The festive period is upon us and we can’t seem to escape it. My only solace is concerts like these from The Sixteen.
In a concert titled ‘A Ceremony of Carols’, the scope of their music spans centuries, proving their varied repertoire knows no bounds. There is an openness to their singing, with the actual number of the singers being twenty for logistical reasons. A bright, English refinement is heard throughout, with stunning moments of unity within their transcendent harmonies. The first half of the concert heavily featured Medieval carols, wonderful in the no nonsense approach to lyrics and melody. The addition of tambourine and tenor drum pelts out more jolly rhythms in a selection of these carols.
A special choice in the programme is ‘There is no rose’, a classic from this choir, introducing me to this finally crafted work in the Medieval canon. Simple in form, yet exquisite on the ear, I find it to be a wonderful encounter, a blissful few minutes between the choir, two soloists miniature harp. Warlock’s Corpus Christi is another stunning addition, Matthew Martin’s ‘Adam lay ybounden’ also adding to the deep emotional experience we all faced here. Holst’s ‘This I have done for my true love’ didn’t quite do it for me, but still had some fine moments between the singers. Conductor Harry Christophers is never afraid to move around the stage, getting all the right stuff out of the singers, in his often trailblazing form.
The second half opened with ‘Lo, how a rose e’er blooming’ by Praetorius in an arrangement by Jan Sandström. This was filled with luscious amounts of humming and I found myself moved by the whole piece. Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols finished the programme with aplomb. The female singers walking on stage, heralding the start as they sung and leaving as it ended, adding to the theatrical elements within it. There are sublime moments in these cheeky and fluttering carols, that only seem to be more enticing the more you hear them. Frances Kelly on harp was a welcome addition and her solo (Britten writes beautifully for the harp) remained a highpoint. An encore of ‘Ding Dong, Merrily On High’ brought smiles all round, as we ventured back into the Christmas crowds.
The Sixteen at Christmas continues on tour to London, Oxford, Saffron Walden and Reading. Their performance of Handel’s Acis and Galatea in February 2020 sees performances in London, Chichester, Derby and Warwick.
The International Concert Series continues at St David’s Hall with the Beethoven 1808 Benefit Concert with BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales & WNO Orchestra on 19th January 2020. The European Union Chamber Orchestra returns on 30th January 2020.
Photo Credit: The Sixteen Website