The Clerks' Group is a popular a cappella singing ensemble devoted largely to Medieval and Renaissance-era vocal works.
It consists of eight singers, but early on performed with as few as six. The range of most of the compositions the group performs spans from the eleventh century to the end of sixteenth century, though there are a small number of contemporary pieces that were commissioned for concert use. At the heart of the repertory are sacred works by Ockeghem, Josquin Desprez, Obrecht, Machaut, Dufay, Dunstable, and other composers of that era. Of these the ensemble has chosen the music of the Flemish contingent, especially that of Ockeghem, as a point of focus.
The Clerks' Group was formed at Oxford University in 1992 by choral conductor and baritone Edward Wickham, generally recognized as one of England's foremost choral music authorities. Wickham, who is also a musicologist and critic, has led not only the Clerks' Group over the years, but the Orlando Chamber Choir as well. From 1995 to 2005, he directed the Renaissance Singers of London, an amateur ensemble devoted to Renaissance-era vocal works.
The Clerks' Group made its debut in London in 1992 and shortly established itself as one of the foremost early music vocal ensembles before the public. A series of recordings the Clerks' made for the British label ASV featuring sacred music by Johannes Ockeghem received lavish praise from critics in England and abroad, and culminated in an important breakthrough for the group with an Early Music Award from Gramophone Magazine in 1997.
That same year the Clerks' embarked on a highly successful tour of the United Kingdom and Europe (Germany, Holland, France, Belgium) performing the works of Ockeghem to coincide with the composer's quincentenary. In 1999 the group made its New York debut at Corpus Christi Church in a program of mostly Ockeghem and Josquin works that drew high praise from The New York Times.
In 2003 the ensemble debuted at Royal Albert Hall for a Proms concert where it scored a major success. That same year it released its first CD exclusively devoted to the sacred works of Obrecht, and in 2005 went on tour in the U.K., Holland, and Belgium performing works by that Flemish master to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. By 2006, the Clerks' Group had released over 20 recordings, mostly on the ASV label.