Brought together by their shared affection for the lesser-known and rarely-performed repertoire for choir and harp, vocal ensemble Corvus Consort and harpist Louise Thomson formed this collaboration to throw a spotlight on the rich and varied music which exists for this combination, with a particular focus on women’s voices – both singers and composers. They have enjoyed performances together at Church Stretton Festival, Whiddon Autumn Festival, and at King’s Place in London as part of Sounds Sublime Festival curated by The Sixteen. In April 2024 they will record their project ‘Women’s Voices’ for Chandos Records, and the album will be released later in the year.
Founded and directed by Freddie Crowley, Corvus Consort is a UK-based vocal ensemble comprising some of the country’s most talented young professional singers. Described as “one of the most innovative and adventurous vocal ensembles presently performing” by Tortoise Media, Corvus’s refreshing combination of musical excellence, passionate performance and unstuffy presentation makes them hugely popular with audiences up and down the country.
Corvus’s innovative programming and extensive versatility see them perform in a wide variety of genres and styles, ranging from Renaissance polyphony and Baroque motets right through to 20th century music and contemporary choral works. The Consort’s flexible combination of voices also allows them to carefully tailor their size and forces for each particular performance context.
In addition to frequent appearances as an a-cappella ensemble, Corvus places particular emphasis on its instrumental collaborations. As well as working with Louise Thomson, other ongoing projects include voices and saxophones with the Ferio Saxophone Quartet and contemporary explorations of Renaissance soundworlds with instrumental duo Music on the Edge.
In collaboration with the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, Corvus Consort released its debut CD ‘Revoiced’ in July 2022 on Chandos Records, to great acclaim across press and radio. ‘Revoiced’ explores the magical blend of voices and saxophones, bringing new colours to early music with a set of Baroque and Renaissance works uniquely reimagined by Freddie Crowley, described as “intriguing and strikingly effective arrangements” by BBC Radio 3 Record Review. Four works by living composers nestle amongst these early music gems: a new piece by Owain Park re-interpreting Allegri’s iconic Miserere, together with newly-created versions of existing works by Sarah Rimkus, Roderick Williams and James MacMillan.
Alongside their dynamic performances of core vocal repertoire, Corvus has quickly developed a strong track record for championing new music and commissioning some of the most exciting young composers in the UK and beyond. For Christmas 2020, twelve young composers were commissioned to write twelve miniature carols for twelve voices based on the well-known song The Twelve Days of Christmas, as part of a festive project entitled “Twelve Composers Composing”. Corvus’s latest new music project “Byrd Takes Flight” commemorates William Byrd’s 400th anniversary in 2023 with four new works for voices and instruments, placing Byrd’s compositional voice into direct dialogue with some of today’s brightest artistic voices. Part of Corvus’s ongoing collaboration with Music on the Edge and featuring commissions by Anna Semple, Derri Joseph Lewis, Shruthi Rajasekar and Harry Baker, the project saw its premiere at the 2023 Whiddon Autumn Festival and will feature in a series of concerts in 2024, including the ensemble’s debut at the Three Choirs Festival.
Since making its first appearance in 2018, Corvus Consort has enjoyed performances including London’s King’s Place, Chiltern Arts Festival, Church Stretton Festival, Little Missenden Festival, Winchfield Festival, Kings Lynn Festival, Music on the Quantocks, Simonsbath Festival and Borough Theatre Abergavenny, as well as becoming Ensemble-in-Residence at Devon’s Whiddon Autumn Festival on the festival’s inception in 2021. Recent highlights include a Bach programme alongside violinist Rachel Podger at Dorchester Arts and Exeter Cathedral, and a performance with Ferio Saxophone Quartet at Stour Music Festival. 2024 will see Corvus return to Exeter Cathedral, Music@Wellhayes and the Whiddon Autumn Festival.
A versatile and experienced musician, Louise Thomson’s playing has taken her to prestigious concert venues around the UK including the Royal Albert Hall, Cardiff’s St David’s Hall and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. It has also given her the opportunity to perform with some of the country’s most respected ensembles: the Hallé Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra and Manchester Concert Orchestra. She has been invited to perform live on BBC Radio 3, and made her television debut performing live on BBC 1 for the Heaven and Earth show with soprano Katherine Jenkins.
Some of Thomson’s early notable successes included winning the Harp Finals at the world renowned Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales Competition in 2003 and performing as a Finalist in the London International Harp Competition in 2005. In April 2007 she was short-listed to audition for HRH The Prince of Wales for the position of Royal Harpist at Clarence House and performed for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at The Royal Variety Performance in the same year.
Louise was awarded a place at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester to study with Eira Lynn Jones. During this time Louise won the Ida Carroll String Prize for outstanding musical achievement, and was subsequently awarded an entrance scholarship to study at the Royal Northern College of Music.
Completing her undergraduate course in 2005, with a First Class BMus (Hons) degree, and her post-graduate diploma (PGDip) with Distinction in Performance in 2006, Louise went on to complete a Masters Degree (MMus) in 2007, again with Distinction in Performance. She concluded her time at the RNCM by winning the Concerto Competition. After graduating, Louise was immediately invited onto the Live Music Now Scheme (founded by Yehudi Menuhin) which involved extensive touring around the country giving solo recitals and educational workshops to an enormous range of audiences.
In 2022 Louise was selected to perform at the World Harp Congress in collaboration with presenter Polly Ives. Polly and Louise frequently present in schools and theatres together as part of Concerteenies, an award-winning producer of musical events and activities for young children and their adults in Sheffield and beyond. In January 2024, Louise launched the inaugural Manchester Harp Festival and Competition, which featured world-class performances, workshops, meet the artist events, children’s activities and a competition for harpists of all abilities.
Recent highlights have included Buxton, Ryedale, Ripon and Lake District Summer International Festivals, as well as a residency at the 2023 Whiddon Autumn Festival, which included performances with Corvus Consort.
Louise also takes great pride in her harp teaching and has built up a highly vibrant harp community around the North of England. She teaches harp at Chetham’s School of Music, Withington Girls’ School and The Manchester Grammar School. Louise is also the harp tutor at Huddersfield University and a visiting tutor at both the Royal Northern College of Music and its Junior department.