ABOUT the ensemble

Our Passion

Fount & Origin is a new Oxford-based early music vocal ensemble specialising in late medieval and early renaissance music. We are committed to performing lesser-known works from this period and exploring the rich cultural and liturgical history that accompanies the music. We hope that our work will inspire further performance and interest in this neglected repertory.

Formed in Autumn 2018 by our director, James Tomlinson, the ensemble of a dozen students and young professionals delight in reviving forgotten and underperformed early music to the highest standards of choral performance, combining clarity of tone with an expressive wit, and demonstrating ‘impressive control over challenging idioms’ (Edward Higginbottom, 2019).

Fount & Origin has been awarded the Stile Antico Ensemble Development Bursary 2019-2021, for which the members of Fount & Origin will be working closely with those of Stile Antico to embark on exciting projects and performances in the near future.

Our Name

The name ‘Fount and Origin’ comes from the writings of the fifteenth-century composer and theorist, Johannes Tinctoris (c.1435-1511). In his Proportionale Musices (1472-3) he comments on the ‘new [musical] art’, and credits the early fifteenth-century English school of polyphony, and John Dunstaple in particular (d. 1453), as its ‘fons et origo’, or ‘fount and origin’. We chose this name to engage with a hugely important turning point in musical practice throughout Western Europe more broadly – both for the institutional cultivation of polyphony and the emergent musical style now associated with the Renaissance. 

It also reminds us that there is so much music and history yet to be discovered and recreated, and that a scholarly approach can be the starting point, or the ‘fons et origo’, of an exciting and evocative musical experience in the twenty-first century.

Our Director

James Tomlinson studies Musicology as a postgraduate student at Magdalen College, Oxford. During his undergraduate degree, he held a Senior Choral Scholarship with The Choir of The Queen’s College, Oxford and now sings as a Lay Clerk at Pusey House, Oxford. He is an experienced performer and director of early music and has performed with and led various ensembles. As an historical instrumentalist, James has given performances on the Lute, Theorbo, Crumhorn, Recorder, Viol, and Harpsichord. His academic area of interest concerns fourteenth- and fifteenth-century polyphonic music in England and on the continent, with an emphasis on art produced within monastic communities. James also appeared as bass soloist on the 2019 BBC documentary ‘A Merry Tudor Christmas with Lucy Worsley’. He is delighted to work on the repertory he loves with such an excellent and experienced group of singers.