Highlights include:

A nine-venue UK tour of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610

Annual Choral Pilgrimage returns to grassroots with English Renaissance music from the Eton Choirbook and a new work by Sir James MacMillan composed especially for the choir

Christmas tour includes Britten’s ever popular Ceremony of Carols and a performance of Handel’s Messiah

A mini-tour of the sell-out The Queen of Heaven programme pairs Allegri’s Miserere with James MacMillan’s own setting of the text

Five performances of a new production of Handel’s Belshazzar at the Grange Festival directed by Daniel Slater

Long-standing relationships with key UK venues continue: the next stage of the Purcell cycle and exploring music from the Chapel Royal with extracts from Samuel Pepys’ diary at Wigmore Hall; pieces by female composers commissioned by The Sixteen as part of Venus Unwrapped at Kings Place, in association with Genesis Sixteen

International touring throughout the year to Vienna, Spain the USA, Australia and the Choir’s first visit to Singapore

The Sixteen’s award-winning record label CORO releases five albums, including a new recording of Handel’s Acis and Galatea and a special 40th Anniversary Collection with personal recommendations from members past & present

In May 1979, a group of singers and instrumentalists, brought together and conducted by Harry Christophers, gave their first concerts as The Sixteen. Now, 40 years later, the choir celebrates its ruby anniversary with a season full of concerts all over the UK and internationally: going back to key works in its history which have provided its foundation as well as looking forward with new commissions. This mixture has cemented the choir as one of the world’s greatest ensembles, known for its tonal richness, expressive intensity and compelling collective artistry.

Harry Christophers CBE says: ‘Can it really be 40 years since a fledgling group of singers gave their first concerts as The Sixteen in May 1979! In celebration of this milestone, we’ve got a great season with exciting and adventurous projects lined up. I can’t thank everyone enough who have cheered us on over the years: our singers, orchestra, staff, supporters, and of course, our fiercely enthusiastic audiences for making The Sixteen all it is.’

Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610

The Sixteen and its own period instrument ensemble begin the celebrations with a nine-venue UK tour in February & June of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610: one of the most significant collections of sacred music ever written with thrilling rhythms, grand choruses and beautiful solo movements. Its virtuosity stretches every singer and instrumentalist’s versatility to the limit, yet the effects of his demands are exhilarating. The choir follows Monteverdi’s dictum recitar cantando (speak through singing) to maximum effect, bringing this glorious work to life in the wonderful acoustics of some of the UK’s finest cathedrals. Dates include Derby Cathedral (1 February), Peterborough Cathedral (2 February), Lincoln Cathedral (5 February), Cadogan Hall (12 February), Chichester Cathedral (14 February), Worcester Cathedral (15 February), Rochester Cathedral (16 February), St Albans Cathedral (23 February) & Saffron Hall (9 June).

Choral Pilgrimage 2019

The annual Choral Pilgrimage has become a much-loved staple in The Sixteen’s programming and this year the programme brings together music past and present, highlighting The Sixteen’s choral journey over 40 years. The choir’s close relationship with Sir James MacMillan continues with a new commission: O virgo prudentissima, based on a fragment from the Eton Choirbook. The programme also features Tavener’s Hymn to the Mother of God & Hymn for the Dormition of the Mother of God, Sheppard’s Gloria & Agnus Dei from Cantate Mass, Eric Whitacre’s Sainte-Chapelle, Fayrfax’s Aeternae laudis lilium, Gabriel Jackson’s Ave Maria and Robert Wylkynson’s monumental Salve Regina, also from the Eton Choirbook. Beginning on 3 April at Kings Place, it takes in 27 locations up and down the UK, finishing up at Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh on 26 October.

Christmas Tour & Handel’s Messiah

The year closes with the customary Christmas tour of which the highlight is Benjamin Britten’s much-loved Ceremony of Carols. Other works on the programme include Plainsong Salve Regina, various works by Walton, Matthew Martin Adam lay y-bounded, Poston Jesus Christ the apple tree, Warlock Corpus Christi carol, various works by Holst, Praetorious/arr.Sanstrom Lo, how a rose e’er blooming, James Burton Balulalow, Cecilia McDowall Of a Rose and Anon The Salutation carol. Performances include St David’s Hall, Cardiff (15 December), Cadogan Hall, London (16 & 17 December) & St John the Evangelist, Oxford (19 December) with more to be announced. Further Christmas dates will include a special performance of Handel’s Messiah to mark the end of The Sixteen’s anniversary year. More details to be announced later in the year.

Queen of Heaven

The Sixteen’s Queen of Heaven programme has been selling out cathedrals and concert halls for the last five years, receiving widespread critical acclaim when it toured the UK as part of the 2013 Choral Pilgrimage. It focuses on three composers’ unique devotion to the church and this programme pairs a new version of Allegri’s renowned Miserere with Sir James MacMillan’s own setting of the text alongside pieces by Palestrina. Performances include Newcastle Cathedral (28 February), Ripon Cathedral (1 March), and Wakefield Cathedral (2 March).

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

From 20 June – 6 July, The Sixteen choir and orchestra join forces with The Grange Festival Chorus for five performances of Handel’s dramatic oratorio Belshazzar, conducted by Christophers at The Grange Festival. This previously rarely staged masterpiece receives a new and vibrant production by Daniel Slater, which takes its story from the Book of Daniel, dramatizing the fall of Babylon at the hands of Cyrus the Great and the freeing of the Jewish nation, with the chorus taking centre stage: at once pleasure-seeking Babylonians, or solemn Jews, or noble Persians. A host of fine Handelians perform the solo roles: tenor Robert Murray as Belshazzar, soprano Rosemary Joshua is Nitocris, countertenor Christopher Ainslie as Cyrus, bass-baritone Henry Waddington is Gobrias and countertenor James Laing performs the role of Daniel.

Residencies at Kings Place and Wigmore Hall Wigmore Hall

Between 1680 and 1695, Purcell composed a series of Welcome Songs and Odes for the celebration of royal occasions. On 17 January a small consort of singers and instrumentalists showcases the variety and diversity of Purcell, who only just made it into his 30s. On 17 April, eight singers from The Sixteen and seven instrumentalists explore music from the Chapel Royal, including works by Blow, Humfrey, Corbetta, and Morelli, interspersed with extracts from the diary of Samuel Pepys, narrated by Michael Pennington.

Kings Place

As part of Kings Place Venus Unwrapped, which celebrates female composers in all their diversity, The Sixteen pays homage to St Cecilia, the patron saint of music, in association with the Genesis Foundation. Many of the works have been commissioned by The Sixteen over the years and the repertoire includes Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin & Hymn to Saint Cecilia, Ruth Byrchmore’s Prayer of St Theresa of Avila, Cecilia McDowall Now May We Singen, Margaret Rizza’s O Speculum Columbe, Alissa Firsova’s Stabat Mater, Howells’ Take Him Earth for Cherishing, Kim Porter’s Christmas Eve, Roxanna Panufnik’s Prayer, Poston’s Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, and Maxwell Davies’ Lullaby for Lucy.

Other UK Performances

Other concerts this season include a return to the intimate, candlelit surroundings of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, The Globe on 17 February with a programme spanning two centuries and featuring music from the Eton Choirbook, alongside works by the multi-talented composer, poet, doctor and lawyer Thomas Campion. A few days later, on 22 February, five singers from the ensemble and nine instrumentalists give a performance of Handel’s Acis and Galatea at Bath’s The Assembly Rooms with Jeremy Budd and Grace Davidson in the respective title roles, alongside Mark Dobell as Damon, Simon Berridge as Coridon and Stuart Young as Polyphemus.

International Touring

The Sixteen continues to expand its international programme with performances across the globe in four locations. The ensemble travels to Vienna in January for an all-Handel programme as part of the Konzerthaus Resonanzen Festival; in March, they tour to Australia and also, for the first time, Singapore where the repertoire features the music of Arvo Pärt & William Byrd. April sees Handel’s Israel in Egypt performed in Spain and, in June, The Sixteen’s orchestra join the choir in a performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 in Granada.

Outreach Work

The Sixteen’s extensive Education and Outreach programme inspires and supports creativity throughout the UK’s communities each year. An integral part of the The Sixteen’s mission is to connect the power of music to engage, inspire and transform musical education. Christophers and The Sixteen are particularly ken to reach people who may not have had access to music in school and are in culturally underserved areas where arts provision is low. To mark this in the ensemble’s 40th anniversary year, This Sixteen will undertake residencies in various locations across the UK, uniting communities through singing. These include the popular workshops which sit alongside the Choral Pilgrimage programme, under the expert guidance of associate conductor Eamonn Dougan and singer Sally Dunkley: London (25 May); Manchester (6 July); Carlisle (13 July); Tewkesbury (7 September); Blackburn (21 September); Edinburgh (26 October).

Forthcoming CORO releases

In celebration of the 40th anniversary, The Sixteen’s award-winning record label, CORO, releases five albums by the ensemble including a special 40th Anniversary Collection comprising 40 tracks which have defined The Sixteen over the last four decades. With personal recommendations from members both past and present, this beautifully packaged album promises to be the must-have collection for all fans of choral music. Other releases include a new recording of Handel’s Acis and Galata; music by Purcell and Palestrina, two composers The Sixteen have championed to critical acclaim; and a disc which includes all the music from The Choral Pilgrimage 2019, released on 1 March. The Sixteen will also release two albums this autumn – Star of Heaven: The Eton Choirbook Legacy which features four stunning new Genesis Foundation commissions inspired by the legendary choirbook, and A Renaissance Christmas featuring some magnificent festive music for those looking for something slightly different this Christmas.


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