As much as any play, the live concerts of The Sixteen can be a dramatic event in themselves and last night was no different when they launched their 2015 tour at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford with a concert of Renaissance Spanish Church music that takes one back to the church drama of that era. The music by Guerrero and Lobo was, in its day, innovative and even, at moments, anticipated early Baroque. The venue for telling the story of Jesus via their settings of sections of the Mass was perfection – precisely the kind of church and acoustic for which this music was written. Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford is a large and beautiful place. This concert will tour 30 more major cathedrals in the UK between now and November as a kind of “choral pilgrimage”, the fifteenth, I believe, that this group has undertaken. If the music of the Spanish Golden Age interests you, or if you want to experience the theatre and drama of the religious music of that era in the kinds of settings where it was first played, with the same sort of forces and historically sensitive performances, then you should not miss this concert when it comes near you.
As always, Harry Christophers’ sense of the drama in the music and of the requirements of the performance of the music itself is faultless and of the highest possible standard. He has 32 singers prepared for the concerts and there are 18 performing a capella each time. The most dramatic performance of Handel’s Messiah and Israel in Egypt that I have ever attended were performed by The Sixteen; and my experience at the launch of this new Choral Pilgrimage was equally pleasing. The impeccable musical preparation means that you will hear sounds of such ethereal beauty that you may indeed feel that you are listening to a flight of angels. And because of the concentration on communication and on the words, the drama of the story is clear and moving throughout.
All the music from The Choral Pilgrimage of 2015 is available performed by The Sixteen under Harry Christophers on CD: Coro disc COR16128