TONUS PEREGRINUS was founded by the composer Antony Pitts in 1990, during his studies with Dr Edward Higginbottom at New College, Oxford, to record Music for a Large Audience. It has become an established ensemble in Britain and abroad with a significant discography on Hyperion and Naxos, and a reputation for excellence and originality. Early acclaim in the BBC Music Magazine, Fanfare, Gramophone, and The Telegraph spoke for itself: “utterly spellbinding”, “heatedly recommended”, “utterly beguiling”, “gloriously sung by this superb choir”, as did the prestigious Cannes Classical Award for the ensemble’s debut release and No.1 album of Arvo Pärt Passio – “Editor’s Choice” in Gramophone, as was the Hyperion album Seven Letters and other sacred choral music.
TONUS PEREGRINUS recorded a series of “milestones of Western Music” for Naxos including the first polyphony and music in four parts, Léonin / Pérotin – Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral; the first-ever opera or musical comedy, Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion; the first polyphonic settings of the Mass and the Passion, The Mass of Tournai; the first new sounds of the Renaissance, Sweet Harmony – masses and motets by John Dunstaple; a re-invention of the first English hymnbook from 1623, Hymns and Songs of the Church, and perhaps the jewel in the crown, Music from the Eton Choirbook.
TONUS PEREGRINUS has a history of performing at extraordinary occasions such as the memorials for Alexander Litvinenko – a former audience member – and of putting on remarkable live productions such as a semi-staged version of the 14th-century Le Voir Dit by Guillaume de Machaut; other innovative projects include The Naxos Book of Carols – circulated to millions of homes in the UK and available as a printed carol-book from Faber Music – and the ensemble’s studio rendition of Tears for Fears’s Mad World.
At the core of TONUS PEREGRINUS are a dozen or so singers who combine their diverse expertise to interpret a repertoire ranging from the end of the Dark Ages to scores where the ink is still wet. Our experience since the early 1990s is as an ensemble of friends with careers across the musical spectrum, leading and singing in other ensembles and spearheading music production and publishing as well as extramusical trajectories in the law and beyond. Each of us has followed our own journeys directing other ensembles such as The Swingle Singers, The Amaryllis Consort, and Australia's national vocal ensemble, The Song Company, as well as affecting, and in some cases guiding the industry at places as varied as Faber Music, Hyperion Records, and BBC Radio 3. When we have gathered to record in the studio or to perform live, these individual experiences have combined to create our unique sound and style. This breadth of vision is reflected in the name of the ensemble which comes from an ancient plainsong psalm tone with Jewish origins, directly linked to the Passover and the Last Supper. The tonus peregrinus chant starts on a different note in each half, hence “wandering tone” and was nicknamed tonus novissimus, the “newest”. After more than three decades, the founding vision is as strong as ever: authentic & original.