The Sixteen

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The Sixteen has established itself as an elite ensemble in the world of choral music. Acclaimed for its interpretation of music from the Renaissance and the Baroque, the Sixteen has also ventured forward in time to the music of the 20th and 21st centuries. The ensemble has reached audiences across the globe through its performances, recordings, and outreach initiatives.
The Sixteen was founded in 1977 by Harry Christophers as a nameless choir, adopting the “Sixteen” name and giving its first billed concert in 1979. The ensemble’s concept from its inception was to perform the music of the English polyphony through contemporary choral music. Christophers created a period-instrument ensemble for the Sixteen as well, dubbed at different times as the Orchestra of the Sixteen and the Symphony of Harmony & Invention; the ensemble is essential to the Sixteen’s performance of the oratorios, odes, and operas of composers such as Handel, Monteverdi, and Purcell. The ensemble premiered Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s opera Gawain at Covent Garden in 1991, and it has toured extensively, regularly performing throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The ensemble has made recordings almost from the beginning of its existence, recording for Hyperion, Chandos, and Virgin Classics, among others. The Sixteen has won several awards, including the 1992 Gramophone Award for The Rose and the Ostrich Feather: Music from the Eton Choirbook, Vol. 1, as well as the Diapason d’Or and Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik.
Beginning in 2000, the Sixteen annually tours England with a concert series titled the Choral Pilgrimage. In 2001, the group established the Coro label, where it has since issued its recordings. In 2009, Classic FM named the Sixteen “Artist of the Year.” Since 2010, the ensemble has worked with the Genesis Foundation in the U.K., which has fostered a youth program, Genesis Sixteen. The foundation also commissioned a new work for the Sixteen, James MacMillan's Stabat Mater, which the ensemble premiered in 2016; it has also been featured on the BBC series Sacred Music. In 2017, the group embarked on its first tour of China. In 2019, the Sixteen celebrated its 40th anniversary with 40, an album of highlights from the group’s recordings. The Sixteen has continued adding to its prolific recording catalog, issuing multiple albums each year, including four in 2021 alone. In 2022, it issued An Old Belief (the same title was used for that year’s Choral Pilgrimage), featuring music by Hubert Parry, Thomas Campion, and Cecilia McDowall. ~ Keith Finke