In 2011, a group of young singers from Northern Ireland had the opportunity to work with internationally renowned 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 groups and soloists that they decided to establish a new ensemble based in Northern Ireland, and so Sestina was born. From this initial ad hoc group of singers, Sestina has developed into an ensemble with an ever-growing reputation for excellence, both in its mentorship of young singers and in the quality of its performances, specialising in early music.
For singers, Sestina’s mentorship courses offer an immersive educational experience like no other, where young performers from Ireland and Northern Ireland, hand-picked at various stages of their training, work alongside professional singers at the very top of their careers. Sestina focuses on developing versatile musicians, giving the singers the chance to perform in ensembles of different sizes and as solo singers, and giving them valuable training in opera and stagecraft. It is a method with a proven record of success. Sestina’s original founding members have gone on to sing with renowned ensembles and organisations such as Gabrieli Consort, Tenebrae, Monteverdi Choir, Opera de Lyon, Grange Park and Garsington Opera. The result of the mentoring courses (held twice a year, in April and September) has been a string of critically-acclaimed performances of the works of Monteverdi, Purcell, Handel and others, and an equally impressive list of individuals and organisations who have collaborated with Sestina on these projects, including His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, The Monteverdi String Band, Dutch violinist Johannes Leertouwer and the Irish Baroque Orchestra. For a full list of past projects, click here.
In addition to our mentoring courses, Sestina's singers perform in additional events throughout the year, for example, our annual Christmas events, and as soloists for collaborations with other organisations, including Hillsborough Castle, Altnaglevin Hospital Choir, St. George’s Singers, Garden Show Ireland and the Irish Doctors Choir.
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.