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The arts


have managed to work and perform successfully together for a very long time; a winning trick that Gordon Jones puts down to “no boss, no egos”.


HAVE YOU MET MR JONES? Brought up in a pub in Northampton, Jones was encouraged to sing in the church choir as a child and has never looked back. His musical journey has taken him from York, where as a university student he sang at York Minster, to London, where he sang with a number of professional choirs before joining Westminster Cathedral Choir and eventually the Hilliard Ensemble in 1990. Jones’s love of medieval church music


is matched by his commitment to the work of contemporary composers. “Ancient music is wonderful but you have


“Ancient music is wonderful but you have to live in your own time”


to live in your own time,” he says. The Ensemble’s most significant collaborators include the mystical minimalist, Estonian Arvo Part, British composers James MacMillan and Gavin Bryars and the American composer Stephen Hartke. Recently, a groundbreaking new


venture with composer Heiner Goebbels has presented the Ensemble with exciting new challenges: I Went to the House But Did Not Enter is a “restrained, intensely beautiful meditation on life’s passing” (The Guardian). First performed by the Hilliard at Edinburgh Festival in 2008, it is central to this series of final concerts. A staged concert in three scenes with three sets, it asks the four singers to act, speak and sing in different rooms on stage: Jones clearly relishes the new ground it has broken for them as performers. It is, however, the 21-year relationship


with Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek that has captured the widest public imagination and led to several chart-topping albums. It is Garbarek who joins the Ensemble at the Abbey in May for a concert that promises to be the highlight of the 2014 festival. Brought together in the Austrian


Alps in 1993, on what David James has memorably called a “musical blind


Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek joins the Ensemble at Bath Abbey in May


date”, the synergy created by the four singers and Jan Garbarek was a sound so instantly and inimitably otherworldly and exquisite that a partnership was born and has endured to this day, with their first album, Officium selling over a million copies. A Hilliard/Garbarek concert is, as Jones describes, a creative journey all of its own. “It’s not a matter of recreating the album,” he says, “the concerts with Jan change all the time”. The saxophone’s unmistakable tone, the blend of voices, Garbarek’s haunting extemporisations and the influence on his own playing of other musicians he may have recently worked with, mean there is not only a magical quality to the music but a seductive freedom and spontaneity to each individual performance.


HILLIARD HORIZONS So, with this glorious combination of sounds in the soaring acoustic of the Abbey the Bath International Music Festival audience really is in for a treat; but why stop now and, for Gordon Jones, what next? With three members of the group at retirement age, the 40th season seemed like the best time to say farewell and for Jones, there are “no specific plans – other than more photography, more piano practice and a chance to spend more time in my lovely garden,” in a village near Bibury in Gloucestershire. What’s clear, though, is that there is


no intention to stop singing or, indeed to stop teaching, mentoring or encouraging other vocal ensembles. At a weekend series of concerts in Cambridge in early May entitled Hilliard Horizons, the Ensemble will gently reinforce their place in musical history by collaborating and performing with three other vocal groups, including the young, up-and- coming ensemble, Eo Nomine. They will perform, among other pieces, Orlando Gough’s specially commissioned piece Hand over Hand, described by Gough as “a playful, emotional piece about handing over to the next generation”. Passing the baton – what a perfect way to say goodbye. BL


Tickets for the Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek performing Officium Novum on Monday 26 May, 8-9.15pm in Bath Abbey, are available online at www. bathfestivals.org.uk/music or from Bath Box Office on 01225 463362


www.mediaclash.co.uk Bath Life 41


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