Deluging summer rain welcomed a large audience into the cool beauty of Lichfield Cathedral for a concert of sacred music performed by The Sixteen.
Founder and conductor Harry Christophers has explored a vast repertoire over the past 30 years, from baroque and early classical to 20th-century music.
A fascinating juxtaposition of ancient and modern music engaged the listeners, despite the fact that the written texts were frustratingly impossible to follow due to lack of light. Fortunately, any English translations were, for the most part, clear and comprehensible, not easy in a cathedral resonance, but that was not a problem for these skilled artists, consisting of six women and twelve men – including male altos and expressive soloists of all voices.
Fine offerings from Purcell with words from the Bible and litany, were accompanied at times by theorbo and chamber organ. However, maintaining a subtle balance was somewhat difficult, particularly for the almost inaudible theorbo strings.
Today, Scottish composer James MacMillan celebrates his 50th birthday, so it was a true privilege to hear some of his sincerely profound beliefs on such an anniversary. O bone Jesu stretched vocal techniques with haunting threads of eerie glissandos, contrasting effortless key shifts, ending on a high, both symbolically and musically.
A Child’s Prayer is a work beginning with re-iterated many-layered crushed chords: pianissimo and gentle, effortlessly controlled for soaring soprano soloists eventually melting into oblivion. MacMillan’s music is inspired directly by his Catholic faith, full of life and vigour for this century.
Purcell’s Queen Mary’s Funeral Music, moved one with subtle harmonious shifts. Purcell, aged 36, was buried in Westminster Abbey a mere eight months after the Queen in 1695, leaving a priceless musical legacy.