language known as musica poetica. As conflict tore the region apart, musicians expressively reflected on the horrors of war, the grim realities of life and death, and the hope for peace and joy in the life to come.

This programme moves from works from before the Thirty Years War by Johann Schein and Heinrich Schutz, through the wartime experiences of Duchess Elisabeth Sophie of Mecklenburg and Samuel Scheidt, to the grandeur of late-century works by Johann Christoph Bach.

Now May We Singen - Music for Advent and Christmas

Saturday 8th December 2018, 7:30pm - St James' Church, Chipping Campden

From the angels that sing and the cattle that low to the wisdom of the star and musings of a stable mouse, this programme explores the voices that tell and re-tell the stories of Christmas. Including music by Cozzolani, McDowall, Schütz, Britten, and Perotin. Untune the Sky presents a programme of word and song for Advent and Christmas in the beautiful surroundings of St James’ Church, Chipping Campden.


Veni, Sponsa Mea - Convent Composers and The Song of Songs

Tuesday 23rd October 2018, 8pm - Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

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Throughout history, the Song of Songs has been a divisive text in liturgical contexts. With its passionate, often erotic symbolism, it has been construed as a metaphor for earthly love, for the love of Christ for the world, for the relationship of the church to God, and so on.

One of its most prominent images is that of the bride being led into a loving paradise. For nuns, whose veiling ceremonies were intimately connecte with the ideas of a "spiritual marriage" to both the church and Christ, this book and its related paraphrases were a wellspring of inspiration to those composers who lived and worked in convents.

In Christ Church Cathedral, originally founded by St Frideswide as a convent, we'll present music by composers including Aleotti, Cozzolani, and Leonarda that explores themes of love, marriage, and devotion.

Anguish of Hell; Peace of Soul - Music of Reassurance

Sunday 29th July 2018, 6pm - St Laurence's Church, East Harptree

Untune the Sky returns to the beautiful Somerset countryside for a concert exploring sacred composers' reassurance of salvation.

In 1616 a court official in Thurungia narrowly escaped death, and as a form of thanksgiving, commisioned 16 of Germany's leading composers to write settings of Psalm 116 ("Dilexi, quoniam"). Publishing them as an anthology in 1623, he named the collection Angst der Hellen und Friede der Seelen.

We'll be pairing some of these works with other pieces with similar themes, including Bach's Jesu, Meine Freude, which we performed in our very first concert.

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Lamento della Ninfa

Thursday 5th July 2018, 8pm, Somerville College Chapel

Take me to the river

Sí tra sdegnosi pianti
spargea le voci al ciel;
cosí ne' cori amanti
mesce amor fiamma, e gel.

So amidst disdainful tears,
She spread her crying to the sky;
Thus, in lovers' hearts
Love mixes fire and ice.

Pleasure and pain are present in equal parts in the love of the Italian madrigalists. Exquisite heartbreak and delicious torment, abandonment, sensuality, infidelity, joy and passion are squeezed into each lingering chord and each fleeting breath. Delight and wallow in an evening of songs and madrigals by Monteverdi, Casulana, Caccini and Marenzio.

Salon! - Music of the Belle Epoque

Tuesday 5th June 2018 - The Deanery, Christ Church, Oxford

In the intimate surroundings of the Drawing Room of the Deanery at Christ Church, Oxford, Untune the Sky presents music, poetry, and wine from an imagined evening at the home of Lili and Nadia Boulanger in 1911.

As two of the most influential composers of the twentieth century, their regular salons played host to some of the leading figures from the Belle Epoque to enjoy each other's musical company and present some of their newest compositions years before they were ever published (if at all).

Untune the Sky perform ensemble pieces and solo songs by the Boulanger sisters, Cecile Chaminade, Jane Vieu, Gabriel Faure, Camille Saint-Saens, and more.


the little match girl passion / stabat mater

Saturday 24th March 2018 - Queen's College Chapel

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David Lang's little match girl passion, inspired by the eponymous Hans Christian Andersen tale, re-contextualises the story as a passion narrative, drawing a religious and moral equivalency between the suffering of the poor girl and Christ on the cross. Just as traditional musical settings of the passion can include texts other than the story itself, so too does Lang's work - incorporating the responses of the crowd and other characters, with additional text from Bach's librettist and the Gospel of St Matthew.

Agostino Steffani's 1728 setting of the Stabat Mater text takes up the narrative where the little match girl ends, portraying Mary's suffering during the passion, at the foot of the cross. Richly scored for 6 voices and orchestra, it captures the inherent drama of the text with a poignancy that makes it at least the equal of the better-known setting by Pergolesi.

Cari Musici - Songs of the Early Baroque

Tuesday 27th February 2018, 8pm - The Deanery, Christ Church, Oxford

In the early 17th Century, the solo song began to overtake choral polyphony as the dominant genre of artistic expression in music.

As publishing became cheaper and more accessible, those previously excluded from the high circles of the musical literati were able to make their voices heard, and their names known. With hundreds of works attributed to them, the output of these 17th Century composers is hugely diverse, consisting of thousands of sacred and secular songs - of which only a handful are still frequently performed today.

In the unique surroundings of the Royal Residence at Christ Church, Oxford, Untune the Sky scratches the surface of this brilliant musical world, presenting songs  on the timeless themes of love, loss, and  passion by Strozzi, Bembo, Caccini, and others.

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Brother Son, Sister Moon -  Music for St Francis of Assisi

Friday 2nd February 2018, 8:30pm - Exeter College Chapel

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The deeply devotional writings of St Francis of Assisi have long been a wellspring of inspiration for composers, many of whom have been particularly drawn to his belief that nature itself was the mirror of God. We present here a collection of mostly 20th-/21st-Century works that explore the divine in nature, and the natural in the divine, including works by Lili Boulanger, Sally Beamish, Judith Weir, and Solfa Carlile.

All proceeds from this concert were donated to Crisis Skylight Oxford.

Musikalische Exequien

Magdalen College, Oxford - November 18th, 2017 - 8pm

A juxtaposition the hopeful, assured messages of the texts of Heinrich Schütz's Musikalisches Exequien with two other roughly contemporary funeral settings from France and England: Charpentier's Messe des Morts,  and Henry Purcell's Sentences for the Funeral of Queen Mary, which echo and comment on the themes explored in Schütz's masterpiece.

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A Hymn to St Cecilia

Clifton Cathedral, 2nd August 2017

St Stephen's House, Oxford, 14th September 2017

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Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia forms the centrepiece of a programme of psalms, songs and anthems, also featuring music by La Jeune, Purcell, Dowland, and Tomkins.

Tunes from Archbishop Parker's Psalter

Bristol Cathedral, 1st August 2017

A programme of repertoire exploring themes expressed in Tallis's settings of tunes for Archbishop Parker's psalter, with music by Byrd, Ramsey, Wilbye, and Morley.

Untune the Sky Consort Bristol Cathedral

Music for a Summer's Evening

St Laurence's Church, East Harptree, 31st July 2017

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A performance in the heart of the beautiful Chew Valley to perform a seasonal programme of songs, psalms and madrigals, including music by Debussy, Vaughan Williams, Tallis, Warlock and Ravel.

Salve Regina - Music from the Eton Choirbook

Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, 7th May 2017

A performance of four settings of the Salve Regina text from the 15th Century Eton Choirbook

Sutton Salve Regina a 7
Cornysh Salve Regina a 5
Browne Salve Regina a 5
Wylkynson Salve Regina a 9

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Membra Jesu Nostri

University College Chapel, Oxford, 2nd March 2017

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Untune the Sky's debut performance, featuring Dietrich Buxtehude's 1680 cantata cycle, Membra Jesu Nostri. said to be "the first Lutheran Oratorio", alongside Kuhnau Tristis Est Anima Mea and Bach'sJesu, Meine Freude


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