The Gonzaga Band was formed by cornettist Jamie Savan in 1997, in order to explore historical approaches to the performance of vocal and instrumental music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its line-up is flexible, with a small core of musicians that expands on occasion to include other leading vocal and period-instrument specialists according to the specific requirements of each programme.
The ensemble takes its name from the Gonzaga Dukes of Mantua, who were powerful and influential patrons of the arts in the late Renaissance period. The Gonzaga family employed Claudio Monteverdi as their maestro di cappella, and he presided over a musical establishment that was, for a time, the envy of the world.
The Gonzaga Band was selected to join the recital scheme of the Countess of Munster Musical Trust in 2001-2, which resulted in a hugely successful tour of festivals and music clubs throughout the UK. Performing as ‘Il Vero Modo', members of The Gonzaga Band appeared in the finals of the International Young Artists' Competition in York in 2003 with a programme of songs and duets of Monteverdi and his contemporaries. Recent projects such as ‘Carmina Maximiliana' (Birmingham Early Music Festival, 2004) and ‘Songs for the White King' (York Christmas Early Music Festival, 2005), have developed exciting new approaches to improvisation and ornamentation in Renaissance music. Returning to Monteverdi over the past couple of years, The Gonzaga Band has performed a number of quartet programmes for soprano, cornett, theorbo and harpsichord/chamber organ, including its newly-devised ‘Vespers à 4' (premiered at Nottingham University in 2008).
In addition to its recital work, The Gonzaga Band often collaborates with amateur and professional choirs on projects such as Monteverdi's Vespers (1610), the polychoral music of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, and Schütz's Christmas Story.
Several members of The Gonzaga Band are active as teachers at universities and music colleges, and regularly give educational workshops for primary and secondary schools. Between 2000 and 2004, The Gonzaga Band worked for Yehudi Menuhin's ‘Live Music Now' scheme, delivering numerous concerts and workshops for children and adults with special needs. Since 2005, The Gonzaga Band has hosted the annual Newark International Early Music course for amateur and young professional wind players.
The Gonzaga Band's line up is flexible and varies depending on the requirements of each project. The musicians listed below are the nucleus of the ensemble, which may be expanded (or contracted) as necessary:
Jamie Savan - cornett, director
Faye Newton - soprano
Richard Sweeney - theorbo
Steven Devine - harpsichord & chamber organ
Jacob Heringman - lute
Sarah Humphrys - shawm, recorder
Adam Woolf - sackbut