Blackwell’s interviews Harry Christophers


Wednesday April 8th sees Harry Christophers’ ‘The Sixteen’ performing The Choral Pilgrimage 2015 at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Prior to the performance our Music Shop is hosting a reception from 18:00 to 19:00


Our Music Shop manager, Luke, was fortunate enough to find time to talk with Harry between tour dates in Australia and Korea:
Would The Sixteen consider bringing a particular composer’s work to light who isn’t already that widely known in the mainstream classical world? If so who would you particularly like to pick?
Part of The Sixteen’s brief has always been to bring relatively unknown composers’ work to prominence. We did this many years ago with our Eton Choirbook series (5 volumes) and, of course, in our early recordings for Hyperion we concentrated on the works of Taverner (5 volumes) and Sheppard (4 volumes). If you look through our catalogue you will find rarities – Portuguese music by Rebelo, Melgás and Teixeira and Tudor music by the likes of Tye, Parsons and White. This year’s Choral Pilgrimage is devoted to the music of Guerrero and Lobo and will introduce thousands of people to this wonderful music.

How much do you concern yourself with ‘authenticity’ within early choral music and how does this influence your interpretation of a musical score or manuscript?

First and foremost the editions we use must be the best about, taking into account any new findings etc. Martyn Imrie is always scrupulous in his attention to detail when preparing editions. He produced the editions for this year’s Choral Pilgrimage as well as our Palestrina CD series as he has done with all the Spanish and Italian Renaissance music we have performed over the years. Likewise, Sally Dunkley is meticulous and ever conscious of presenting excellent performing editions of music from Tudor England. Of course we sing in a stylish manner befitting this music but there “authenticity” ceases. We must always remember that all of this music was for the adornment of the liturgy. What we are doing is taking it out of that context and bringing it into a concert programme and in doing so we must bring the music to life for a 21st-century audience. I make a point of interpreting the music, bringing out its emotional traits, and enriching the text.

Do you find you have to adopt a different approach for producing a recording than in a live environment?

Yes – “live” has to be just that. The choir know full well that I may do something different in each performance. We never go onto auto-pilot. Different acoustics will account for variations in speed, dynamics and, indeed, my interpretation. Recording is completely different although I do like a more performance feel with longer takes and not being bogged down in total perfection. Of course there are many things I may do in performance which would not transfer well onto CD.

How much influence do you have in regard to where you record your performances, do you have a particular favourite venue or studio?
I always choose the venue for our recordings. These days financial constraints mean we cannot afford to go outside London to venues where we know we will have peace and quiet with no extraneous noises. However, London does contain some glorious places for recording. My present favourite is St Augustine’s Church in Kilburn – there is a richness and a wonderful tail to the sound there which is perfect for both singers and instrumentalists. It is so diverse – last year we recorded Handel’s Jephtha, Monteverdi’s Vespers, Purcell’s Indian Queen and the Choral Pilgrimage CD of Guerrero and Lobo, so from a large ensemble for Jephtha to the more chamber feel of Indian Queen and finally the glorious a cappella music of Guerrero and Lobo. I also adore the fullness of sound that St Alban’s Church in Holborn produces and this is where we record our Palestrina series. In both of these places we use as little of the church acoustics or as much as we want – we never do anything that is artificial with the sound.

You’ve mentioned in the past that, apart from Classical repertoire, you like to listen to Led Zeppelin, do you have a favourite Zeppelin album? And would you ever consider arranging some classic Zeppelin tracks for a cappella voices? Are there any other rock bands you like to listen to?
It’s a toss-up between Led Zepp 4 or 1… then again there’s 3!!! I’m a big Rolling Stones fan but I also like Ben Folds and Jack Johnson. I also love Jethro Tull and they us! We’ve just been touring Australia and John Evan came to our concert and loved it!! But no – I would never consider arranging tracks for a capella voices.

Thank you Harry for the time taken to answer my questions. Good luck for your performance in Oxford!

Also released next week is:

GG_GorczyckiThe third disc in The Sixteen’s acclaimed series of Polish music, conducted by Associate Conductor, Eamonn Dougan, explores the work of Grzegorz Gerwazy Gorczycki (1665–1734). Regarded as the outstanding Polish composer of the high baroque, Gorczycki studied in Prague and Vienna in his early years and returned to Kraków in 1690 where he took holy orders. He was appointed Magister capellae at Wawel Cathedral in 1698, a position he held until his death.

If you would like to attend the drinks reception prior to the concert please contact Luke:


Student Welfare Week – Beat those Fifth Week Blues

If you are reading this and are, or have been, a student at Oxford, then the term ‘Fifth Week Blues’ needs no introduction. For the rest of you: Fifth Week Blues describes the feeling of misery, stress and generally being overwhelmed that inexplicably seems to hit every student in the fifth week of term.

Colleges try to combat Fifth Week Blues with a lot of TLC for students, and since Blackwell’s loves students, we thought we’d show them some love as well! We’ve designed a Student Welfare Week full of relaxation, fun, and laughter to put a smile on student faces all week long.

Firstly, we’re going to be running a Student Lounge in the Norrington Room. Comfy chairs, a space to relax, loads of fun activities… You can sit and read a book or a newspaper, play a game with friends (Dreaming Spires, anyone?) and even get back to childhood with some giant dot-to-dots and colouring in!

We’ve also laid on some fab comedy and music events:

GOYLE13-130 (1)

On Monday 10th at 1.30pm, we have a special performance from the Oxford Gargoyles, Oxford University’s finest jazz a capella group, ahead of their sold out Christmas events on 27th and 29th Nov (visit their website for more details)! Full of charm and glamour, the Gargoyles are entertainment at its finest.


Then on Tuesday 11th at 12.30pm, join us for a smorgasbord of light-hearted improvised comedy with the marvellous Oxford Imps. Hugely successful on the Oxford comedy scene and beyond, the Imps are here to help you laugh away the blues…The Imps have a weekly show at the Wheatsheaf pub on the High Street, Mondays at 8 (and visit their website for more info)

Finally, on Wednesday 12th at 3pm, renowned comedy writer and actor John Finnemore, best known for his Radio 4 comedy shows “John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme” and “Cabin Pressure”, as well as his appearances on “Miranda”, joins us for an afternoon of shaggy-dog tales and brilliant humour. There’s nothing like a giggle to make you feel better! Check out his blog to see what he’s up to.

Perhaps most exciting of all, we’re pioneering bibliotherapy sessions. Put your feet up and have a five-minute consultation with one of our skilled booksellers, and let us prescribe you a book that suits you perfectly. Plus, you’ll get 10% off whatever we prescribe!

So if you’re feeling the Fifth Week Blues, pop into the shop and take a look at our Student Welfare fun! Don’t forget to join the Facebook event to keep updated.

Photography Oxford competition – win an invitation to the launch party!!

The Oxford Literary Festival may only just have closed its doors – and its popular marquee – but there’s a brand new festival coming to town, and the team behind it want your help!


Photography Oxford is launching a major international photography festival later this year, bringing numerous exhibitions of the works of leading photographers to venues across the city, alongside talks, events, films, and photography workshops, from 14 September–5 October.

The festival will see Oxford crammed to the gills with photography, including:

• exhibitions in colleges, libraries, galleries, museums, and maybe even a giant safe,
• talks on a wide range of photography-related issues,
• five nights of movie classics at the festival’s pop-up drive-in cinema,
• a series of critically acclaimed features and documentaries at the Phoenix Picturehouse,
• workshops for photographers at all levels,
• an education programme run in conjunction with local schools,
• competitions where you can pit your own photography skills against the ‘pros’
• and much, much more

For more information, check out the website where more information will be added as the plans take shape.

Instead of an ordinary guide, the team behind Photography Oxford will be producing a festival newspaper, including notes on what’s on and where, articles about photography and Oxford, how to find your way from one event to another, booking information for the talks, and more. And all you have to do is come up with a lively and memorable name for the festival newspaper. Maybe something snappy (no pun intended!) or photography related, or something altogether more abstract. Give your creativity free rein!

The prize for the winning idea, chosen and used as the name of the newspaper, will be an invitation for two guests to attend the festival’s launch party on Friday 12 September 2014, to be held at the Bodleian’s Divinity School from 6-8pm.

So, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a wordsmith, why not have a go? You can tweet your answers to @PhotographyOx or post them on the festival’s Facebook page

The closing date is Wednesday 30 April and the team will announce the winning suggestion on Twitter and Facebook by Friday 30 May.

Good luck!

Why you don’t want to miss Short Stories Aloud this year

Readers of this blog are no doubt aware that one of our most enjoyable evenings each month is Short Stories Aloud. Sarah, who runs the show, wanted to say a few words about why you don’t want to miss SSA this year. My suggestion is simple – read this and then come along each month, it truly is one of the best literary nights in town!

SSA_LogoLast year was a pretty good year for Short Stories Aloud, our monthly literary grab bag of stories and authors. If you came along, you know that already. But in case you didn’t, here’s what you missed:

•    Listening to professional actors, including BBC Radio Four’s very own Julie Mayhew and Jenny Johns, reading world-class stories by authors such as Catherine O’Flynn, Jonathan Grimwood and Sophie Hannah. Hearing a room full of people gasp (yes, gasp) in unison at the end of a Jon McGregor story.

•    Being part of a frequently raucous Q&A session with the guest authors after the readings. Highlights last year included learning what Margaret Drabble thinks is the biggest problem currently facing creative women; and watching Oxford’s own Man Booker Prize nominee Charlotte Mendelson  demonstrate how she acquired a carpet burn whilst dancing to Bonnie Tyler,

•    Making friends. Yeah, I know this one sounds ridiculously cheesy, but the audience at Short Stories Aloud is a room full of people just like you, and the friendliest literary audience out there. (One author, Jonathan Pinnock, described the audience as ‘very friendly and exceptionally responsive’. You see?). It’s becoming a place where the bookish of Oxford come to meet and chat, and that just can’t be a bad thing.

This year looks set to be even better. I know, I know, how could it be? We have some amazing authors lined up: Helen Oyeyemi, Jenn Ashworth, Rachel Joyce, Sadie Jones; and some outstanding debut writers coming along so that you can say you saw them here first. There will be, as ever, a cash bar so that you can listen to the stories with a glass of wine and a slice of cake. And oh yeah, there’s cake…. If you bake a cake, you get in for free. That’s £0 to you. (or £5, if baking isn’t your thing). A fiver for an evening of exceptional stories, chat with award-winning authors,  cake and wine. Really. Why would you want to miss that?

The next show dates are Tuesday January 28th, when we’ll be welcoming  along Sophie Hardach and Eva Dolan, and Tuesday February 25th, with Helen Oyeyemi and Anna Hope. Short Stories Aloud is held upstairs at the Old Firestation, 40 George St, on the fourth Tuesday of every month. More info at @storiesaloud or on Facebook

Event with Hadley Freeman – Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies

Blackwell’s Event, Thursday 25th July at 7pm

Hadley Freeman, Guardian features writer and author of the popular ‘Ask Hadley…’ column, reminds the modern lady to Be Awesome.

Hadley Freeman

Covering topics vital for any modern woman to consider (from ‘How to read women’s magazines without wanting to grow a penis’ to ‘Beyond the armpit: a guide to being a modern day feminist’), Be Awesome tackles body image, sex, dating and feminism head on. With an attitude that is unfalteringly funny, smart and surprisingly heart-warming, Hadley Freeman is a voice of sanity that every woman should hear. Join us for what promises to be a fabulous event.

Hadley Freeman is the author of The Meaning of Sunglasses and has been a columnist and staff writer for the Guardian since 2000, where she writes the popular ‘Ask Hadley’ fashion column. She also contributes to US Vogue.

Tickets cost £3 and are available from our Customer Service Department, Blackwell’s Bookshop, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford. Telephone: 01865 333623.

Tim Lott: A Creative Writing Workshop on Tuesday 2nd July

Tim Lott: A Creative Writing Workshop

Tuesday 2nd July, 2013, 7pm – 9pm

Tim Lott

Tim Lott will be running a Creative Writing Workshop on Tuesday 2nd July, 7pm-9pm here at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford.

Tim Lott has written eight books (including White City Blue, Fearless and The Scent of Dried Roses and won a number of literary awards. He teaches creative writing at London’s Faber Academy, and the Guardian Academy.

This brief introduction to novel writing will cover the basics principles and tools needed to complete a fully fledged work of fiction. Tim is very highly regarded and his workshops are very popular, if you want to find out a bit more about him, please have a look at his website: http://www.timlott.co.uk/


The cost of attending this workshop is £30. Please register quickly if you are interested as there are only 20 places and it is anticipated that this will be very popular. To register, please email oxford@blackwell.co.uk or telephone 01865 333636


Blackwell’s and Creation Theatre Present Jekyll & Hyde

8th June – 6th July 2013

posterBlackwell’s are proud to announce that once again, after the success of previous productions such as The Odyssey and Doctor Faustus, Creation Theatre will be treading the boards in our very own Norrington Room, with their production of the well-loved classic, Jekyll & Hyde. Saved by their most generous benefactors and supporters, following the wettest summer in 100 years, Creation will return with their forthcoming production of Jekyll & Hyde. This show will see the company exploring a new approach with an intimate performance to 100 guests each night.

 The Norrington Room will be transformed into a spectacular theatre as Creation delight and astound with a story of Good vs. Evil in the body of one man. Taking as inspiration the esteemed work of one of our greatest authors, Robert Louis Stevenson, one actor will embody every role in this tale of gothic horror. Refreshments will be available on the evening, and our expert booksellers will be on hand, should a book take your fancy from the Norrington Room’s almost 3 miles of shelving.

 The show will run from Saturday 8th June to Saturday 6th July. Dates and times: Tuesday & Wednesday, 7:30pm. Thursday – Saturday, 7:30pm & 9pm. Running time of one hour. Tickets are available in advance or on the door. Please be aware that seats are limited to 100 per performance, and therefore booking is advised. Seating is allocated. Performances are suitable for adults and children from the age of 8. Seated tickets are £16, standing tickets are £10. Book your ticket online at http://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/booking/how-to-book