Stephen SuttonIn 1992, I lived in a very small village in Northumberland, England, by the name of Simonburn. I worked as a commercial lawyer, and also had many connections with the famous 13th century village church of St. Mungo, situated next to our home. As part of the exercise to raise funds for the restoration of our fine Walker organ, I agreed to produce a recording. That was Divine Art’s first release, on cassette only (now on CD, DDV 24101). It came to the attention of music critics, and led to my meeting several musicians who enlisted my help in producing CDs; they in turn introduced me to colleagues, and though I never intended to become a record producer one thing led to another until now we have an international business, which has acquired a reputation for quality and for introducing new music and fascinating rarities. The company was first based in South Shields, where I carried on my law practice, but we relocated a few years ago to East Harlsey, on the edge of the beautiful Hambleton Hills before jumping ship and moving our home and the main office to New England in 2009. Terry Bickerdike, who has long experience in inventory and shipping management, joined the Board in December 2008 and was joined in January 2009 by Toby Horton, following our acquisition of a company specialising in vintage radio plays – an interesting new area for us to explore.

In 2003 we acquired the highly-regarded Athene label, specialising in period piano performances, and its sister label Athene-Minerva. For a time we also distributed other labels but have discontinued this, except that we do offer the privately produced CDs of Peter Katin (RP Music) and Dan Evans (Dansing). These arrangements were made as favours to friends and we cannot take on any more “other labels”, although we are always happy to discuss releasing and distributing quality recordings on our own labels.

In April 2005 we launched the first in our new Historic Sound series, in partnership with Pristine Audio, leaders in sound restoration. More releases in this series will follow drawing on the collection of the Northern Vintage Recordings Archive which I manage. Our new recordings of classical, romantic and baroque music continue, both at home at abroad, and we are also working with the British Music Information Centre in respect of recordings of contemporary British music.

Our next step was completed on 1 April 2007, when we proudly accepted the acclaimed Metier label into our family. Metier is renowned as among Europe’s most important labels for contemporary music, and as well as the existing 77 titles, a new series of releases began in May 2007 with forty new releases so far. The label has drawn praise from many quarters for the quality of its productions and the innovation of programming, ideals which also underpin the divine art ethos. In April 2008, we added a further catalog, that of Dunelm Records; this label had always been available to special order only and all of its 200+ titles had to be deleted when Dunelm producer Jim Pattison died in 2013. Some of the best titles are being transferred to our Diversions label and the catalogue is being made available digitally.

The company now has six main labels, distribution in many countries (since February 2013 as part of the Naxos Global Distribution network), and an ever-increasing list of new projects, but the two founding principles remain: the company looks to produce recordings of rare and unusual music of quality, and is also artist-led. We trust our artists to know their audience and their repertoire, and act as the vehicle by which they can reach out to a larger audience.

Any product listed on this site may be ordered from us in CD FORMAT direct (with digital downloads coming shortly). Recordings from Divine Art, Diversions, Metier and Athene and some Dunelm titles are available in digital download format from all major providers including iTunes, Amazon and Classics Online.

in 2009 we acquired Heritage Media Ltd, a producer of historic radio dramas, which was re-launched in 2010 with products both in digital and CD format; vintage plays which are finding a very enthusiastic new audience and also being re-licensed to the BBC and broadcasters in several countries.

So back to the USA – in 2011 we acquired a derelict special school/infirmary building which we converted into a Music and Arts Center, here in Brandon, Vermont. Our main offices are now located there; renovation and development work will continue for some time – the building also hosts events, exhibits, resident artists, cafe and shops, and concerts of all kinds – see the Compass Music and Arts Center website, and please – become a Friend of Compass by joining our non-profit supporting foundation – several membership levels are available and you can help to promote art of all kinds and educational programs.

Divine Art is a member of British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) and the International Federation of the Phonograph Industry (IFPI).

Diversions is a member of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce.