Winning the Gramophone Recording of the Year Award changed my life

Lionel MeunierWed 4th May 2016

Lionel Meunier, the Music Director of Vox Luminis, looks ahead to his ensemble's first major UK tour

There is a French expression that I have never liked: ‘there is a “before” and an “after”’. I always thought this placed undue emphasis on one specific event when usually many things come together to tell a bigger picture. Well, Vox Luminis’s Gramophone Recording of the Year Award proved me wrong, since I have no better words to describe what happened to me and to our ensemble at the end of 2012. 

As Vox Luminis is about to embark on one of its first major UK tours, and we will give our first performances of English polyphony on English soil, it’s good to have the opportunity to consider all that has happened. In fact, as I said in my acceptance speech that almost made me more famous than the prize itself (I was caught completely by surprise and didn’t have anything prepared!), the ceremony marked my first visit to London. I had no idea that this would be the beginning of a love story. I no longer count how many times I have been to London and the UK, as well as to the USA and many other new territories. 

Where we would be without this life-changing event, I have no idea. The whirlwind that followed the ceremony, including on my voicemail and email inbox, made me appreciate that this award was unlike any other that we had won previously. Suddenly many more people wanted to hear us, which felt fantastic. We also had a responsibility to prove ourselves, to maintain the high standards set by the recording for those who came to discover us live for the first time. At the same time we wanted to stay true to the spirit of Vox Luminis, not forgetting our beginnings, when as a group of students, we discovered the joy of performing together and spent hours and hours practising in a completely anonymous church or conservatoire practice room.

Gramophone, you made my dream come true; you made our dream come true. We now have around 60 concerts a year, regular tours to other continents and we release two recordings per year. It’s a great honour to be coming to London, Cambridge, Brighton and Chipping Camden to present music by Tallis, Sheppard, White, Tomkins, Ramsey and Weelkes. As a Frenchman, I hope you won’t think me an ‘arrogant frog’ for performing this English music on your soil! It’s just some of my all-time favourite repertoire, and I’m so excited to bring it to you and share what it means to us. Performing German repertoire in Germany has certainly shed new light on it for us, and I’m sure that being in the UK will give us new inspiration for this music too.

On May 12 I’ll be celebrating my 35th birthday in Cambridge, surrounded by my friends in Vox Luminis, singing this gorgeous music in the beautiful chapel of St John’s College. I don’t think it can get any better than that!

Vox Luminis will be at Cadogan Hall on May 11, Cambridge Early Music’s Festival of the Voice on May 12, Brighton Festival on May 13, Chipping Campden Festival on May 14, and Salisbury Festival on June 2. More information and tickets at voxluminis.com.

Lionel Meunier

Artistic Director of Vox Luminis, Lionel Meunier founded the early music ensemble in 2004 and conducts other ensembles throughout Europe.

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