One of the outstanding vocal groups in its field, The Clerks' recordings and performances of Renaissance vocal music have earned them a place among the foremost interpreters of the repertoire. The group's discography of over 20 CDs represents a uniquely valuable and pioneering contribution to early music and has won them many accolades, including the coveted Gramophone Award for Early Music.
The Clerks formed at Oxford University and made their professional London debut in 1992. Their first recording, released a year later, made an immediate impact, being identified as one of the releases of the year by the Critics Choice panel of BBC Radio 3, and earning runner-up spot in Gramophone's Early Music Award.
This recording marked the beginning of a long relationship with ASV (later Sanctuary Classics) during which the group recorded the complete sacred works of Johannes Ockeghem, as well as world première recordings of repertory by a diverse array of early Renaissance composers such as Josquin, Obrecht, Barbireau, La Rue, Brumel and Busnois. With Signum, The Clerks have recorded the work of Dufay, Machaut and Frye, and with Cypré repertoire by Tinctoris and - most recently - Regis.
The Clerks have performed in many of Europe and America's most prestigious concert series. They have toured the U.S. four times, and are soon to return; they have travelled in Europe as far afield as Iceland, Italy and Estonia, as well as being regular visitors to Festivals in Belgium, Holland (where in 2005 they opened the newly renovated Philharmonie in Haarlem), France and Germany; in the U.K. the group has performed at the BBC Proms, the South Bank, the Barbican and the Wigmore Hall as well as numerous regional venues.
In recent years, The Clerks have expanded their programming to include contemporary works, as well as multi-media and educational projects. Since 2001, the group has commissioned works by Robert Saxton, Anthony Pitts, Gabriel Jackson, Christopher Fox and Robin Holloway. In 2004, The Clerks collaborated with theatre director Carl Heap to create an innovatory re-working of the medieval liturgical drama The Play of Daniel, involving school children and adult amateur singers in a form of community pageant; and in 2006 they premièred a version of the 14th century Roman de Fauvel, complete with projected images and specially written poetry by Ian Duhig.
This innovative work has continued, with 'In Memoria', and The Hours, both of which present collages of live and pre-recorded materials and 'Qudduson', a collaboration with Middle Eastern singers. Their work in recent years has received the support of the Arts Council, Wingate Foundation and, most recently, The Wellcome Trust for their latest project 'Tales from Babel'.
The group's founder and director is Edward Wickham. Dr Wickham is Director of Music and a Fellow at St Catharine's College, Cambridge where he lectures on 15th and 16th century music.
After graduating in Modern History from Christ Church, Oxford, Edward Wickham did post-graduate work at King's College, London while simultaneously pursuing a singing and conducting career. His research in Early Renaissance music earned him a PhD from King's, and since then he has continued to research and teach, latterly at St Catharine's College, Cambridge where he is Director of Music and of Academic Studies in Music. Throughout this time he has worked with a number of amateur and professional ensembles, and has been much in demand as a choral coach, in the UK, Europe, the US and Japan.
In recent years, Edward has been exploring, through collaborative and experimental projects, modes of performance which break out of the traditional Western classical tradition. With multi-media sound installations, partnerships with singers from the Middle East, and ground-breaking educational and outreach programmes, he is committed to pursuing an idiosyncratic agenda of artistic innovation and social participation.
In addition to projects with The Clerks, Edward has been developing national and international links through his work at Cambridge, including collaborations with student choirs from China, Japan and Lebanon. Closer to home, his work in community music has included projects in schools in Cambridgeshire and Tower Hamlets, and the formation in 2008 of the first college-based children's girls choir in the UK.
Click here to find out more about music at St Catharine's, Cambridge.
Edward has summed up his attitude to music-making in a recent interview. "Those of us who have had the luck and privilege to enjoy good musical educations, sometimes content ourselves with thinking all we need to do to fulfil our role as musicians is to turn up and perform as best we can. But by working with the audiences of today (and, we hope, of tomorrow) we get the opportunity to inspire and surprise - ourselves as much as others."