Exploring a Legacy:
The Sixteen celebrate the life and works of
William Byrd in its 2023 programming
The Sixteen will celebrate anniversaries and new inspirations in its 2023 season, with repertoire spanning from renaissance polyphony to new jazz arrangements. The next year will be shaped by the 400th anniversary of composer William Byrd, marking his life and work through the Choral Pilgrimage, in addition to a performance of his seminal creation: The Psalmes, Songs and Sonnets of 1611 at Wigmore Hall. The new season will also introduce collaborations with jazz pianist Julian Joseph, an operatic double bill at Grange Festival and the world premieres of two new works by composer Dobrinka Tabakova.
In what has become a staple of The Sixteen’s touring programme, this season marks the 22nd year of the ensemble’s Choral Pilgrimage. The 2023 tour is inspired by the influence of William Byrd, presenting a programme exploring his life, works and pervading faith. His legacy is marked by the commission of two new compositions by Dobrinka Tabakova, bringing his musical heritage firmly into the modern day. The two premieres, Arise Lord into thy rest and Turn our captivity, highlight Byrd’s influence of modern polyphony and showcase The Sixteen in a new light. The programme also features works by Van Wilder, de Monte, Clemens Non Papa and Byrd himself.
The Sixteen will visit twenty-seven locations across the UK, beginning at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (11 March) and concluding the tour at Kings Place, London (26 October).
The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage Choral Workshops are a rewarding opportunity for keen amateur singers to explore a variety of music inspired by The Sixteen’s own performances. Under the guidance of expert workshop leaders, these sessions include advice on vocal technique, as well as performance interpretation and historical context.
This season, amateur singers in Oxford, Truro, Peterborough, London, Belfast, Tewkesbury, Blackburn and Edinburgh will be able to practice breathing technique, invigorating warm-ups and voice production in a nurturing and enjoyable environment.
In addition to the tribute to Byrd as part of the Choral Pilgrimage, two stand alone concerts in The Sixteen’s spring programming will celebrate the life and works of this medieval master.
Byrd’sfinal collection of works: Psalmes, Songs and Sonnets of 1611 will be at the heart of a concert at Wigmore Hall (23 March). The programme concentrates on the final years of the composer, accompanied by actor Noel Byrne reciting poetry and prose as the voice of Byrd. The performance follows The Sixteen’s acclaimed album of the same name; the first complete recording of its kind, with 14 of the works receiving their debut recording. The concert will also see performances from leading viol consort Fretwork, who feature on the album.
An Immortal Legacy, a one-off performance set in the heart of Dorset at Sherborne Abbey (28 April), will look at sacred composition through the music of Tallis, Byrd, Sheppard and Morley in a celebration of polyphony and choral tradition.
As part of Sounds Unwrapped season at Kings Place, jazz pianist Julian Joseph unites with The Sixteen for a unique performance exploring the connections of choral and jazz through the works of Monteverdi’s Selva Morale e Spirituale (27 January). The two distinct musical worlds of renaissance and jazz will provide new sounds and experiences for the audience.
Genesis Sixteen and alumni will also perform as part of Sounds Unwrapped later in the year (16 July) performing Tallis’ monumental 40-art motet, Spem in Alium. This concert will celebrate the 250 alumni now part of the scheme, and will hear voices old and new from The Sixteen’s young artist scheme aimed to nurture the next generation of ensemble singers.
The Sixteen choir and orchestra come together at Cadogan Hall (16 February) and Saffron Hall (25 November) for Haydn’s Nelson Mass, a dramatic and triumphant score that unites voices. The programme will open with Mozart’s ever-popular and delightful work Eine kleine Nachtmusik, before a performance of the composer’s Solemn Vespers, Vesperae Solennes de Confessore.
In the lead up to Easter week, a performance at St Martin-in-the-Fields (4 April) will present a deeper understanding of the Stabat Mater – a powerful poem and prayer rooted in the Christian faith. The programme, aptly named A Mother’s Sorrow, showcases the intricate harmonic language of contemporary composer Alissa Firsova, drawing on her roots in Russian Orthodoxy, alongside the exquisite contrapuntal poise of Palestrina, and Anerio’s glorious and ambitious 12-part setting.
Two timeless love stories headline The Sixteen’s performances at the Grange Festival this year (9, 17, 22 & 28 June). Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice is presented in a double bill with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, directed by acclaimed theatre-maker Daniel Slater, and conducted by Harry Christophers.
A pairing of tragedy and doomed love will see Heather Lowe taking on the roles of both Orfeo and Dido, with James Newby, Alexandra Oomens and Helen Charlston also joining the cast. This mirror image of both works will present The Sixteen in a central role of the chorus and orchestra in these operas; narrating and following the paths of two tragic pairs.
The Sixteen’s annual Christmas offering, The Sixteen at Christmas, will see performances of festive choruses and carols, taking inspiration from the story at the heart of the season: the nativity. The celebrations begin in Basingstoke at The Anvil (29 November), Cardiff at St David’s Hall (3 December), before travelling to St John the Evangelist, Oxford (9 December) and two performances at London’s Cadogan Hall (14 & 15 December).
Learning, Participation and Education
The programme will include Residencies in five locations in England (County Durham, Peterborough, Leeds and Bradford, Medway and Cornwall) and will engage children aged 5-18, older people at risk of isolation, refugees, care home residents, and those affected by homelessness.
In addition to the Residency programme a further 600 young singers from around the country will have the opportunity to take part in a 12 Singing Workshops led by expert vocal practitioners. Aiming to nurture the next generation of Choral practitioners, much of the Learning and Participation programme will be supported and delivered by alumni of the Genesis 16 Young Artist programme.
Recruitment for the 2023-24 cohort of Genesis Sixteen is now open. Prospective applicants to join The Sixteen’s free young artists scheme should apply by Friday 3 February 2023.
CORO, The Sixteen’s award-winning record label, will release a varied selection of recordings in the new year. Releases include an album accompanying The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage tour, the ninth volume in the acclaimed Palestrina series, and a new recording showcasing Part-songs by Stanford and Finzi. The much-anticipated second volume of Mozart Violin Concertos recorded by the Handel and Hayden Society, will come out on the label later in the year.
Looking ahead to their 2023 programming, founder and director of The Sixteen Harry Christophers, said:
“It is always an exciting moment at the end of each year to look and see what the next year brings and I am delighted to say that it is not going to disappoint. The celebration of Byrd’s 400th anniversary forms the focus of our Choral Pilgrimage, music by Byrd himself and his contemporaries alongside two new commissions from the inspirational pen of Dobrinka Tabakova. This will be a season full of variety and beautiful music to inspire and to warm our hearts. I cannot wait to share it with our audiences up and down the country”
Chief Executive of The Sixteen, Marie-Sophie Willis, said:
“With so many highlights in 2023 it is hard to single any out, but I’m particularly looking forward to The Sixteen reuniting with Julian Joseph at Kings Place for Monteverdi with a jazz twist, as well as welcoming two new choral works into the repertoire from the wonderful Dobrinka Tabakova.
We have a wealth of learning and participation activity with a whole range of different participants, and it’s always fantastic to see our choral heritage enjoyed by so many children and adults who might never normally have the opportunity to engage with it. I also cannot wait to hear Genesis Sixteen tackle Tallis’s magnificent ‘Spem in alium’ at Kings Place in July.”