Ensemble Gombert is Melbourne’s outstanding chamber choir, noted for its pure intonation and historic approach to choral sound and style. Named after Nicolas Gombert (c. 1495 – 1560), who has been largely ignored in the twentieth century despite an exemplary reputation amongst his contemporaries, the Ensemble specialises in a cappella performance of Franco-Flemish music of the High Renaissance.
The Ensemble’s subscription concerts are broadcast regularly on ABC Classic FM, and it has recorded several CDs. It appears frequently at festivals across Australia, and has toured to North America (2009) and twice to Europe (2004 and 2006).
Founded by John O’Donnell in 1990, the Ensemble quickly established a reputation for its purity of tone, and gave a ‘stunning rendition’ of two works by Czech composer Petr Eben in 1991, in the presence of the composer. In 1992 it was invited to open the ‘Rubens and the Italian Renaissance’ exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, and later that year won first prize at the inaugural Australian National Open Choral Championships in Wagga Wagga, NSW. In recess during 1993 while O’Donnell was on sabbatical leave, the Ensemble launched its first subscription series in 1995, and has presented a series each year since that time.
The Ensemble appeared in the 1995 Melbourne International Festival, singing John Taverner’s Ikon of Light, and repeated that performance in 1996 in Sydney and at the Castlemaine State Festival, accompanied by the Seymour Group. In 1997, Ensemble Gombert received the first of many invitations to perform as part of the Melbourne International Festival of Organ and Harpsichord, and has followed this with numerous return appearances at the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival and the Woodend Winter Arts Festival.
For full trancripts of Ensemble Gombert’s press reviews, see our Concert Reviews page.
“A stunning rendition”, Victorian Organ Journal, 1991
“[P]urity of tone, parity of voices … textual sensitivity … impeccable intonation, sustained by the singers throughout the program … ethereal beauty of tone”, Bernadette Cruise, The Canberra Times, 2 Sep. 1992
“The ensemble is, in a word, superb”, Clive O’Connell, The Age, 1994
“Is it possible to over-praise? … [T]here have been few more absorbing samples of live choral work in my experience … For sheer purity of intonation and fluidity of texture this was a memorable performance … Even the most highly publicised visitors rarely produce music-making of this calibre”, Clive O’Connell, The Age, 25 Sep. 1995
“Ensemble Gombert concerts are marvellous events that should not be missed by anyone who is interested in hearing top-notch singing”, Clive O’Connell, The Age, 25 Sep. 1995
“Glorious unaccompanied singing … John O’Donnell’s Gombert Singers may well claim to be the best a cappella ensemble working in Australia”, Keith Field, Herald Sun, 27 May 1996
“The Gomberts have carved themselves a niche alongside Australia’s foremost exponents of high-Renaissance vocal repertoire”, Stephen Ingham, The Age, 1996
“The result could not be more beautifully or consistently blended … An experience not to be missed”, Johanna Sellick, Herald Sun, 1997
“[A]bsolutely radiant … if they could tour widely they could rightly claim to be a national treasure”, Joel Crotty, The Age, 1998
“Melbourne’s finest choir”, Clive O’Connell, The Age
“An inspiring display of choral accomplishment”, The Age
“[F]ine vocal qualities and several flashes of light … a highly appealing purity of sound … pleasing contrasts, from the pristine opening lines to graceful texture alternations between the upper and lower voices … The ensemble easily handled each movement’s technical challenges and displayed a pleasing range of moods from quiet introspection to vigorous exhortation”, Joseph Sargent, San Francisco Classical Voice, 22 Sep. 2009
Ensemble Gombert is an incorporated, not-for-profit organisation and operates a public, tax-deductible gift fund to support its artistic activities. The Ensemble is managed by an elected committee. The current office bearers and committee members are:
President: Dr Claerwen Jones
Vice President and Publicity Officer: Mrs Belinda Wong-Barker
Secretary: Mr Vaughan McAlley
Treasurer: Dr Peter Campbell
Concert Manager: Ms Yi Wen Chin
Committee Member and Archivist: Ms Niki Ebacioni
Committee Member: Ms Rebecca Woods
Committee Member: Ms Katherine Norman
Music Director (ex officio): Mr John O’Donnell
Public Officer: Ms Megan O’Connor
Trustees of the Public Fund:
Professor Jenny George
Dr Peter Campbell