Anerio, Allegri, Marenzio, and Palestrina -
ppingham School Chapel

"After their triumphant tour featuring music of the Italian Golden Age, this year’s Choral Pilgrimage by The Sixteen focuses on the Renaissance composers Robert Parsons (his glorious setting Ave Maria), Christopher Tye, and his son-in-law Robert White (Lamentations a 5).

For their concert in Uppingham School Chapel, however, under the choir’s inspiring assistant conductor, Eamonn Dougan, they reverted to the previous programme featuring music by Anerio, Allegri, Marenzio, and Palestrina.

Anerio is one of the great unknowns of 16th-17th-century repertoire, just as Parsons and White are masters of Renaissance polyphony whose music easily bears comparison with Tye, Taverner, and Byrd. We owe it to the imagination and invention of Harry Christophers’s programming (and also that of James O’Donnell when he was Director of Music at Westminster Cathedral) that this fabulous Henrician, Marian, Elizabethan, and Stuart music is finding its way into the concert hall and on to disc.

Dougan’s conducting — only the second time he has addressed the full Sixteen choir, although he and the musicologist Sally Dunkley are largely responsible for its workshops — was of the highest order: astute, enabling, subtly modulated and expressive: everything that the experienced Christophers could ask of his well-chosen and newly appointed assistant.

The Stour Music festival, founded by Alfred Deller in a village near Wye, south of Canterbury, is in terrific form at present. Everyone must hope that Mark Deller, son of the great man and the present artistic director, will not relinquish his hold on the festival in a couple of years’ time when he celebrates a certain anniversary.

This year’s programme was well up to scratch. The Sixteen held the fort in Kent the very day after their Uppingham appearance, but this time breathed life into White’s equivalent of Tallis’s famous Lamentations, and made the most of Boughton Aluph Church’s utterly glorious acoustic (not a far cry from those of the Aldeburgh Festival’s churches at Orford and Blythburgh, which Britten so intelligently made his own).

Church Times, Roderic Dunnett, 11 July 2008


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