Stile Antico is an early music vocal ensemble consisting of 12 singers who perform without a conductor. It has focused largely on medieval and Renaissance-era sacred repertory, taking in music by Byrd, Tallis, Taverner, John Sheppard, and many anonymous works. Made up of three singers each in the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass ranges, the ensemble performs about 40 concerts yearly and regularly goes on tour. Twice nominated for Grammy Awards, Stile Antico has rightly earned the reputation as one of the finest smaller early music ensembles from the U.K.
Stile Antico was formed in Oxford, England, in 2001. Founding members, who were then mostly students, were sisters Helen (soprano), Kate (soprano), and Emma Ashby (alto), Carris Jones (alto), Eleanor Harries (alto), Andrew Griffiths (tenor), Oliver Hunt (bass), and Matthew O'Donovan (bass). All of them were still members in 2011 along with Rebecca Hickey (soprano), Jim Clements (tenor), Benedict Hymas (tenor), and Will Dawes (bass). The group has used as many as 16 singers.
Stile Antico's debut concert took place in Oxford, England, in 2001. For the first several years the group performed mostly on university holidays. Its breakthrough came when it entered the 2005 Early Music Network Young Artist Competition at the York Early Music Festival, where it won the audience prize. Robina Young, an executive for Harmonia Mundi, was on the competition jury and later signed the ensemble to a recording contract. In early 2007 its first recording, Music for Compline, was issued by Harmonia Mundi and went on to capture several prestigious awards, including a Diapason d'Or and a Grammy nomination.
In 2010 Stile Antico debuted to acclaim both at the Schleswig-Holstein Festival and at the BBC Proms. Among its more highly praised recordings is the 2010 Harmonia Mundi CD Puer natus est, a collection of Advent and Christmas works by Byrd, Tallis, Taverner, and others. Stile Antico made its Wigmore Hall debut in July 2011.
On recordings, the group has continued to focus mostly on Renaissance repertory, with original thematic conceptions such as From the Imperial Court: Music for the House of Hapsburg (2014); despite the tremendous importance of royal houses in the commissioning and use of music in the Renaissance, Stile Antico's album is one of few entries in this field. The group mounted a major "Shakespeare 400" tour, exploring the role of music in the Bard's plays. In performance, the group's repertory has ventured into the modern era. It has given premieres of music by Huw Watkins, John McCabe, and Nico Muhly (Gentle Sleep). The association with Muhly is significant, for Stile Antico's tour schedule has involved the U.S. to a notable degree; it made two visits to the U.S. during the 2016-2017 season alone, and, almost alone among ensembles from the classical sphere, has been featured on the popular Tiny Desk Concert video series posted by the National Public Radio network there. Stile Antico released a survey of the neglected music of Renaissance composer Giaches de Wert in early 2017. ~ Robert Cummings & James Manheim