Founded in 1981 by James Wood, NLCC is one of the stars in European contemporary music scene and one of its foremost vocal ensembles. Whilst specialising in twentieth and twenty-first century music and particularly on contemporary works, NLCC’s mission is to perform the avant garde of every period. The Choir has given many world and British premières and continues to commission and promote new work. NLCC performs works in all imaginable scorings: from full chorus to solo voices; a capella, with traditional instruments, or with recorded or live electronics, and under many different conductors. Matthew Hamilton became NLCC’s Musical Director in 2014.
The Choir has enjoyed close and fruitful working relationships with leading composers, including Jonathan Harvey, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, György Ligeti, Toru Takemitsu, and Iannis Xenakis. Both Harvey and Xenakis, among other composers, have written works especially for NLCC. Pierre Boulez became Patron of the Choir in 1986.
The Choir appears at festivals throughout Europe and has worked with the Ensemble InterContemporain, the London Sinfonietta, the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Champ d’Action, Ictus, Percussive Rotterdam and other instrumental groups. NLCC has toured on the Arts Council Contemporary Music Network; and has often appeared at the Aldeburgh, Bath, Huddersfield and Oxford Contemporary Music festivals as well as at the BBC Promenade Concerts in London.
NLCC broadcasts frequently on BBC radio, and has also appeared in the BBC2 series Music in Camera with the London Sinfonietta. The Choir’s numerous CDs reflect the enormous diversity of its repertoire and have been widely acclaimed: NLCC’s recording of Stravinsky’s Les Noces came out top in BBC Radio 3’s Building A Library programme and the Choir’s Xenakis CD, which earned rave reviews, was tipped as a CD of the year.
The Choir’s past engagements include: IRCAM’s Agora Festival in Paris; Strasbourg MUSICA; Oslo Ultima; Nuova Consonanza in Rome; with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra in Brussels and Luxembourg; with The Taverner Consort at the Luzern Easter Festival; several visits to the Flanders Festival; concerts under Andrew Parrott at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon and at the BBC Promenade Concerts; the Dublin International Organ & Choral Festival and Nice Manca Festival.
In 2003, to wide acclaim, the choir presented a massive programme of music by Xenakis and James Wood at the BBC Proms and performed works by Kagel and Sawer at the Aldeburgh Festival. In late 2003 NLCC renewed its collaboration with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra in three performances of Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien under Emanuel Krivine. In 2004 NLCC has performed at Mulhouse, France, at the Aldeburgh Festival, and gave the UK première of Stockhausen’s Litanei 97 (picture, top) as part of Liverpool Cathedral’s centenary celebrations.
In May 2005 NLCC promoted a four-performance UK tour of James Wood’s new work,Hildegard and in October the Choir gave two concerts of contemporary and early music in the Flanders Festival, including the Belgian première of some movements ofHildegard.
2006 saw the Dutch première of Hildegard. NLCC also took part for the first time in the BMIC Cutting Edge series with a performance of works by Feldman and Harvey. In early 2007 the choir recorded a CD of works by Feldman for Mode Records in early 2007, gave a performance of Bach’s St John Passion with ViVA under Nicholas Kok and performed an all-Scelsi programme at the Archipel festival in Geneva. In November the Choir appeared at the 7 Locks Festival in Northamptonshire and gave a run of performances of Stravinsky’s Les Noces with the Michael Clark Company at the Barbican Centre, London.
In early 2008 NLCC gave a Messiaen-themed concert in London and performed again with Michael Clark Company in Norwich. In October the choir performed Dallapiccola, Lassus, Lachenmann, Sciarrino, Monteverdi, and Xenakis, and in November gave a performance of works by Kagel and Stockhausen at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
In 2009 NLCC toured to Portugal to perform Jonathan Harvey’s Passion and Resurrection, and gave performances in the UK of works by Stravinsky and Harvey.
The choir, with the help of a generous donation, commissioned a work from Macedonian composer Evdokija Danajloska, which was recently premiered on a tour to Skopje, Macedonia. In July 2010 NLCC premiered Allele, a new 40-part work based on choir members’ gene samples by Michael Zev Gordon; this project attracted a huge media and public interest and its own website. Later in 2010 NLCC premiered works by Michael Finnissy and Peter Adriaansz at the November Music Festival in s-Hertogenbosch, Holland, and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
For its 30th anniversary in 2011 NLCC presented a new commission from its then musical director James Weeks at the Spitalfields Festival. Before that, NLCC presented a concert in London of early and contemporary works directed by Robert Hollingworth. NLCC returned to Huddersfield for a concert of works by Iannis Xenakis to mark the tenth anniversary of this unique composer’s death. 2012 saw two appearances at the BBC Proms performing Schoenberg Gurrelieder with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Debussy Le Martyre de Saint Sebastian with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Oliver Knussen. NLCC performed a programme of transcriptions by Gottwald at St Martins-in-the-Fields, London, as part of the Brandenburg Choral Festival directed by Andrew Griffiths and joined the Philharmonia Chorus for a performance of Britten’s War Requiem at the Royal Festival Hall, London, conducted by Lorin Maazel.
In 2013 the choir marked the passing of its long-standing supporter and collaborator, the composer Jonathan Harvey, with a performance directed by guest conductor Steven Grahl of works by Harvey interleaved with Tallis’ Lamentations. NLCC performed and recorded a programme of new works by Macedonian composers with the Kreutzer Quartet at Wilton’s Music Hall; sang Philip Glass’s Knee Plays (Einstein on the Beach) at Peckham Car Park for the London Contemporary Music Festival; and appeared with the BBC Concert Orchestra in its Christmas concerts, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. Concerts in 2014 included Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible with Vladimir Ashkenazy and Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Esa Pekka Salonen, both with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and a WW1 themed concert at the British Library featuring a new work by Deborah Pritchard. In September 2014 NLCC gave the world premiere performance of John Tavener’s Flood of Beauty with the Britten Sinfonia and Britten Sinfonia Voices conducted by Martyn Brabbins at the Barbican Centre, London.
In January 2015 NLCC celebrated a new chapter in its history by welcoming Matthew Hamilton – newly appointed Musical Director – for his first concert with the group. NLCC presented Animals!, an eclectic programme including the UK premiere of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s Four Madrigals from the Natural World at Wilton’s Music Hall in London.
In April 2017 NLCC toured to Oslo to share a platform with the Norwegian Ensemble 96, performing works by Luciano Berio and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.
NLCC works regularly with dance, including a tour of Stravinsky’s Les Noces with the Michael Clark Company, and appearances at the London Coliseum with the Mark Morris Dance Group and, in January 2014, Ivan Putrov’s ‘Men in Motion’ at the London Coliseum.