This Autumn, The Sixteen will present a range of concerts to audiences across the UK, including an audio-visual performance reflecting climate change, concerts marking the festive period seasonal favourites, the continuation of their Choral Pilgrimage tour, a celebratory event in the Tower of London, and performances across the country.
Taking place at Southwark Cathedral (29 October) and Rochester Cathedral (31 October), All the Ends of the World, supported by the Genesis Foundation’s Genesis Kickstart Fund, is a cross-art form collaboration between The Sixteen, violinist Lizzie Ball and videographer Heather Britton. Crafted to demonstrate the long lasting and dramatic effects of climate change and global warming, the concerts will explore our relationship with the planet we live on through an originally crafted video piece which interweaves with a specifically curated choral repertoire of powerful works by Padilla, Perotin and Sheppard.
The performance at Southwark Cathedral will feature a guest appearance from Luke Jerram’s GAIA, a slowly rotating, floating art installation reflecting the Earth’s surface. Designed to portray the beauty and true nature of the Earth, this piece of art will play a prominent role in the concert, reminding audiences of the heart-breaking truth of our slowly decaying planet.
In addition to this, both concerts will feature a carefully curated video piece by Heather Britton. Her work beautifully captures the extensiveness of the planet, whilst highlighting the ever-changing landscape and the wounds of man-made destruction. The video will be accompanied by a programme of choral works, with Lizzie Ball accompanying and freely improvising alongside The Sixteen. The works explore the beauty of plainchant, the complexities of choral harmony and the ethereal power of polyphony. The melding of sung and played melodies will juxtapose with the visual, creating a powerful and affecting concert that will ask audiences to reflect on their impact on the planet.
On preparing for this concert, violinist Lizzie Ball said:
‘Co-creating a project of such magnitude with The Sixteen and Heather Britton has been an utter thrill. In the past few years, my Classical Kicks Productions have been focusing increasingly on the concept of immersive audio-visual concert works and my last two co-productions – which focused on Frida Kahlo and Verklarte Nacht – allowed me to really stretch my creative production muscle to its full. All the Ends of the World is a happy continuation of this side of my work.
Working with Harry, who has so expertly crafted a musical programme that cleverly touches upon the drama of the concept of the end of the world, juxtaposed with Heather Britton’s brilliant visual creativity of stunning, impactful global visual narrative allows for a project that we hope carves a real impact on those coming to watch. In addition to this we’re exploring new territory with my violin improvisations, which feature throughout the entire concert, so I never actually play anything that is ‘written’.
This project richly appeals to all the corners of my musical personality and skills, and as well as working with Harry, Heather and The Sixteen, who are a total joy to collaborate with, I’m incredibly excited to get to the concert day, and hope the audience enjoy the powerful journey that we are going to take them on.’
Later in the year, The Sixteen will embark on two tours highlighting the sacred and joyful time of Christmas. The Wise Men and the Star reflects on the remarkable story of which this season is based and provides audiences with a programme of traditional hymns to works by living composers. The concert will tour to The Anvil, Basingstoke (29 November), St David’s Hall, Cardiff (4 December), Sage Gateshead (9 December), Cadogan Hall (15 & 21 December) and St John the Evangelist, Oxford (16 December).
In addition, Handel’s Messiah will be performed at St Martin-in-the-Fields (6 December) and Saffron Hall (18 December) as part of The Sixteen’s Christmas offering. Celebrating the 280th anniversary of the oratorio’s premiere, the Sixteen will perform alongside acclaimed soloists Hilary Cronin, Hugh Cutting, Nick Pritchard and James Newby.
The remaining concerts in the 2022 Choral Pilgrimage tour will see the ensemble visit St Martin-in-the-Fields (6 September), Exeter Cathedral (8 September), Wells Cathedral (9 September), Tewkesbury Abbey (10 September), Southwell Minster (22 September), Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (23 September), Blackburn Cathedral (24 September), Croydon Minster (26 September), Lancaster Priory (13 October), Hexham Abbey (14 October), Greyfriars Kirk (15 October), Derby Cathedral (21 October), before finishing in Peterborough Cathedral (22 October).
This year’s tour, An Old Belief, focuses on Hubert Parry’s Songs of Farewell. Deeply affected by the First World War, Parry sought poetry that would reflect not only peace and unity and the search for a better world, but also an escape from the horrors of war. The poems Parry chose to set range from metaphysical poetry by John Donne and Henry Vaughan to the aching beauty of Thomas Campion’s verse. In addition to Parry’s works, audiences can expect to hear a selection of medieval carols, Cecilia McDowall’s An Unexpected Shore and pieces by Champion and Parry.
Looking ahead to Autumn 2022, founder and director of The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, said:
‘Autumn will be soon upon us and we have such a variety of projects to share with you. The intensity of Parry’s Songs of Farewell have delighted audiences up and down the country already this year and we still have another 14 performances of our Choral Pilgrimage An Old Belief for you to enjoy.
Southwark and Rochester Cathedrals will also witness our project All the ends of the world focussing on climate change. I cannot wait for this immersive experience where visual elements will be shown on large screens while we, alongside the evocative playing of Lizzie Ball, will take you on a journey of a few hundred years of music, which is a mere nothing compared to the evolution of planet Earth.
We also have Bach and his own Plagiarism at the Wigmore Hall and The Song of Songs and the Queen of Sheba at Kings Place, featuring music by Raphaella Aleotti and Daniel-Lesur not to mention Messiah at St Martin-in-the Fields and Saffron Hall as well as our Christmas tour The Wise Men and the Star featuring music by Reena Esmail, Lassus and Cecilia McDowall. I am already very excited not only about the musical offerings but also the joy of re-uniting with our wonderful audiences throughout the country.’
In addition to the concerts, The Sixteen presents a series of Choral Workshops, offering keen amateur singers a rare and rewarding opportunity to explore a variety of music inspired by The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage.
Under the guidance of expert workshop leaders including The Sixteen’s associate conductor Eamonn Dougan, and singers Charlotte Mobbs and Julie Cooper and practical scholar Sally Dunkley, workshops include advice on vocal technique (breathing technique, invigorating warm-ups, voice production) as well as performance interpretation and historical context.
Autumn workshop dates:
4 September – St Martin-in-the-Fields
10 September – Tewkesbury
24 September – Blackburn Methodist Church
25 September – Croydon
15 October – Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh
16 October – Durham
22 October – Peterborough
The Sixteen’s education team will continue to deliver its annual schools matinee project with Key Stage 2 pupils, a series of chorister workshops in cathedrals across the country, as well as working with the wider community with relaxed performances in care-homes, and further developing its work with the homeless and refugee groups.
In recognition of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, the Genesis Foundation and The Sixteen will present a selection of ‘choral crown jewels’ that form A Garland for the Queen on October 11. The programme is built around selections from books of choral music assembled for both Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II: Cantiones Sacrae (1575); The Triumphs of Oriana (1601); A Garland for the Queen (1953), and Choirbook for the Queen (2012). Prominent among the other items in the concert is the world premiere of a work commissioned by the Genesis Foundation – its 30th commission of contemporary sacred choral music since 1998: ‘O Lord, make thy servant, Elizabeth’ by Cecilia McDowall, one of the UK’s leading choral composers. Inspired by and performed alongside William Byrd’s anthem of the same name, it will complement works by Thomas Tallis, Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Morley, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Charles Villiers Stanford, Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett and Richard Rodney Bennett. The concert will be performed at the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula in the heart of the Tower of London. This hour-long choral concert by The Sixteen, conceived and conducted by the group’s founder Harry Christophers, will be attended by an invited audience and live streamed globally by Classic FM.
This year will also see one-off performances at Lincoln’s Inn (28 September), Wigmore Hall (1 October), Bath Abbey (12 November) and Kings Place (24 November).
In addition to live performances this autumn, The Sixteen will also be releasing two albums on the CORO label, one celebrating the works of Byrd – ahead of his 400th anniversary year in 2023 – and the other, a collection of Bach’s Lutheran Masses.
On 2 September, CORO releases a new box set of the Bach Masses as previously recorded by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen. Together, they present a delightful selection of Bach’s Masses and Canatatas, including: Mass in G Minor (BWV 235), Canata 102 ‘Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben’ (BWV 102), Mass in F Major (BWV 233), Mass in G Major (BWV 236), Cantata 79 “Gott der Herr ist Sonn’ und Schild” (BWV 79) and Mass in A Major (BWV 234).
CORO will also release Harry Christophers’ final recording with the Handel and Haydn Society on 2 September. The album features Haydn’s London Symphony 103 and Theresienmesse.
Byrd’s final publication, the Psalms, Songs and Sonnets of 1611, is a fitting culmination to a lifetime of musical service. Filled with variety and invention and including both sacred and secular pieces, the works in this serene collection represent some of Byrd’s finest. The Sixteen and Harry Christophers are joined by the Viol Consort, Fretwork, on this new recording of the complete songbook. The album titled Psalms, Songs and Sonnets of 1611 will be released on 7 October worldwide.
CEO of The Sixteen, Marie-Sophie Willis said:
‘As we emerge from the pandemic, the autumn season finds The Sixteen in a particularly reflective and questioning mood. Hubert Parry’s beautiful and haunting Songs of Farewell is at the heart of The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage which continues this autumn for the second leg of its annual tour. We are just delighted to be back in the thick of performing and reconnecting with our audiences across the UK, with music that we believe will by turn inspire, uplift, and offer solace and inner-calm.
Alongside our core projects, we are particularly thrilled to be presenting a new and quite different offering: All the Ends of the World. This sees The Sixteen partner with Lizzie Ball, in a collaboration which took flight shortly before the pandemic at Ronnie Scott’s, one that paved the way for exciting new possibilities. The combined sounds of the vocal polyphony and Lizzie’s improvisatory violin were sumptuous, otherworldly and intriguing. To add an extra dimension we have teamed up with videographer Heather Britten to offer an immersive experience with visuals exploring our planet and the impact of climate change, pitted against the haunting and ephemeral sounds of the music. We very much hope this project will both intrigue our core audience and also be of interest to others who might not normally think of attending a choral music concert.
Alongside this, we are looking forward to our performances at Wigmore Hall, Kings Place, St Martin in the Fields and Cadogan Hall in a continuation of our relationships there. Our partnership with the Genesis Foundation continues to result in rich and interesting projects, none more so than our concert at the Tower of London in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which we are absolutely delighted will be streamed to unlimited people around the Globe thanks to the Genesis Foundation and Classic FM. The autumn season would not be complete without what has become a core staple of our calendar, the festive a cappella tour in December, with traditional, Renaissance and contemporary seasonal delights, as well as two performances of The Sixteen’s trademark Handel’s Messiah, a fitting close to the autumn season.’