The Sixteen

Blackwell’s interviews Harry Christophers

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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

16newHARRY WILL BE SIGNING COPIES OF THE SIXTEEN CDs BETWEEN 18:30 AND 19:00 ON WEDNESDAY APRIL 8TH IN BLACKWELL’S MUSIC

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:

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