The independent London newspaper

Singing praises of composers

01 September, 2017 — By Sebastian Taylor

The Sixteen vocal choir

TOP vocal choir The Sixteen is setting out on its 17th Choral Pilgrimage tour next Wednesday evening with a concert at St James’s, Marylebone, followed by another 14 concerts throughout the country.

The concerts contrast the music of the “Prince of polyphony” Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina with the great 20th-century French melodist Francis Poulenc.

“For the Choral Pilgrimage 2017, I will be exploring the legacy of two composers whose work, for me, represents the very pinnacle of sacred music,” says The Sixteen’s founder/director Harry Christoper. “Both are honest composers, they never try to appear other than they are. Palestrina is the master craftsman while Poulenc’s music always bears a human face.”

Palestrina’s mass centring on the famous L’homme armé tune was immensely popular in the 16th century. Its war-like nature serves as a timely reminder of the savagery of conflict – something which deeply affected Poulenc.

Poulenc’s Un Soir de neige, composed in December 1944, reflects both the inner feeling of peace generated by Christmas and the bleak solitude of another winter of occupation in France.

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