In 2011, a group of young singers from Ulster Youth Choir (now NYCNI) had the opportunity to work with internationally renowned conductor Paul McCreesh and countertenor Mark Chambers in preparation for a landmark Proms performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah in London’s Royal Albert Hall. The singers were so inspired by the experience of working among professional ensembles and soloists that they decided to establish their own ensemble in Northern Ireland focusing on mentoring and developing young aspiring professional singers, and so Sestina was born.
Under the direction of Mark Chambers, Sestina has quickly developed into an ensemble with a reputation for excellence and authenticity in the performance of early music as well as a fresh and innovative approach to programming. The support and development of aspiring professional singers from Northern Ireland and Ireland is at heart of Sestina’s activities, and our mentoring programme provides an immersive educational experience for young performers at various stages of their training and careers, giving them the opportunity to develop their craft by working alongside world-class professionals. To date, Sestina's young singers have performed several stage works of Henry Purcell (The Fairy Queen (2013), King Arthur (2014) and Dido and Aeneas (2016)), and the ensemble has collaborated with some of the finest specialist early music practitioners in the world: His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, The Monteverdi String Band (for their 2016 production of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610), Dutch violinist Johannes Leertouwer, and Irish Baroque Orchestra for a production of Handel’s Theodora (2018).
Sestina now boasts a core ensemble of senior singers who feature in our showcase performances such as ‘Carols at the Museum’ and touring productions such as ‘Mein Freund ist Mein’ - a semi-staged production featuring music of the Bach family - as well as collaborating with organisations such as the Irish Baroque Orchestra (Esther (2019) and Messiah (2019)), and featuring in festivals and concert series such as East Cork Early Music Festival (2018) and the Barber Evening Concert Series (2020). Postponed from 2020, Sestina’s debut recording - Master and Pupil - in partnership with Resonus Classics, will now take place later this year.
MEET THE TEAM
Since leaving the Royal Northern College of Music in 1992, Mark Chambers has enjoyed a varied career both as a soloist and ensemble singer. He has performed opera at the Royal Opera House, The Globe Theatre, Sansoucci Palace, Potsdam, Beijing, Jerusalem and New York. As an ensemble singer Mark has performed with Tenebrae, The Monteverdi Choir, The Gabrieli Consort, Gallicantus, Theatre of Voices and Alamire. In the commercial world, Mark provided the Voice of the Ood for the BBC Dr Who series, and has appeared on soundtracks to many movies. Mark currently lives in Buncrana, Co. Donegal and combines his singing career with teaching voice at the University of Birmingham, and as musical director of Sestina.
James Kelley Chairman
Irwin Thompson Treasurer
Irene Kingston Secretary
David Black Board member
Karenanne Coughlan-Pierse Board member
Desmond Earley Guest advisor
Paul McCreesh Patron
Mark Allport President