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Alamire is a vocal consort whose focus has been medieval and Renaissance-era repertory, with a greater emphasis on sacred over secular music. The ensemble's number can range depending on repertory but usually features nine to twelve singers, led by director David Skinner. There are more male singers in the ensemble, typically at least three times as many as female. Alamire often uses instrumentalists in concerts and recordings, in particular members of the early music group Fretwork. Alamire regularly appears in concert throughout the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., and has made several recordings, available exclusively from its own label, Obsidian. From about 2010 Alamire has been involved in a project to make 30 CDs of English church music over a decade or so. (Note: Alamire is not to be confused with the American ensemble Cappella Alamire.) Alamire (pronounced ala-meer-ay) was founded in 2005 by Skinner, a co-founder of the popular early music group the Cardinall's Musick, for whom he served as co-artistic director from 1989-2004. Alamire's name has rather cryptic roots: it derives from Flemish composer and music copyist Pierre Alamire (born Peter van den Hove), who in turn had adopted his surname from symbols used by 11th century Italian monk and music theorist Guido d'Arezzo.
In 2005 Skinner established the Obsidian label in conjunction with Martin Souter, musical director of the U.K.-based label The Gift of Music. 2007 was the year of Alamire's first recordings, among them a disc entitled Philippe Verdelot: Madrigals for a Tudor King. It featured just six singers (one mezzo, three tenors, and two basses) and one instrumentalist, on lute and gothic harp.
Alamire made its American debut in April 2008 at Case Western Reserve University. The following year Alamire was selected to open festivities held at the British Library on June 11 to mark the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Henry VIII. The concert, which also featured the early music instrumental group QuintEssential and gothic harpist Andrew Lawrence-King, offered works by Verdelot, Robert Fayrfax, and John Taverner.
That same year Alamire, in the spirit of the ongoing Henry VIII celebrations, made a popular recording, Henry's Music, that featured works both by Henry VIII and several written for him by Taverner, Sampson, Fayrfax, and others. In 2011 Obsidian released a two-CD album, Cantiones Sacrae 1575, which contained motets by Tallis and Byrd. This was the first of the 30-disc anthology of English church music in Alamire's ambitious series.