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Deborah Roberts (Soprano, Choral Conductor)

Born: May 10, 1962 - London, England

The English conductor and soprano, Deborah Roberts, Deborah Roberts studied at Lady Edridge Grammar School in Croydon (Class of 1963). She studied Music at the University of Leicester (Class of 1974); and graduated from Nottingham University with an Master of Arts in the editing and interpretation of Renaissance and Baroque music (1975). In 1981 she was a prize winner in the early music competition in Bruges, enabling her to study with Andrea von Ramm in Basel.

Since finishing her stydies, Deborah Roberts has combined singing in various professional early music ensembles with a variety of activities including teaching, researching, editing and conducting. The Renaissance and early Baroque periods have remained her greatest passion to this day. From 1978 to 2008, she sang with The Tallis Scholars (Director: Peter Phillips), with whom she appeared in over 1,200 concerts around the world and on more than 60 recordings. She was also privileged to take part in countless recordings of rare and beautiful music, gaining a deep insight into the workings and magic of Renaissance polyphony. But she has also made solo appearances and sang with many other notes early music ensembles and professional choirs, including the Consort of Musicke, the Deller Consort, Parley of Instruments, London Baroque (Director: Charles Medlam) and The English Concert (Director: Trevor Pinnock), encountering so many wonderful and inspiring musicians along the way. Solo recordings have included a collection of Shakespeare songs with the Broadside Band and an unusual album, "The Trumpet Collection", in which she sings a variety of music from Monteverdi to Sir Henry Bishop with obbligato from a range of historic brass instruments.

Deborah Roberts has always been fascinated by research and the discovery of new repertoire and performance styles and contexts. Her chief musical love, however, is the Italian Renaissance and early Baroque where she can give full rein to her fascination with both the Italian language and the highly ornamental and rhetorical style of the music. She has worked as a Senior Research Fellow at the university of Southampton, engaged in a research project into female vocal ensembles in 16th-century Italy.

Deborah Roberts turned to choral directing sixteen years ago. In 1990 she founded, with The Tallis Scholars singer Tessa Bonner, Musica Secreta, an ensemble of female voices and continuo, to research and perform a rapidly expanding repertoire of music which has helped re-establish the role of women as performers, interpreters and composers of music from the 16th and 17th centuries. The ensemble is made up of amateurs and semi-professional singers that, depending on repertoire, ranges from eight to thirty performers who often sing with Musica Secreta while maintaining their own schedule of concerts. She has been supported and helped by the generosity of leading academics, and in particular by Professor Laurie Stras of Southampton University, who joined her as a director of Musica Secreta, and whose discoveries have opened even more doors into a mysterious but beautiful world. Under Roberts' direction the ensemble quickly gained recognition, and in 1996 was given the prestigious American Musicological Society's Noah Greenberg Award. 2002 was the year Roberts and her Musica Secreta ensemble drew wide acclaim for their Linn Records CD "Dangerous Graces", which was awarded a Diapason Découverte in January 2003. The group has now released six CD's to high critical acclaim, the most recent in September 2007. One project with the ensemble involves performance of convent music in collaboration with historical novelist Sarah Dunant. Roberts' 2009 divine art CD "Sacred Hearts, Secret Music" offers the fruits of this unusual collaboration. More recently she also established the amateur female voice choir Celestial Sirens both as a choir to sing with Musica Secreta, and also to perform in its own right. Since March 1998 she has been musical director of a small a capella choir, Brighton Early Music Festival (BREMF) Consort of Voices (BCV) (Brighton Consort), an ensemble of solo and consort singers formed from semi-professional, student and experienced amateur singers. She now directs six or seven concerts a year of rare Renaissance repertoire, much of it in her own editions.

Deborah Roberts also regularly gives lectures and directs workshops and courses of Renaissance and early Baroque music at various other universities, colleges and summer schools including the Tallis Scholars Summer schools in Oakham and Sydney. She has recently been appointed as a visiting singing teacher at University College Cork, Ireland, and is working towards qualifying as a teacher of the Estill model. In June 2002 she directed a week long course studying and performing her own edition of the Vespers psalms of the nun composer Margarita Cozzolani in Bruges. She has directed many Lacock courses, including the Cyprus Early Music Week and a performance of her edition of the Cozzolani Vespers in the Abbey of Male, near Bruges. She has given radio talks and interviews about this music in the USA, Australia, and the UK, including recent appearances on Woman's Hour and In Tune.

Undoubtedly, co founding and directing (with Clare Norburn) Brighton Early Music Festival, is a major driving focus of her life. Starting as a collection of just six concerts in 2002, it is now the second largest festival of its kind in the UK, and securely on the international map as a major world-wide cultural event. It has set new standards in imaginative programming, breaking down traditional barriers and restoring the living spirit and context of music and related arts. As one of its artistic directors she is very busy helping build up its programme of concerts, workshops and outreach sessions. The festival has pioneered a number of ground-breaking projects including Brighton Early Music Live, which takes young artists and early music into clubs and pubs, and is now embarking on a three-year campaign to promote singing in the region. For the festival's 10th anniversary year, in 2012, Deborah edited the music for and directed a performance of the 1589 Florentine Intermedi - substituting the original elaborate stage machinery with aerial dancers suspended from the tallest nave in Europe!

Although she mostly lives on the Hove seafront with her GP partner Maurice, they also own a house in beautiful Triora from which many early music courses are run. What little spare time Deborah Roberts has is devoted to enjoying life in Brighton: the sea, the downs and lobsters straight from the boats! When she can find the time she enjoys running, walking, sea swimming, scuba diving, keeping chickens, making cider and growing vegetables and spending as much time in Italy as possible.

Source: Lacock Courses Website; Triora Musica Website University of Southampton; Deborah Roberts profile on Facebook; All Music Guide Website (Author: Robert Cummings)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (March 2017)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Peter Phillips


Member of The Tallis Scholars:
V-1 (1986): Chorale

Links to other Sites

Deborah Roberts (Triora Musica)
Deborah Roberts (Lacock Courses)
Deborah Roberts - Biography (AMG)

Deborah Roberts (University of Southampton)
Deborah Roberts on Facebook

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