Sestina is a dynamic and versatile young vocal ensemble based in Belfast with a reputation for innovative and imaginative music making, and specialising in the authentic performance of early music.
Sestina was founded in 2011 by a group of young singers from Northern Ireland and international countertenor Mark Chambers, who remains the group’s musical director. Sestina’s primary aim is to profile and develop homegrown talent, and the group consists primarily of singers from Northern Ireland who are hand picked at the beginning of their professional careers. At the core of their philosophy is learning through mentorship and collaboration, and performances to date have involved partnerships with some of the world’s foremost experts in the performance of early music, including His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, The Monteverdi String Band and Dutch violinist Johannes Leertouwer. The result of these collaborations has been a string of critically acclaimed performances of the works of Monteverdi, Purcell, Handel and others. Dido and Aeneas (2016) was described as “compelling, alluring, and gently devastating, a triumph for the power of the collective”.
Sestina performs in Belfast regularly throughout the year, with large-scale projects in September, December and April, in which the ensemble is joined by a Baroque chamber orchestra, as well as a number of solo recitals and smaller concert performances. In 2016, we collaborated for the first time with Hillsborough Castle for their ‘Georgian Family Christmas’, providing informed music for an immersive event within the castle. In the same year, we were featured as part of Belfast Music Society’s Northern Lights MiniFest. The group also performs regularly in Dublin and in other venues around Northern Ireland.
In a short time, Sestina has built a reputation as a leading exponent of early music in Northern Ireland, but we are also equally at home with contemporary and popular repertoire, and have worked with organisations such as Arts and Business NI, Garden Show Ireland and Destination CQ to provide bespoke entertainment for events, ranging in size from barbershop quartet to full choir.
Recent developments include a growing programme of education projects and workshops in which we seek out and nurture the next generation of talented singers in Northern Ireland, and they regularly hold auditions for aspiring young professional singers. Each year, they invite members of the public to ‘Sing with Sestina’ at Christmas for their authentic period performance of Handel’s Messiah.
Tickets for all upcoming performances may be purchased on our website, www.sestinamusic.com, and at the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre, 9 Donegall Square North, Belfast.