Formed: 1979 in Paris, France
Genres: Choral, Vocal Music
As with so many of the best early music ensembles performing today, the musical performances of the Ensemble Gilles Binchois have been inextricably tied up with profound musical scholarship and with the leadership of a single powerful personality. In the case of the Ensemble Gilles Binchois, the scholarly tie is to the Center for Medieval Music in Paris, France; most of the group's regular performers both teach and study there. In addition, the ensemble has profited from close collaboration with some of mainland Europe's leading musicologists: Marie-Noel Colette in Paris and Karen Smith and Wulf Arlt in Basel. Its efforts have been recognized by the enthusiastic support of the Musical Affairs Department of the French Ministry of Culture. The single most important personality affecting the ensemble, however, remains its founder and director, Dominique Vellard.
Vellard and some of his close colleagues founded the ensemble in 1978, taking clear positions from the outset that they would perform from original notation and make every effort through their performances to foster deeper understanding of the structure and function of their repertories. The Ensemble changes its personnel depending upon the repertory, from a handful of male voices for plainchant or early polyphony, to a few mixed singers for chanson repertories, to adding festive instruments for splashier repertories. That said, the core of the group has included Philippe Balloy, Brigitte Lesne, Randall Cook, Susanne Norin, Willem de Waal, and Vellard himself. Though the Ensemble began its career in French musics, and has most frequently brought out earlier French repertories, the expansion of the personnel to include specialists from other countries has helped them branch out geographically. It performs throughout eastern and western Europe and has been rewarded with the support of a large number of French governmental institutions. One of the most distinctive features of the group's performing style is its thoughtful consideration of, and experimentation with, the ways that indigenous oral traditions might have impacted more "formal" singing style.
- Timothy Dickey (All Music Guide)