Passamezzo was founded by Tamsin Lewis in 2001, initially to explore the Jacobean Masque. The core membership of the ensemble has expanded to: Eleanor Cramer (soprano), Alison Kinder (viols and recorders), Tamsin Lewis (Renaissance violin, viols, voice), Richard Mackenzie and Robin Jeffrey (plucked strings), Richard De Winter and Michael Palmer (actors and baritones).
The ensemble specialise in English Elizabethan and Jacobean repertoire, the masque remaining an important part of their programming, and concerts have a distinct theatrical air created by costume, readings and presentation. The ensemble delights in all aspects of musical life, from the intimacy of the lute song, to the brash raucousness of the broadside ballad, from the sacred part song, to the profane insanity of bedlamite mad songs. The programmes are carefully researched with music frequently taken from manuscript sources, unearthing pieces that have lain hidden for centuries. It is this range of material and overall spectacle, combined with the informative and accessible manner of their presentation, that makes Passamezzo such an engaging group.
Passamezzo often work with dancers and actors. They have played in a great variety of venues including the British Museum; the Victoria and Albert Museum; Shakespeare's Globe Theatre; Hampton Court Palace and in theatres, concert halls, stately homes, churches, palaces and ruins throughout England.
Television and Radio credits include: BBC Restoration and Howard Goodall's The Truth about Carols (BBC2); Big Brother (Channel 4); Six Queens of Henry VIII (Channel 5); Frost Fair; King Lear and Boxing Day, (Radio 4); Vic Reevesí Rogues (Discovery); Early Music for the Holidays; Christmas Carols, Chant and Legend (Harmonia Early Music/PRX).
A passamezzo was a popular sixteenth century tune and dance. It could be played and danced simply and enjoyed by anyone, but could also become an exhibition piece, with virtuosic and showy divisions played upon it. We chose the name Passamezzo for ourselves because we feel it reflects the character of our work: we provide a wide range of performances from the very simple to the very elaborate, and pride ourselves on creating a piece which suits your occasion perfectly.