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The Sixteen

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Biography

British conductor Harry Christophers (born 1953) founded the choral ensemble named The Sixteen in 1977. The director's vision from the outset foresaw the musical repertories for which they would be best-known: early English polyphony, other repertories of the European Renaissance, as well as choral works of the twentieth century. Even the choice of naming the ensemble not after a particular composer, style, or period served this goal of musical flexibility. With over 70 acclaimed recordings in its first two decades and a touring schedule that has brought the group to "churches from Finland to Sicily," opera houses from London to Sydney, and festivals from Salzburg to Tokyo, The Sixteen has established itself as one of the most versatile and polished choirs of the turn of the century. The 1992 recording The Rose and the Ostrich Feather: Music From the Eton Choirbook, Vol. I earned the group a Grammy award for Early Music; other recordings have been awarded numerous Grand Prix du Disque, Deutsche Schallplatten, Grammophone Early Music, and Diapason d'Or prizes. In 1991, the group sang in the world premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's opera Gawain in Covent Garden; in 1998 a Lisbon Opera debut of Claudio Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria; the year 2000 saw a "Pilgrimage" tour of English cathedrals. The Sixteen sings with an "Oxbridge" purity of intonation (Christophers himself began his musical career as head chorister at Canterbury Cathedral) combined with a passionate yet controlled dynamic range. The groups tonal virtuosity embraces the directness of Tudor and Elizabethan choirboy singing (despite the mature combination of female sopranos and male altos), yet expands to a more romantic fullness for Spanish and Portugese Renaissance music or for Benjamin Britten and Samuel Barber. The ensemble added an orchestral component (first called the Orchestra of the Sixteen and later the Symphony of Harmony and Invention) to expand its repertory into Baroque; the two groups collaborated on a series of operas of Monteverdi, operas of Purcell, several oratorios of Handel, and major works of J.S. Bach. The group founced its own record label, CORO, in 2001, and released over 90 albums in its first two decades. In 2009, Classic Grammophone FM named The Sixteen "Artist of the Year."

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Formed:

1977

Genre
Years Active:

'80s, '90s, '00s, '10s