What They Say
“As part of its #HomeTour series, the London-based early music group The Telling is streaming Vision: the Imagined Testimony of Hildegard of Bingen, a film about the 12th-century mystic and composer, written by soprano Clare Norburn, directed by Nicholas Renton, and shot in St Mary Magdalene’s Church in Paddington. Actor Teresa Banham plays Hildegard, while Norburn and mezzo Ariane Prüssner are mesmerising in the music. An austerely beautiful piece about a woman whose faith gave her extraordinary strength and courage, it’s only available until this Wednesday, 26 August, but it really is wonderful, so do try and catch it."
The Guardian, Tim Ashley (Aug 2020) on Vision [online adapion]
Secret Life of Carols
(First Hand Records FHR94, Nov 2019)
“Soprano Clare Norburn and mezzo Ariane Prüssner are the crystalline singers… With two harpists sharing the accompaniment the aesthetic is sparse, suggesting an intimate domestic setting. The overall effect is aurally cleansing and the recorded sound is outstanding.”
"And, for me, the absolute favourite is the crowd-funded album The Secret Life of Carols; 800 Years of Christmas Music from The Telling, a female quartet with two singers – Clare Norburn and Ariane Prüssner – and two harpists, Jean Kelly and Kaisa Pulkkinen. It’s an unexpected delight from beginning to end, and really strongly recommended.”
"An unusual success, something I wasn't expecting, and which is a great success, it's a crowd-funded album from a group of four women called The Telling..... Marvellous album.... a rather fine harp solo called Tommy Coen’s reel… I'm going to play them together to give you an idea of what joy there is on this excellent and of left field most enjoyable album.
"...there are moments when you just want something that is scaled-down for domestic listening and that is an excellent, excellent one [album].”
"The Secret Life of Carols: 800 Years of Christmas Music (First Hand Records), performed by the Telling, is an atmospheric survey from across Europe, with roots in early English, Irish, German and Finnish traditions, performed by two voices, harps and drum... Imaginative and eclectic.”
"This brings together a mixture of the earliest English carols and traditional carols from across Europe, many having intertwined roots often dating back to the Middle Ages, with melodies adapted and new words written over the centuries. The word “carol” is derived from the Old French word carole, a circle dance accompanied by singers. The 16 carols heard in this program include several that draw from the Finnish, German, and Irish heritage of the performers. The performances are very good and offer a simple and quiet program—a smaller-scale way to celebrate the season than the high tech performances that have pervaded the airwaves, a most welcome alternative to the usual Christmas recordings."
American Record Guide (Nov/Dec 2020)
“This four part ensemble produces a haunting sound, harking back to medieval times, with the combination of female voices, harps and drum. This production reposits a more resolutely folk approach to the singing of carols, enthused with vitality and rhythm."
“smallscale, intimate performances of a wide range of music, most of it unfamiliar or, at any rate, not pumped out over supermarket PA systems. As I write, I’ve just been subjected to a dose of that, courtesy of a pop radio station as I waited in my podiatrist’s waiting room; listening to The Telling has been a real antidote."
★★★★ Performance | ★★★★★ Recording
“beguiling, Siren-like voices.. the fervent, florid chants of Hildegard of Bingen – so fragrant you can almost smell them…. The vocal colours of the two principal singers complement each other well: Clare Norburn’s clear, silvery, bell-like soprano just the foil for Ariane Prüssner’s resonant wine-dark tones…. There is an expressive ardour to these performances that is hard to resist.”
BBC Music Magazine, Kate Bolton-Porciatti (Mar 2019) on Gardens of Delight [CD]
"...There are some lovely moments as the medieval harp blends with the female voices in beautiful slow airs … the blended voices work beautifully in the more contemplative repertoire such as is their lovely account of the 14th-century English carol Ther is no rose... this CD provides a pleasing and effective introduction to this repertoire.”
Early Music Review (Jan 2019) on Gardens of Delight [CD]
"We start with a traditional Sephardic song, La rosa enflorese which makes for a beautifully haunting beginning and introduces us to The Telling's highly concentrated style. Finely focussed voices, with minimal vibrato, highly expressive and very concentrated with a single instrument accompanying, and, later on, no instrument at all. [...] Here we concentrate on the music, and on the text, with all three performers making something beautifully pared down.
"With moments like the pairing of Hildegard's Ave generosa and the procession from Ordo Virtutum which concludes the disc... you do wish that they could stay for a bit longer. So we must hope for a further disc!"
Planet Hugill, Robert Hugill (Jan 2019) on Gardens of Delight [CD]
"Inclusive... non-pretentious... I really wish all 'classical' (for want of a better word) concerts were like this"
Morning Star, Attila the Stockbroker (Dec 2018) on the St. Paul's Worthing Christmas concert
“beautifully sung…. a really special musical experience”
Derbyshire Times (July 2018) on Vision
"a multimedia experience of light, song, music & storytelling"
“sung with perfection that is heart-stopping”
Sean Rafferty, BBC Radio 3
"What is most impressive about Norburn’s conception is the way that the various strata and elements combine and cohere so effortlessly. Past and present, truth and fantasy, real and imagined come together in a tightly knit and intimate drama. The personal narrative is embedded neatly within historical, cultural and political contexts...”
Opera Today, Claire Seymour (Jan 2019) on Clare Norburn’s concert/plays
Audience / CD Listeners
“Such exquisite singing, story-telling, stagecraft brought tears to my eyes. I’m sure heaven must sound just like this”
Twitter comment - Vision at St Paul’s Worthing, 2019
“It was one of the most moving productions I have seen in a church. The singing and lighting were celestial.”
Audience member - 2019 Vision tour
"What an incredible event it was last night!! It was so, so beautiful and atmospheric. It was all that I was hoping it would be and more! Such a gorgeous way to start Christmas and to feel so soothed and relaxed. The music was incredible and the storytelling simply transported me to days gone by! I truly loved it as did my friend who came too. I am already looking forward to next year's....please please have another one!!!”
Audience member - 2018 Christmas tour
“I was in the audience… and very taken by the music. Up until a week earlier I was completely unaware of The Telling’s existence. On Saturday 8th I drove my daughter to her carols rehearsal, got in the car to drive home, and turned on the radio. Saturday Live, a programme I never listen to, and I was set to turn it off when you started to sing Lullay, my child, and I was captivated by it. Spellbound, really. A quick search once home and I discovered the St. Thomas More concert and got a ticket. You were all wonderful.”
Audience member - 2018 Christmas tour
“Just a quick note to say how lovely the CD is, such beautiful voices and playing”
Gardens of Delight [CD] listener
“Really fine performers imaginatively supported by an expert technical crew, and clearly an accomplished director! Oh, it was good....! I knew from the moment your voices first started that we were in safe hands…. I have had mountains of praise from members and many asked that I ensure you return to Totnes soon! I view it as one of the most special experiences amongst the 60+ concerts I have arranged.
“From the moment the lights darkened, leaving just the flickering of candles on the altar screen, a large audience sat in rapt silence listening to one of Hildegard's thrilling chants echo around the church… This was not a mere monologue, interspersed with music. The sensitive handling by director Nicholas Renton enabled a series of touching interchanges between the musicians and Hildegard, while Natalie Rowland's highly effective lighting allowed the play of coloured light to reflect Hildegard's memories and indeed her mental state. Glorious white light suffused the stage as Hildegard recalled her visions, which she herself had described as 'the living light'…"
Jill Tomalin, Totnes Early Music Series
“Wonderful performance, three incredible concerts - truly unique. Watching all three shows in the Empowered Women Trilogy in two days worked really well and made perfect sense musically.”
Rebecca Dawson, Music at Oxford
“I just wanted to tell you how wonderful I thought the show was - the singing, the script, the lighting - everything that went to make it an experience that seemed to encompass the very essence of Hildegard.”
Harland Walshaw, Lympstone Entertainments
"Thank you all very much for your splendid performance on Friday. From audience remarks afterwards, you were a hit! And it seems to me the programme hit exactly the right pitch between good fun and seasonal reflection. I think we all left with the better aspects of Christmas on our minds”
Dick Ware, Little Missenden Festival
“evoked something akin to the shared winter night ambience of six centuries ago”
Richard Amey, International Interview Concerts, Worthing
Photo: Robert Piwko