Garry Fraser reviews The Sixteen's Concert

Garry Fraser reviews The Sixteen's concert Good night, beloved at Perth Festival

1979 is a year that might not ring many bells, but for choral singing – especially in its a capella form – it was a pivotal moment. Until then, the world of renaissance polyphonic music was uncharted territory, but this was the year Harry Christophers established The Sixteen, a vocal group that has since soared to the highest extremes of choral quality.

Regulars to the Perth Festival of the Arts, their concerts in St John’s Kirk are always instant sell-outs and while this online concert didn’t come from Perth, a similarly-named church in London had the acoustic that emphasised the group’s fantastic assets – brilliant phrasing, sumptuous balance and consummate diction which are moulded together by Christophers’ marvellous manipulation.

This concert saw them deviate from the path of renaissance music and follow the path of part-song. The result was immensely satisfying, so much so that it is hard to pick a highlight. The opening Naylor Voc Dicentis was a piece of multi-layered magic and it heralded almost an hour of virtuosic a capella delivery.

Pinsuti’s Good Night, Good Night Beloved and Stanford’s Bluebird– and all-time classic – were things of undeniable beauty, standing out that bit more from the rest of the programme. The SATB mould was broken in tremendous fashion by male-only part songs, before the vocal line-up was re-set with works from composers who included MacMillan, Pearsall, Whitacre and Roderick Williams, whose arrangement of the Eriskay Love Lilt, a world premiere, was another distinct winner.

No matter what form of music this group tackle, the end result is always the same – sheer and utter enjoyment. This concert was a prime example of their ability to captivate, even mesmerise, an audience.

Watch The Sixteen's Concert online until 31st May. Book ticket here.

Enjoy an excerpt below from Stanford's The Blue Bird