Archive for the ‘The Sixteen’ Category

The Sixteen Asia-Pacific Tour

April 21, 2012

Harry Christophers (founder and director of The Sixteen) talking ahead of The Sixteen’s Asia-Pacific tour that took place earlier this year. The tour took in Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington, sadly not Japan.

The Sixteen are now embarking on their Choral Pilgrimage 2012, which takes them to cathedrals and churches in England.

The Sixteen are a small early music choral group founded by Harry Christopher with associated orchestra.

The Sixteen – Croydon Minster – Choral Pilgrimage 2012

April 20, 2012
The Sixteen – Croydon Minster

The Sixteen – Croydon Minster

We never dumb down what we are doing. — Harry Christophers

It was one of those days, cloudy, sunny, then the sun came out and it turned into a lovely spring day, or so I thought, or at least I hoped.

I set off from my house, a few odd spots of rain, it turned darker, the wind started blowing, it got colder. Not good I thought.

By the time I got to the station to catch the Reading-Gatwick train to Guildford, it was dark, thunder and lightning and hailstones. I got drenched simply crossing the line, but at least it did not hit until I got to the station, otherwise I would have been soaked to the skin.

I was on my way to Guildford for lunch, then Croydon for the evening.

At Guildford, another downpour. I waited and luckily it slowed. I walked along the River Wey and was surprised how high it was.

We have little or no rain for weeks. Then a month’s supply in a couple of days with the net result it runs straight off the land and into the rivers.

Lunch at the Guildford Institute. For those who do not know, Friday lunch at the Guildford Institute is one of the best kept secrets in Guildford.

I looked in on on Ben in Ben’s Records. It was packed. He has only been there for twenty years and it seems people have only now woken up to an excellent record shop.

I was after a venue for a recital featuring Steve Lawson and Lobelia. I need a grand piano. Guildford Institute has, but not a good venue, St Mary’s Church excellent, but sure about the piano. Ben suggested I tried the Guildhall, which I had not thought of.

Yes, Guildhall excellent venue, and yes, a grand piano, but it is hired at £500 a night

I was now cutting it fine to catch a train to Croydon if I was to not catch an overcrowded rush hour train.

Alighting at Croydon, I had no idea where to go. I was after Croydon Minster. Street signs would help!

I popped into the Croydon Visitor Centre adjacent to Croydon East Station.

Two very pleasant and helpful people. They pointed me in the right direction, basically follow the tram lines, then turn left.

Yes, trams! First time I have seen trams in England. First time in my life I saw a tram was last year in Istanbul. The ones in Istanbul are nicer.

More heavy rain, so I chatted with the staff in the Croydon Visitor Centre.

Following the tram lines was easy enough, though no street signs. I spotted what I correctly assumed to be Croydon Minster. I headed off in that direction.

For what was a parish church, until it was elevated to a Minster, Croydon Minster is quite large.

I was there for a concert by The Sixteen.

I picked up at the door a ticket for the aisle. I thought I was going to have a bad seat. Yes, there were seats in the aisle, but either side of the nave was also classed as aisle. I could have sat anywhere, but that would not have been fair on those had paid for a nave seat.

I was early, sufficiently early to explore Croydon Minster.

I lit a single candle for Canon Andrew White (who has not been well and for the good work he does in Iraq), for Paulo Coelho (for his writing and the wonderful party at a Venetian mediaeval castle on St Joseph’s Day) and for Mio Baba (with who I spent a wonderful three days in Bassano del Grappa and whose dream came true).

I had a chat with the vicar and gave him a copy of a DVD of a talk Canon Andrew White gave at Guildford Baptist Church last year. The vicar told me Croydon Minster prays for Canon Andrew White and his ministry in Iraq and they would be very happy to invite him to Croydon Minster.

The concert was prefaced by an excellent talk by Harry Christophers (founder and director of The Sixteen). He talked of the composers and their music, but also set it in the cultural context of the Renaissance. And oh what a difference to the pre-concert talk at Winchester Cathedral the week before where the poor sound system rendered the talk unintelligible.

The Renaissance was a period when the arts flourished, Titan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Raphael; a period of exploration, when Antwerp as a port flourished, when bankers got rich through financing expeditions.

Our three composers all Flemish or from the low countries, who also travelled across Europe, to what is now Germany and Italy. They were also highly paid. They were the rock stars of their era.

The music of the composers, Josquin, Brumel, Lassus, covers a period of about a hundred years. They travelled all over Europe. Quite amazing when you consider no Eurostar, no airlines, we take travel within Europe for granted. I was recently in Bassano del Grappa in Italy, and hour by train to the airport, an hour and a half flight to Venice, followed by bus to train station, followed by a train journey of a little over an hour.

Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/1455 – 1521), usually known as Josquin, French composer, regarded as a master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music.

Antoine Brumel (c. 1460 – 1512 or 1513), French Renaissance, and like Josquin des Prez, seen as one of the most influential composers of his generation.

Orlande de Lassus (c 1530-1532 – 1594), Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance.

The talk was excellent. Please film and upload to youtube.

Oh what a difference a seat makes.

At Winchester Cathedral last week the performers were too far away, the music somewhere way off in the distance. At Croydon Minster they were before me, it was possible to actually enjoy the music.

This raises serious questions on the choice of venues, the seating in venues. The rear of Winchester Cathedral was lower price, but questionably should have not been available or free. But even if free, one would go away with a poor impression of the music, the performers or both. Or at least one would if this was the first encounter.

Personally I prefer the music of Victoria, Palestrina. The previous week I had picked up two CDs of The Earth Resounds (which I have yet to remove from the shrink wrapping), the music of the tour. It is also available as digital download in high quality lossless FLAC. This evening I picked up two CDs of Allegri and Palestrina, Allegri Miserere (also available as digital download), and was able to catch Harry Christophers during the interval to have them signed.

Clearly a man of taste, Harry Christophers commented on the high quality of the pen I gave him to sign with. He asked was it a Mont Blanc? I said no, a Montegrappa, a far better pen. He turned slightly pale when I told him how much the pen cost.

The Sixteen are looking to crowd sourcing and community supported music to provide funding, an excellent idea, but they have to make this far more explicit, even to mentioning it in the pre-concert talk.

What is a community? For The Sixteen it is those who attend their concerts, those who listen to their music. The community can join the Patron’s Circle. A huge banner poster, if you joined that night you got a free CD, but where was the information? There was information available, but it was by no means obvious.

For the next recording The Sixteen are using crowd sourcing. If there was information, I saw none.

Artists are now using crowd funding to finance projects, for recording sessions, for films. It is a great idea, but for many it is finding the numbers, spreading the word. It should be like falling off a log raising it from the Choral Pilgrimage, something that should be part and parcel of the Pilgrimage but it will not happen if no one knows about it.

With crowd sourcing you also have to have incentives. Donate x, where x is less than y the cost of the CD when launched and you get an advance copy or free digital download. Pay more than x and you get two free tickets for a venue of your choice.

The music of the tour has to be made available for people to listen to on-line. Yes, there are problems with the owners of the copyright who demand to be paid for something that is free. That is what I call greed, not just greed, but crass stupidity.

A thought that occurred to me whilst listening to the concert was what a pity not recorded live with a simple cross microphone pair: The Earth Resounds Live!. Put it on bandcamp where people can listen, charge a nominal fiver or pay-as-much-as-you-like for digital download, with links to buy the album The Earth Resounds.

This has many many pluses.

It promotes the Pilgrimage. It makes the music available outside the privileged few who will be able to go to a cathedral on the Pilgrimage. It makes music available to those who cannot afford music.

Call it education. Unless music is made freely available, that people can share, good music will be lost.

People who grew up with Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, can migrate to early music, those who grew up with a moronic monotonous beat stripped bare, cannot.

Slow music v fast music cf the difference between fast food, junk food and slow food.

Look around, as I did at Winchester and Croydon. You would be hard pushed to find anyone under 50, probably hard pushed to find anyone under 60. At Winchester I could have counted on one or two hands the number of young people. This is not unique to The Sixteen. Is it that one has to be over fifty to appreciate, or is at as I fear, an ageing audience?

Musical Illuminations at the British library was the exception. I was pleased to look round and see a wide spread of ages.

In his introduction and when I talked to him in the interval, the Vicar said the Pilgrimage was an annual event at Croydon Minster. Certainly something worth noting for next year.

The Choral Pilgrimage 2012 started in Winchester last week. It will wend its way around the country during the summer and autumn.

The Telegraph has a somewhat pretentious review of St Albans. Whet is is with reviewers that they lack a basic grasp of the English language and end up spewing out gibberish? There are several mistakes. I thought the Pilgrimage was in its 25th year, The Telegraph says 11th. A glaring typo ‘Flanco-Flemish composers of the 15th and 16th centuries’, I think is meant to be Franco-Flemish.

The Guardian says of The Earth Resounds: ‘ a little too polished and controlled; there’s surely more guts to this music, more earthiness to its rhythms, than these performances admit.’ Begs the question compared with what? Does not say. In other words a completely meaningless statement.

What reviewers think, write or say is an irrelevance. What matters is the experience of the performers, those who attend the concerts, those who listen to the music.

In his pre-concert talk, Harry Christophers briefly touched upon pilgrimage, that the best he could manage was 20 miles in a day. Please expand the talk to say a little about pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage is not alternative tourism. Pilgrimage is a sacred, spiritual, mystical journey. To encounter the divine, to reconnect with your soul, to come back renewed.

Paulo Coelho recounts walking el Camion de Santiago in The Pilgrimage.

The Sixteen are a small early music choral group founded by Harry Christopher with associated orchestra.

The next date on the Choral Pilgrimage will be Exeter Cathedral (2 May 2012).

The Sixteen – Winchester Cathedral – Choral Pilgrimage 2012

April 13, 2012
The Sixteen - Winchester Cathedral - Choral Pilgrimage 2012

The Sixteen - Winchester Cathedral - Choral Pilgrimage 2012

Winchester Cathedral was the first date for The Sixteen on their 25th Choral Pilgrimage, music by Josquin, Brumel, Lassus.

The evening was sold out!

I was seated towards the rear of the nave, in what was classed as restricted view. Diminutive view would have been a better description, as the performers were too far away. I have though only myself to blame as I did not try to get a ticket until a few days before the concert and all the decent seats had long gone.

I have to admit the concert was a disappointment. Whether this was the venue or the music I do not know. The music was heard from afar.

I would not say I did not enjoy the concert, as I did, but not as much as when I saw The Sixteen last October in Guildford Cathedral performing the music of Victoria.

Hail, Mother of the Redeemer

There was a pre-concert talk, but this was rendered unintelligible by a very poor cathedral sound system, made far worse by a constant flow of late arrivals. Very bad organisation on the part of the cathedral stewards that these late arrivals were not made to wait until the speaker had finished.

The music for the tour is available as The Earth Resounds. I bought two copies, one to give to a friend. I had hoped to get them signed and was very disappointed that there was no sign of The Sixteen after the concert. I had even brought along my Montegrappa pen for the signing!

The Earth Resounds is also available as a digital download in various formats from low quality mp3 to studio master as FLAC. [see mp3 v FLAC]

I have downloaded the studio quality FLAC, the download site is a pain to use, but have not yet found the time to listen to, then decided I would wait until after the concert.

To play FLAC, download and install VLC Media Player.

The Sixteen need to establish a presence on bandcamp. Far easier download than their own site, plus one can listen on-line, and they can give details of their Choral Pilgrimage.

Yes, you can listen on their own site, but a few seconds of lofi does not do justice to either their performance or the music.

Why therefore are they not there?

One reason is they have to pay if you listen to the music!

But did the composers not die centuries ago?

Yes they did, but when someone dusts off some old archive and publishes their finding, they claim the rights.

It is an absolutely crazy system where payment is being demanded for people listening!

It is people like The Sixteen who are bringing this music to life. Were it not for them, the music would be notes on a page. It is their interpretation, their performance.

But this is sadly yet another example of greed and the rotten nature of the music business.

Were The Sixteen to put The Earth Resounds on bandcamp, they would as the system stands in essence be signing a blank cheque as they would have to pay every time anyone listened. Not downloaded, not ordered an album, but simply listened.

The net result is everyone loses. We lose who may wish to listen. The Sixteen lose as we cannot listen. Even the fools who are imposing this on us lose as less music is sold.

Ideally not only would the albums be there to listen to, but at least one track would be available for free download. instead all you get is a few seconds of lofi to listen to on-line.

Most people, myself included, would assume the works of Josquin, Brumel, Lassus is in the public domain, part of our common cultural heritage, but apparently not.

We are seeing widespread copyright abuse. Copyright claimed for an image of a London red bus. Copyright claimed for an image of furniture.

Copyright abuse over who owns the image of a London red bus
Photographing your furniture may be a breach of copyright!

For their next recording, The Sixteen are using crowd sourcing to raise the money. An excellent idea, slow music, community supported music in action.

Why therefore no mention at their concert?

If there was a mention I saw none. There was nothing on the stall selling their CDs. Possibly there was a mention in the programme. I do not know, as I neglected to pick up a programme.

If all the venues are sold out, then it should be relatively easy to raise the money, but not if you do not tell anyone.

The music of the composers, Josquin, Brumel, Lassus, covers a period of about a hundred years. They travelled all over Europe. Quite amazing when you consider no Eurostar, no airlines, we take travel within Europe for granted. I was recently in Bassano del Grappa in Italy, and hour by train to the airport, an hour and a half flight to Venice, followed by bus to train station, followed by a train journey of a little over an hour.

Josquin des Prez (c. 1450/1455 – 1521), usually known as Josquin, French composer, regarded as a master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic vocal music.

Antoine Brumel (c. 1460 – 1512 or 1513), French Renaissance, and like Josquin des Prez, seen as one of the most influential composers of his generation.

Orlande de Lassus (c 1530-1532 – 1594), Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance.

The Sixteen are a small early music choral group founded by Harry Christopher with associated orchestra.

Why The Sixteen? I counted twenty. I do know the answer but my lips are sealed to retain the mystery.

The Sixteen are performing in Croydon Minster in a week’s time, Friday 20 April 2012. I may go, curious what difference the venue makes, and hopefully I will not be so far away.

Top Story in The Vevomtv Daily (Saturday 14 April 2012).

The Sixteen – Miserere Mei Deus – Allegri

November 27, 2011

Miserere, full name “Miserere mei, Deus” (trans: “Have mercy on me, O God”) by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, is a setting of Psalm 51 (Greek numbering: Psalm 50), it begins Have mercy on me, O God, composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during matins, as part of the exclusive Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week. The service would start usually around 3am, and during the ritual, candles would be extinguished, one by one, until one remained alight and hidden. Allegri composed his setting of the Miserere for the final act within the first lesson of the Tenebrae service. Ash Wednesday marking Christ’s return to Jerusalem.

Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.
Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.
Asperges me hysopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.
Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.
Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.
Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.
Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.
Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam.
Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.
Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.
Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.
Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.

Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), an Italian composer of the Roman School, priest and singer, and brother of Domenico Allegri. He is best known for Miserere mei, Deus, a setting of Vulgate Psalm 50 (Greek Psalm 51), written for two choirs, one of five voices and the other of four voices.

Performed by early music group The Sixteen, founded and directed by Harry Christophers.

Music of indescribable beauty, almost unbearable to listen to.

Sacred Music: The Story of Allegri’s Miserere
St James Cathedral – Victoria – The Sixteen
Hail, Mother of the Redeemer

St James Cathedral – Victoria – The Sixteen

November 18, 2011

Visual of St James Cathedral Seattle set to music by Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria the Lamentations of Job (Job 10: 1-7) performed The Sixteen.

I’m a filmmaker in Seattle, Washington and I shot this footage of the St James Cathedral during the Spring of 2010 around Easter. It was originally B-Roll for a documentary on the afterlife I didn’t use. I’m also working very hard to get my BFA in film production.

Over the Holidays a friend introduced me to Pandora Radio, which is where, for the first time, I heard the heavenly sounds of Harry Christohers & The Sixteen. I felt like my spirit was flying and it was this very song Taedet animam meam, that enraptured me. Their interpretation of this work I feel is so pure ad perfect.

It was authored in 1605 by Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria. It’s in Latin from the Officium Defunctorum and the translation is Job’s (Job 10: 1-7) Lament to God asking why he was being treated so unfairly:

I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why thou dost contend against me. Does it seem good to thee to oppress, to despise the work of thy hands and favor the designs of the wicked?

It was after I heard the Sixteen’s version of this amazing piece of Renaissance Choral music that I immediately started cutting this passion piece wanting to communicate this experience.

I did it as a thanks to The Sixteen for such wonderful sounds that helped to release some long held sorrows, but also as a thanks to the staff of the St. James Cathedral for letting me film inside it’s incredibly opulent and powerful walls.

This is a gift to those groups. I’m not making any money of the project and it has no monetary value.

Later I’ll post a video on how visual FX came in handy during the making of this project, which, I did alone with no crew or help from anyone.

About 60 hours of passion went into creating this project making sure everything was right. The Panasonic HVX200 P2 HD is the camera I used and it’s very limited in low light situations.

The 15 ft Easter candle was the greatest challenge. I loved this shot but it was so under lit you couldn’t see the amazing brass base So, I put the clip in a program called Maya (which was also used for the movie AVATAR) to create a second brass texture which I composted in Adobe After effects. It was an immense amount of work but very rewarding.

Listening to this music and seeing the imagery of St James Cathedral Seattle one can easily understand the impact it must have had four centuries ago.

The Sixteen have recently been touring the cathedrals in England, or what they call a choral pilgrimage, performing the music of Tomas Luis de Victoria.

Hail, Mother of the Redeemer

The Sixteen are a small early music choral group founded by Harry Christopher with associated orchestra.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) composer, priest, scholar, mystic and organist.

Top story Music Daily (Friday 18 November 2011).

Tomas Luis De Victoria – Composer of the Week – BBC Radio 3
Discovering Music – 16th Century Polyphony