Female vocal group co-founded by Tallis Scholars Tessa Bonner and Deborah Roberts with John Toll and Laurie Stras to explore the repertoire of female composers.
The idea of a 'secret' music may seem somewhat strange to modern minds, but during the closing decades of the 16th century the Duke Alfonso II of Ferrara was so jealously obsessed with the singing and playing of his concerto delle donne, or singing ladies, that he allowed only chosen guests to hear them in his private concerts, known as the musica secreta. Yet as with all of the best kept secrets, the legendary fame of these women spread throughout and beyond Italy. They inspired composers and performers alike with their dazzling technique, and laid the foundations of a rich repertoire for female voices as well as playing a leading role in establishing solo song and the new 'baroque' styles.
At the same time, Italian convents were becoming equally renowned for their prodigious music making, and by the 17th century composing nuns began to emerge, writing in the most up-to-date styles and even publishing their own music. Much of this music has only recently come to light, and Musica Secreta have been particularly fortunate in having the help of the foremost scholars in this exciting new field. In addition to performing and recording music by nun composers, they plan to present programmes of mainstream polyphony as the nuns would have done, thus giving a fascinating new historical slant on familiar repertoires.
All the members of Musica Secreta are well-established and experienced musicians who have worked with leading British ensembles such as the Consort of Musicke, the New London Consort, the Tallis Scholars and the Gabrieli Consort. They have also given masterclasses at summer schools, and have taught and lectured at several principal conservatoires in England and abroad.
Musica Secreta were honoured to be the 1996 recipient of the American Musicological Society's Noah Greenberg award, granted in recognition of an outstanding scholarly and artistic endeavor. The award provided support for performance workshops and concerts by the Orlando Consort and Musica Secreta at the Twenty-Third International Conference of Medieval and Renaissance Music, Southampton, 1996. Musica Secreta have recorded three albums with Linn Records, one of which "Dangerous Graces" (Linn CKD 169) won a Diapason Découverte in January 2003.