Friday 23 October 2020

Music and architecture combined in The Sixteen's A Choral Odyssey

A Choral Odyssey- Credit to Tonwen Jones ( and Tilly (runningforcrayons)

This time of year we are usually looking forward to The Sixteen's forthcoming Choral Pilgrimage, the choir's annual tour round cathedrals and churches of the UK, usually performing music that was originally written for the spaces and often including contemporary works. Inevitably, whatever plans the group had for a Choral Pilgrimage in 2020/2021 have had to be shelved.

Instead, The Sixteen are presenting A Choral Odyssey, an on-line series of five-programmes which will combine music and architecture. Presented by Simon Russell Beale, each will take an in-depth look at a wide-ranging selection of choral music in locations that are relevant to the music and which inform the theme and choice of repertoire. Starting on 18 November 2020, episodes will be released every Wednesday, all available to watch on demand until 31 January 2021. The series will culminate in an ‘as live’ stream of The Sixteen’s Christmas at Cadogan concert (23 December). 

The series begins at  Magdalen College, Oxford with music by two late 15th/early 16th century composers, Richard Davy and John Sheppard, who both held the post of Informator Choristarum at Magdalen College. Then we move to the Roman Catholic church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory in Soho, built 1789-90 on the site of a Catholic chapel (originally part of the Portuguese Embassy and subsequently the Bavarian Embassy) pillaged during the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780, and here we have a programme of music by Spanish Renaissance composer Francisco Guerrero.

At the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe we have music by Henry Purcell, and at Hatfield House there is music by William Byrd (contemporaneous with the house) and by another Roman Catholic in difficult circumstances, Arvo Pärt. Hatfield House is also the home of the Marquess of Salisbury who is patron of The Sixteen.

At Penshurst Place in Kent, which King Henry VIII used as a hunting lodge and it is believed that he may well have spent Christmas there one year, we hear a programme of early and traditional carols including one by Henry himself (only the chorus survives so Cecilia McDowall has written new verses), and music by William Walton. Finally, The Sixteen's annual Christmas concert is being live-streamed from Cadogan Hall.

Full details from The Sixteen's website.

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