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Queen Elizabeth 1st with Armada Galleon (from Shipwrecked)

eX .

Category: Ensembles

Historically informed, early music performances, juxtaposed with dramatic, contemporary staging and theatrics are the hallmarks of eX. Often controversial and always exciting, eX creates virtuosic, cutting edge performances of music from 11th to 18th century .

General Management



Founded in 2006, eX is an Irish based Early Music performance ensemble that focuses on innovative and virtuosic performances of music from the 11th -18th century.


Devoted to bringing new dimensions to the presentation and enjoyment of early music, eX works with veteran and up and coming cutting edge directors, choreographers, filmmakers, visual artists and designers to conceive and create performances that move beyond the traditional concert experience.



Possessed (Heresy 0012)


"These performances are consistently good, whether they're bald fragments of medieval music or an extract from Vincent Youmans's soundtrack to the 1933 film Flying Down to Rio, notable for being the first screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. What links the numbers is their potency. Some of these pieces might induce trance-like states, and others will have listeners' fingers and feet tapping involuntarily. Caitriona Leary's bold, clear vocals are a recurring pleasure, never grating even when she's singing at full throttle. She's nicely accompanied too, the ensemble dominated by guitars, viols and percussion.


There are brief numbers from Dufay and Hildegard von Bingen. The anonymous melody used to accompany the 14th century La Ditie de Jehanne d'Arc is given extra colour by a battery of rattling percussion, and a stark setting of a poem by Santa Teresa de Ávila features a ravishing guitar backing. But you suspect that this lot really want to have fun, and the faster numbers are compelling. O Deusa Dos Orixas is a beguiling samba, and O'Leary's own Celtic-tinged Spellsong sustains its 7/8 rhythms brilliantly. There's a strutting Fandango by Santiago de Murcia. Three tarantellas sparkle, before the Youmans closes proceedings with a smile. Can we have an accompanying DVD?"

Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk, Jan 2014

"The Irish-American record producer Eric Fraad is courageous. On this CD he makes the Dublin-based early-music ensemble, eX, handle the musical tools of exorcists from Europe and South America and from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period. These songs and dances are intended to protect one against various types of possession - but that of course is a lie: For the singer Caitriona O'Leary drives the listener to lose control! Adrenalin pumping rhythms alternate with moments of pure meditation before the sweet song of the Siren once again turns our heads. A CD with a high addiction factor –so no one should say, they have not been warned!"

Winifried Dulisch, Stereoplay Magazine, Jan 2014


"eX investigates the subject of possession in music with much wit and slyness, the booklet is nicely illustrated and Sigmund Freud of course must not be missing here. The combination of musical styles is a success you can hear Latin American sounds as well as the Tarantella, Athanasius Kircher, Santiago de Murcia, Guillaume Dufay, Hildegard of Bingen and many others. Where does possession end and where in the eyes of Western Christian mysticism does the experience of God begin?: " Fides piorum credit . Non discutit "says Bernard of Clairvaux , the pious crusade preacher ( The pious do not discuss faith, they believe). Both the idea for this recording and its execution are captivating. It was high time to trace this strange chapter of the human race in music!"

>Robert Stobl, Toccata Alte Musik Aktuelle, Jan 2014

"Possessed" is the name of the album – listen to this. And look at the fascinating charismatic singer Caitriona O'Leary with her angelic and ethereal voice. Founded in 2006, the passionate Irish ensemble eX is obsessed with the idea of interpreting the part-staged repertoire of the 11th to 18 Century as a work of art for all the senses. "Possession" is the topic this time. In all its bizarre, delusional forms...the “witch” who was hanged in 1688 in Boston, to the initiation rites of the Afro-Brazilian Candomble and the southern Italian Tarantism, the folklore of the Tarantula bite that triggered wild mania for dancing Dances, songs and improvisations – uniquely assembled and performed by O'Leary and colleagues here – evoke gods and spirits. And go into a trance. Excitingly different!





Possessed at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, June 2012

Possessed was a great pleasure in many ways, The music was of the highest international standard with some beautiful singing  and most infectious instrumental playing. The incorporation of drama and dance was most unusual but never too contrived and the overall staging and presentation a delight. This show deserves to be performed widely – it got a standing ovation from a Dublin audience. I greatly look forward to eX’s next imaginative production. Early music of this sort has such a strong immediate appeal and eX is the only Irish based group to present it – and to such a very high standard.

Tim Thurston, Presenter of Gloria on RTÉ lyric fm



In Possessed eX combined music, dance and theatre in a hugely inventive and intelligent way - yet never once was entertainment pushed onto a back seat. Congrats again on a great show and do keep me informed on future shows.

Sean Rocks, Presenter of Arena on RTÉ Radio 1



Ensemble eX’s Possessed was a tour de force  - instrumental and vocal brilliance combined with dance and theatre to extra-ordinary effect.

The Works on RTÉ TV



Shipwrecked at the Pavilion, Dun Laoire 2011



Steve Player dancing

It made for excellent entertainment with some very fine musical sequences … It could delight many future audiences…

Opera (magazine) Feb 2012




Shipwrecked at Belfast Festival 2011



It (Shipwrecked) effortlessly sweeps you up, but as with any dream, no description can do it full justice. eX have created a unique experience. So much so that we were tempted, like Francisco's chieftain host, to detain them to play for us forever and ever...


Culture Northern Ireland October 2011



Possessed by eX Ensemble

Heresy Records


Internationally acclaimed early music ensemble eX presents Possessed, a musical journey through the mysterious world of possession. Featuring medieval, renaissance, baroque and traditional music, Possessed explores Christian ecstatic trance as experienced by Hildegaard von Bingen, Teresa of Avila and Joan of Arc, demonic possession of the Salem witches, initiation rites of the Afro-Brazilian Condomblé and a musical exorcism performed to the wild rhythms of the Tarantella.


"Both the idea for this recording and its execution are captivating. It was high time to trace this strange chapter of the human race in music!"

Robert Stobl, Toccata Alte Musik Aktuell

"Adrenalin pumping rhythms alternate with moments of pure meditation before the sweet song of the Siren once again turns our heads. A CD with a high addiction factor –so no one should say, they have not been warned!"

Winifried Dulisch, Stereoplay Magazine

"Not for the pure of heart. eX's Possessed is a tour de force of instrumental and vocal brilliance..."

Laurence Vittes, Huffington Post

"The music was of the highest international standard with beautiful singing and most infectious instrumental playing...early music of this sort has such a strong immediate appeal and eX is the only Irish-based group to present it - and to such a very high standard."

Tim Thurston, Lyric fm

"The singing and instrumental playing are very fine and the whole of Possessed has a certain infectiously endearing quality"


"Excitingly different!"




Shipwrecked by eX Ensemble

Heresy Records


"Shipwrecked is one of those rare albums that boldly defy easy classification. Originally conceived by noted opera and theatre director Eric Fraad as a stage production, Shipwrecked chronicles the 16th century Spanish sea captain Francisco de Cuellar's attempts to return to Spain after being shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland...[featuring] Irish tradition tunes, English and Spanish court dances as well as sacred music by Cristobal de Morales and Tomas Luis de Victoria.


Plucked and bowed instruments dominate many of the instrumental works and the players smoke in these lively Spanish, English and Irish dances. The intersecting worlds of the Spanish, English and irish music is fascinating particularly when tunes like "The Hay" and the spicy "Yo me soy la Morenica" blend. O'Leary has also colourfully arranged music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book and Irish dance collections, The performances all have an improvisatory flavor. The interpolation of sacred works by morales and Victoria are dramatic masterstrokes and the singing of O'Leary, Clara Samabras and Juan Sancho has a spare dreamy quality. Shipwrecked has something to offer fans of many genres, whether it's early or traditional music." Craig Zeichner, April 2012

"Shipwrecked, an album featuring the Irish early music ensemble eX, defies easy definition. on a purely musical level it can be enjoyed as a collection of late Renaissance vocal and instrumental music from a seemingly unrelated assortment of traditions, including Spanish, English, Irish and Gaelic, performed with irresistible exuberance and vibrancy. The album is actually the original cast recording of what director Eric Fraad describes as a 'strange postmodernist event' that 'brings the Renaissance together with a really contemporary sensibility of theatre', first presented at the Dublin Festival in 2011..The musical selections presented here are fabulously satisfying in themselves. The score was put together with scrupulous attention to historical detail by musicologist and singer Caitriona O'Leary, teh founder of eX, and is wonderfully and unpredictably varied. o'Leary, whose soprano is supple and radiant, is the most prominent soloist, but the entire ensemble performs with focussed musicality and can encompass precision and uninhibited earthiness; every track vibrates with energy and life. The sound is clean, intimate and nicely ambient. Highly recommended for any fan of early music." - Steven Eddins, Rovi, April 2012


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