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A well-informed delight

"Leicester Early Music Festival has a long tradition of working with Mike Ashley, who plays lute and is the leader and drive behind The Lachrimae Consort.  It was with great anticipation that I joined the capacity audience for their offering of music associated with Shakespeare, only slightly outside the latter's quarto-centenary year.  (Mind you, in those days the year began on Lady Day, so it could be said the concert was just inside the anniversary year!)
I was not to be disappointed.  From the opening 'Battle' from the whole company to their encore, all was a well-informed delight.  It is difficult to offer criticism of individual items as all players acquitted themselves with aplomb.  Several favourites come to mind: the versatility of the recorder player, who showed equal dexterity on all sizes of recorder from garklein to tenor; the several players who doubled as brilliant vocalists, some brilliant performances from the thespians and some nimble playing from plucked instruments.  My favourite music? - amazingly hard to say, but two people playing Dowland on one lute must be a great contender.  Let's hope this is not the last we are to hear of the Lachrimae Consort."

'Celebrating Shakespeare', review by John Bence of Leicester Early Music Festival, January 2017

The consort’s ensemble was excellent

"Based on the admirable, scholarly work of Julian Bream and his pioneering recording of 1962, we were treated to a well-researched kaleidoscope of sounds from the Elizabethan period.  It is difficult to single out individual pieces from the programme; the consort’s ensemble was excellent, and the various pieces showed just about every combination of sounds possible - from two plucked instruments, to a high pitched group contrasted with a low one, plucked and wind, bowed and wind.  The addition of a fine voice for some pieces made a suitable addition.  The near capacity audience encouraged the group to play a neat encore, which rounded off a varied evening.  We hope we shall see them again for the Shakespeare celebrations next year."

'An Evening of Elizabethan Music', review by John Bence of Leicester Early Music Festival, December 2015

Time stood still

"Time Stood Still.  The Lachrimae Consort's tribute to Dowland in All Saints' Church on 6th July was a tribute to the skill of both composer, John Dowland and director, Mike Ashley.  Very difficult to find a favourite item here, but the soprano Jill Davies impassioned rendition of the lute song tribute to Elizabeth I 'Time stands still' must rank as one of the highlights.  The group's performance of the 'Seven Tears' pavans was amazingly moving and Mike Ashley's virtuosic playing in Dowland's Fantasy for lute were equally memorable.  A spirited redition of 'If my complaints' and Captain Digori Piper's Galliard ended the programme but not before the excellent choice of song with consort 'Flow my tears'."

Programme of 'A tribute to John Dowland', review by John Bence of Leicester Early Music Festival, July 2013

A pleasingly mellifluous sound

"The first words in the programme for this concert reminded us that music, or references to music, appear in all but one of Shakespeare's plays and that there are some truly beautiful speeches about the power and effect it has.  The performers then proceeded to prove this in a programme that delighted the audience with both its content and delivery.  As always, with the Lachrimae Consort everything was very well researched.  Mike Ashley, who devised the programme, provided the informative narrative, and Richard Ollier read the excerpts from the plays.  The six members of the Lachrimae Consort play with impressive unanimity and produce a pleasingly mellifluous sound."

Programme of 'Shakespeare's Music', review in The Leicester Mercury, June 2009

A Tudor treat

"Coventry has played host to many major music acts over the years, The Beatles, The Stones, Elton John and Jimi Hendrix.  All big names of course, but back in 1599, Tudor Coventry saw the arrival of the supreme musician of the day, the legendary John Dowland.  It’s now been revealed that he actually came to Coventry to perform at Caludon Castle (and I’m not talking about the school).  Dowland entertained the Berkeley family with his consort in the Great Hall on 24 January 1599.

To mark this occasion, a very special concert was held at St Mary's church, Walsgrave Coventry on 30 March 2007, this being the closest venue to the ruined castle that still held plenty of historic ambience.  Mike Ashley, the man who has pieced this fascinating story together, himself a fine lutenist, performed with The Lachrimae Consort, a six-piece group specialising in early music.

Despite the innate sadness of many of the songs, the night was a joyous affair, and it is a testament to Mike and The Lachrimae Consort, that the church was packed.  I find the fact that so many people wanted to hear this music of another age somewhat refreshing, it could be argued that Dowland has been popularised of late by Sting and his Songs From The Labyrinth album last year.  I didn't get that tonight; I saw a crowd of people, some more than happy to try something a little different and a little less obvious."

Pete Chambers, review on the BBC Coventry & Warwickshire website, April 2007

A pleasing symmetry

"There was a pleasing symmetry to this year's Early Music Festival in that the Lachrimae Consort gave both the opening and closing concerts.  This Midlands-based group invariably offer attractive, well-researched programmes and 'Who Sent Dowland to Coventry' was one of their best."

Review in The Leicester Mercury, June 2007

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