As with so many of the best early music ensembles performing today, the musical performances of the Ensemble Gilles Binchois have been inextricably linked with profound musical scholarship and with the leadership of a single powerful personality. For the Ensemble Gilles Binchois, this personality remains its founder and director, Dominique Vellard.
Vellard and some of his close colleagues founded the Ensemble Gilles Binchois in 1978, taking clear positions from the outset that it would perform from original notation and make every effort through its performances to foster a more profound understanding of the structure and function of its music. The ensemble changes its personnel depending upon the repertory: from a handful of male voices for plainchant or early polyphony, to a few mixed singers for chansons, to adding festive instruments for splashier works. One of the most distinctive features of the group's performing style is its thoughtful consideration of, and experimentation with, the ways that indigenous oral traditions might have impacted a more "formal" singing style. Though the Ensemble Gilles Binchois began its career focusing on French music and has most frequently brought out earlier French repertory, the expansion of its personnel to include specialists from other countries has helped them branch out geographically. It regularly performs throughout Europe and has toured throughout the Americas and Asia.
The Ensemble Gilles Binchois has been rewarded with the support of a large number of French governmental institutions, including the enthusiastic support of the Musical Affairs Department of the French Ministry of Culture. It retains a relationship with the Center for Medieval Music in Paris, France, as many of the group's performers have taught or studied there. In addition, the ensemble has profited from close collaboration with some of Europe's leading musicologists: Marie-Noël Colette in Paris, and Karen Smith and Wulf Arlt in Basel.
The Ensemble Gilles Binchois has released more than 40 recordings across labels such as Cantus, Virgin Classics, Ambroisie, and Glossa. In 2019, under Vellard, it released the album Messes de Barcelone et d'Apt on the Evidence label. ~ Timothy Dickey & Keith Finke