The 16th century cornett (cornetto, renaissance cornet or, in Germany, the Zink) was the most popular wind instrument of its day. Expressive and versatile, it came closer in sound to the human voice than any other instrument. Curiously and sadly its popularity waned during the second half of the 17th Century and eventually it died out altogether, driven into extinction by its rival in virtuosity, the violin. Made of wood and covered in leather (sometimes parchment), the instrument has a two and half-octave range (rare amongst wind instruments of the time) and can play both loudly and softly (also not to be taken for granted). In 1636 the cornett's sound was likened by Mersenne to "a ray of sunshine piercing the shadows, when heard with the choir voices in the cathedrals or chapels".
"A Ray of Sunshine" is essentially a programme in celebration of the voice - of expressive singing, and the way composers of the 16th and 17th centuries expected wind instruments to emulate it. Soprano Julia Gooding, renowned for her interpretation of Baroque Music, together with premier cornettist Jeremy West and celebrated harpsichordist Gary Cooper have formed the group Crown Jewels to rediscover and explore the wealth of music for their combination of instruments. They are joined for "A Ray of Sunshine" by cornett virtuoso Jamie Savan. Listeners to their programme will thrill to dazzling duets and trios by Frescobaldi and Monteverdi, sigh at the exquisite melancholy of Merula and Mazzocchi's religious songs and smile at Schütz's colourful and witty psalm settings.
The Grand Finale of this years Lincoln Early Music Festival was a resounding
success. Julia Gooding has a clarity of diction, and expressive facial presentation of mood combined with exquisite precision of pitch which totally accords with the
music of Monteverdi and his Italian followers. Her masterly soprano singing
was matched by the Cornett playing of Jeremy West and Jamie Savan. They
played both normal "cornettes", curved wooden instruments shaped like
long-horn cows' horns but voiced by a mouthpiece like a trumpets and "mute
cornettes", straight sided conical tubes tuned to a slightly lower pitch.
The sounds of these "cornettes" expertly played are marvellously subtle and
rightly claim to be nearest match to a human voice that can be uttered from
an instrument. Gary Cooper combines solo harpsichord recital playing and
organ playing with a wide range of work with instrumetal ensembles and
singers as well as teaching assignments at The Royal Northern College of
Music and Chetham's School. This group of four musicians worked together in
different combinations severally, as soloists or with all four together as
in great works by Monteverdi and Schutz. Organ toccatas on the small
portable chamber organ used written fifty or so years apart by Fescobaldi
and Froberger played by Gary Cooper were in delightful contrast to the
sometimes overpowering resonances inevitably associated with the big
instrument a few blocks away in the Cathedral.
Lincoln Post, August 2004
Julia Gooding has been described as a soprano with "a perfect voice. a timbre of burnished antique gold" (L'Arena, Verona) and a "blend of passion, subtlety, technical control and perfect diction" (Irish Times) whose "rare gifts add up to a complete singer" (Classics Today). Particularly renowned for her interpretation of Baroque music, she enjoys an international career combining both concert and staged performances with recordings for major labels, television and radio.
Apart from Julia's extensive work with the Academy of Ancient Music (Christopher Hogwood/Paul Goodwin), the New London Consort (Philip Pickett), the Gabrieli Consort (Paul McCreesh), London Baroque and Florilegium, she has been a guest with many specialist orchestras and conductors including Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert, Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque, Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre, Ivor Bolton and St James Baroque, Marcus Creed and Freiburg Baroque, Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale and Gustav Leonhardt and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. She has performed Scarlatti Cantatas with Gerard Lesne and Il Seminario Musicale in France, Purcell Songs with the Purcell Quartet in Istanbul, Slovenia and Japan and songs by Byrd through to Elvis Costello with the viol consorts Fretwork and Concordia in Austria and Ireland.
Gooding sings with a rich, colorful sound, reaching easily from whispers to soaring fortes. A commanding performer, she brings drama and pathos to her deliveries without extraneous movement - the meaning is in the music and in her face. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Julia's operatic work has included the role of Romilda in Handel's Xerxes for the Operhaus Halle, Minerve, Amore and Giunone in Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria with Philippe Pierlot in a joint production with La Monnaie and the Kunsten Festival des Arts in Amsterdam, Salome in Stradella's San Giovanni Battista at the Innsbruck Festival, Dido in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in the Cervantes Festival, Mexico, and the title role of Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea with the Purcell Quartet on tour in Japan. She is currently touring (London, Bergen, Beijing and Paris) as Messagiera in Jonathan Miller's production of Monteverdi's Orfeo with Pickett/New London Consort.
Julia Gooding was shining throughout the whole performance. She has a beautiful voice, sang with great feeling and understanding and her articulation was immaculate.Musica Dei Donum, Amsterdam
Included in Julia's discography of more than twenty recordings are Bach's Magnificat and St Matthew Passion with the Gabrieli Consort/McCreesh for Deutsche Grammophon, Euridice in Monteverdi's Orfeo and Vivaldi's Dixit Dominus with the New London Consort/Pickett for L'Oiseau-Lyre, John Taverner's Sappho with the Academy of Ancient Music/Goodwin for Harmonia Mundi, Handel's Teseo in which she sang the role of Agilea with Les Musiciens du Louvre/Minkowski for Erato, Purcell's Odes for Queen Mary with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Leonhardt for Virgin Classics, Linley and Boyce cantatas with the Parley of Instruments/Holman for Hyperion and Music from the time of Vermeer, songs by Constantijn Huygens and his musical circle with Chris Wilson and Carole Cerasi for Metronome.
Recently Julia travelled to Brazil to perform song recitals with harpsichordist Maggie Cole and to Canada to sing with Daniel Taylor and the Theatre of Early Music. In England she toured Charpentier motets with Les Lumières des Ténèbres and in Germany and Latvia she sang Bach Cantatas with London Baroque. Future plans include Dido in Madrid with the New London Consort as well as performances on London's South Bank, in Budapest, Barcelona and Pamplona, Mozart arias in Buenos Aires with Florilegium and, as part of the BBC Proms, Purcell's Faery Queen with the Gabrieli Consort.
Jeremy West took his first steps on the cornett while a student at Durham University in 1974, where he was inspired and encouraged by the late Jerome Roche, and went on to study with Philip Pickett at the Guildhall School of Music, London. He is manager of the renowned and pioneering ensemble His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts and is Principal Wind Player with the Gabrieli Consort and Players for their earlier repertoire. He also performs regularly with many of Europe's other leading early baroque ensembles.
Jeremy has more than 50 major recordings to his credit, including Il Cornetto (1989) which was the first solo CD for his instrument. He has appeared in settings ranging from London's Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House to St Mark's, Venice, the Orient Express and, on one occasion, a Polish salt mine. En route he has taken in Europe's major music festivals, numerous provincial concert halls, and a variety of churches, cathedral and palaces.
In addition to a playing career which has taken him to 30 countries throughout the world, Jeremy has been director of Christopher Monk Instruments since 1991. The business - a partnership with craftsman Keith Rogers - is devoted to the research, development and world-wide distribution of all the instruments of the cornett and serpent families.
Jeremy West is Professor of Cornett at the Royal College of Music, London, as well as Consultant to the Royal Academy of Music, London. In 1995 he wrote and published How to play the Cornett, the first contemporary comprehensive tutor for cornett players of all levels.
A guest with Crown Jewels for their programme A Ray of Sunshine, Jamie Savan began playing the cornett in 1996 whilst studying music at Oxford. He subsequently studied with Jeremy West at the Royal College of Music, London, and with Bruce Dickey at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.
Since 1997 Jamie has performed with many of Europe's leading period instrument ensembles including the Gabrieli Consort, The King's Consort, The Sixteen, Concerto Palatino, Concerto Italiano, Collegium Vocale, Ghent and His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts. He is the principal cornettist of Charivari Agréable Simfonie and director of the Gonzaga Band. Jamie is currently completing a doctoral thesis at Birmingham University on the cornett and the art of improvised ornamentation in early sixteenth-century Germany.
Roger Hamilton was born in Ireland and his first professional musical experience was as a horn player and singer. Subsequently he studied at Clare College Cambridge, the Royal Academy of Music (conducting and harpsichord) and the National Opera Studio. For two years he was in charge of Performance Practice at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and then in 1992 he was appointed Arts Council of Great Britain Young Conductor of the Year, spending a year as Assistant Conductor to Sir Roger Norrington and the London Classical Players. Since then he has worked as a conductor, harpsichordist and vocal coach with a wide variety of orchestras and opera companies. In the concert hall he has conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Südwestrundfunk Orchester Stuttgart, The English Concert, Orchestra of the National Arts Centre Ottawa, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, European Sinfonietta and the Fränkishces Kammerorchester, and he has been assistant conductor for, among others, the Berlin Philharmonic, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Salzburg Camerata, and Les Arts Florissants. In opera he has conducted for Théâtre de la Monnaie Brussels, Opera Northern Ireland, Cambridge University Opera, Combe Opera and Midsummer Opera, and he has worked with many other companies including the Göttingen Handel Festival, Maggio Musicale Florence, Aix-en-Provence Festival, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées Paris, and Glyndebourne Touring Opera.
As a harpsichordist he has played continuo with most of the major ensembles in Britain, has given chamber concerts and made broadcasts and recordings in Britain, Europe and the United States. As a musicologist he has made editions of many works, including most notably Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria which has been performed in Athens and Florence.