What an incredible evening! We took a boat to Greenwich and got to attend a rehearsal and performance of The Sixteen and Harry Christophers. The first thing I was struck by during rehearsal was how well run the whole organization is and how friendly and close everyone is with each other. Before the rehearsal, Dr. Staheli was talking with Mr. Christophers who offered to talk to us and answer any of our questions. Whoa.
I have to say, I’ve know this ensemble for quite a while (love them) but I always found it a little weird that Harry Christophers would make his name so prominent with the name of the ensemble. I wondered if if was some sort of weird ego/power thing. But in reality, it’s just the opposite: he’s extremely warm, generous and gracious.
He talked to us a bit about the repertoire (which was so personal and engaging – go here for the record). And then took questions. I asked him how he chooses music to program a concert. Among other things he talked about not programing more than 30 minutes of 16th Century music at a time. As wonderful as it is, more than 30 minutes seems to wear out modern listeners. Point well taken.
Between rehearsal and concert I was able to have dinner with one of the members of The Sixteen. He had sung previous with the BBC Singers and the Tallis Scholars (turns out more professional singers float about in multiple choirs throughout the city). After floating around different professional choirs, he settled on The Sixteen because of Harry Christophers and the environment that he sets up in his rehearsals. He described it as a tight-knit group that are great friends.
The evening’s performance was great. Some of my favorites were “Haec Dies” by Byrd, “Media vita in morte sumus” (a 20 minute work) by Sheppard, and “Miserere nostri” by Tallis. At the end was a piece by Byrd called “Infelix ego,” that was a very personal setting of a person fearing persecution for the sake of their faith. Again, I was surprised how I never lost interest like during The Tallis Scholars. It was all a riveting experience from beginning to end.
The whole evening was incredible for me, and just another reminder about how spiritual an excellent choral performance is. Singing in tune really does something to your soul.
And of course, at this point, we all began to compare and contrast The Tallis Scholars with The Sixteen, but I feel you can’t really do that very easily. They’re too different ensembles, with two different musical ideals, going about it in two different ways. Even though they sing similar repertoire (although The Sixteen has flexibility to venture into different repertoire), it’s like apples and oranges. I love both ensembles a lot, but for different reasons. Both are outstanding, and worthy of great praise.