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Monday, February 1, 2016

The Sixteen, Poetry in Music, Harry Christophers

Over the weekend, in the mornings I tend to haul out some old vinyl and give it a spin. Yesterday it included a Palestrina recording, a '50s early music disk typical of what one settled for back then. Hearing it I realized how radically groups like the Sixteen have changed our expectations. I could barely listen to this LP now, so uninspired and plain wrong it seemed to be after reveling in the Sixteen's considerably beautiful renditions of the contrapuntal master.

It seems fitting this morning to return to that angelic ensemble under Harry Christophers, this time for their anthology of English a capella choral, Poetry in Music (CORO 6134). As the title suggests, the works were chosen for their setting of worthy poetic texts by composers who knew how to do it, with six centuries represented from early to modern.

The theme is songs of departure and farewell, with texts by such luminaries as Edmund Spencer, Christopher Fry and W.H. Auden. The music contains gems by Britten, Howells, Rubbra, Tompkins, Weelkes and others, 14 short works in all, wondrously performed as one has come to expect from the Sixteen.

The great care Christophers and company give to every one of these and the beauty of the ensemble carry the day and bring us to a timeless realm of expression where 500 years pass and we feel we have been in the presence of great feeling, sublime poetic utterances transposed and transformed into sublime choral mastery, passages where word and song intertwine in the most fulfilling ways.

And so we have another triumph from the Sixteen! Long may they carry us along on their travels to vocal superlatives. Highly recommended.


  1. I saw them in concert many years ago. They are brilliant and Harry Christophers is a genuine treasure.

  2. Hello, Paul! I surely agree. Thanks for commenting!