Joby Talbot: The Path of Miracles


Path of Miracles, for a cappella choir, was commissioned by Tenebrae from Joby Talbot and premiered last year. The work is based on the most enduring route of Catholic pilgrimage – the great Pilgramage to Santiago. The four movements of Path of Miracles are titled with the names of the four main staging posts of the ‘Camino Frances’:

I Roncesvalles

II Burgos

III Leon

IV Santiago

The ‘Camino Frances’ s the central axis of a network of pilgrimage routes to Santiago. Talbot’s music has been performed by, amongst others, the London Sinfonietta, The BBC Symphony Orchestra, The Brunel Ensemble, Evelyn Glennie and The Duke Quartet. In addtion, Talbot also writes for the big and small screen. Credits include, The League of Gentlemen and The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Tenebrae, founded and directed by former King’s Singer Nigel Short, is a professional vocal ensemble, whose motto is passion and precision. Tenebrae has built an impressive reputation for innovative and memorable performances throughout the UK and Europe

This disc can be played on any standard CD or SACD player. In addition, there is a 4.0 surround-sound mix on the SACD layer.

Read more about Joby Talbot by clicking here


What people are saying

"an evocative odyssey" The Times

"Joby Talbot’s ambitious a cappella Path of Miracles is little short of a musical miracle in itself" Nick Breckenfield

"It’s an interesting musical journey for composer, performers and listeners alike"  Classic FM
"Joby Talbot has been making quite a name for himself recently. Path of miracles can only add to that reputation: it’s a real achievement" International Record Review

directed Nigel Short

Release date:1st May 2006
Order code:SIGCD078
Barcode: 635212007822

The Times, April 2006

Three and a half years in the making, Path of Miracles is a choral cycle structured around the renowned pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain – a more serious endeavour than the film soundtracks and pop arrangements for Paul McCartney and the Divine Comedy that Talbot has become known for.

Incorporating traditions of vocal music from medieval France, Renaissance Italy and even Taiwan, the four movements here are named after pilgrim staging posts and chronicle a valedictory, adverse and penitent journey for more than an hour.

Quotes in various archaic languages from medieval sources are woven in with contemporary poetry by Robert Dickinson.  The textures created by the mixed ensemble Tenebrae make this an evocative odyssey, though like the pilgrimage itself, it requires a great deal of contemplative stamina.

David Rose

International Record Review, June 2006

Joby Talbot has been making quite a name for himself recently. Path of miracles can only add to that reputation: it’s a real achievement. The path of the work’s title is that of the Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, and the work’s structure follows the four principal points of the Camino francés, Roncesvalles, Burgos, León and Santiago, in a complex and imaginative multilingual libretto by Robert Dickinson. Talbot’s musical vocabulary is wide-ranging, including as it does Taiwanese vocal techniques (providing a haunting beginning), reflective refrains that suggest Pärt, a dash of blue close-harmony and, last but not least, an underlying preoccupation (whether conscious or unconscious I could not say) with the Anglican choral tradition and plainchant. Despite the latter, I have to say that the piece is something of a patchwork. This does not arise, I think, from the use of different languages per se, but from the isolated nature of the musical responses to the different layers of the libretto. Memorable moments abound none the less; too many, in fact, to single out. I imagine the work’s impact when heard live would be even greater. The comparison with Pärt’s Passio quoted on the back of the CD is rather wide of the mark: it is precisely the unrelenting consistency of the latter that makes it what Path of Miracles is not. Tenebrae sounds completely at home with all of these styles and, under Nigel Short’s direction, positively driven. The singing is the best I have yet heard from the group, vibrant and incisive, with some tremendous solo work. If I have a quibble, it is with the bizarre pronunciation of the Greek texts, neither Erasmian nor modern (perhaps the intention was a half-way house), and, probably more seriously, with Signum’s retaining of the apostrophe in the phrase ‘From it’s opening’, quoted from the aforementioned press review: a tiny point, but with this important release of a work that demands attention both spiritual and intellectual to this degree, important nevertheless.

Ivan Moody

Choir and Organ Magazine, August 2006

After the eerie opening effect – a glissandi, Taiwanese style, bursting into the pilgrims hymn from Dum Pater Familias – you know you are about to embark on a remarkable musical journey. Path of Miracles in four movements – Roncescalles, Burgos, Leon and Santiago – follows the ancient pilgrim route along the ‘camino frances’ in sound. The music weaves together diverse themes and styles encompassing sparse, cleasr writing with subtle use of harmony portraying the text. Talbot builds to climaxes subtlly and withdraws from them with ingenuity, the work moving seamlessly along its way. Rhythmic passages are put against sustained vocal lines adding to the overall effect. This a cappella work is very demanding of its singers and Tenebrae answer every question asked of them. It is a tour de force and absolutely stunning.

Shirley Ratcliffe

Choir and Organ Magazine, August 2006
Article: Pilgrim Partners

A new partnership has been forged between the vocal ensemble Tenebrae and the London Symphony Orchestra. Former King’s Singer Nigel Short, who founded Tenebrae four years ago, tells how this came about: ‘We did several concerts for the City of London Festival over the years. Representatives from the LSO thought that certain repertoire might be better with a small, professional chamber choir; and we were very delighted when they asked us if we were interested in the idea. The first concerts will be this December, with Messiah and L’enfance du Christ with Sir Colin Davis conducting, so that will get the association off to a cracking start.’ The LSO will use a smaller orchestra for Messiah and Tenebrae will increase to 34 singers, and 40 for the Berlioz. Short says, ‘I hope this partnership will develop. We’ve done lots of a cappella music of Poulenc, MacMillan and other contemporary composers, but we don’t have a regular orchestra backing us; this will allow us to tackle new repertoire and develop the group’s profile further.’

The ensemble has just completed its first pilgrimage on the Santiago de Compostella route, giving six a cappella concerts from San Juan de Ortega to Ponferrada. The tour included three performances of Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles, commissioned by the ensemble. Short comments: ‘Tenebrae’s a cappella concerts are by candlelight and we move around; but we didn’t want to move around for the sake of it, we wanted to commission a work that actually is about a journey. Talbot did the pilgrimage himself and it’s fantastic to have the chance to do it on the pilgrimage route itself.’ October sees the release on Signum of Miserere (SIGCD085), with Renaissance and contemporary works.

"From it’s opening eerie rising vocal glissando (a Taiwanese singing effect called pasiputput) for the gentlemen of Nigel Short’s Tenebrae, to the final distribution of the pilgrims having reached Finisterre, west of Santiago, when the singers disappear from view, singing and chanting into the distance until all that is left is silence, Joby Talbot’s ambitious a cappella Path of Miracles is little short of a musical miracle in itself. I would go so far as to suggest that this is to the first decade of the 21st century what Arvo Pärt’s Passio was twenty years earlier" 

Nick Breckenfield

Classic FM Magazine, July 2006

I predict you will never have heard anything like the first two minutes of this piece: Tenebrae’s voices rise in pitch in a long, throaty glissando, like the gradual tensioning of an enormous cable. Path of Miracles, a work for unaccompanied voices, is based on the pilgrimage from the foot of the Pyrenees to Santiago in northwest Spain. It’s an interesting musical journey for composer, performers and listeners alike. Joby Talbot is an eclectic artist who composes for both film and television. Incidentally, he also arranged the strings for Paul McCartney’s latest album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

John Brunning

  1. Roncesvalles – – [17.22]
  2. Burgos – – [15.04]
  3. Leon – – [11.44]
  4. Santiago – – [18.13]