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The Choral Pilgrimage 2018: Sacred and Profane – The Sixteen

17th May 2018 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

The Sixteen arose from its Founder and Conductor Harry Christopher’s formative experience as cathedral chorister and choral scholar. The Sixteen’s professional female and male voices create a distinctive sound of great warmth and clarity. Although refined over four decades, that sound has remained remarkably consistent, always responsive to the emotional content of words and music, ever alert to subtle nuances of colour and shading.

The Choral Pilgrimage 2018 features two representatives of English music at its finest: William Cornysh and Benjamin Britten. Cornysh is actually two people, often confused with one another and quite possibly father and son. The matter of telling which man wrote which works is impossible to settle, so for the purpose of this programme we have decided to link them as one. So whether it be the Elder or the Younger, they not only excelled at writing complex and adventurous antiphons for the church but also beautiful secular songs for the Tudor court. Of course for Britten writing in the 20th-century life was very different; he is a composer who encompassed so many facets of music excelling in opera, solo song and all manners of vocal and instrumental music.

This programme looks at the way these two composers mixed sacred with secular. Whilst Cornysh’s sacred music is elaborate and rhythmically complicated, his secular music is simple yet subtly evocative. Britten makes constant demands on vocal artistry best displayed in the last work he ever wrote for unaccompanied voices, Sacred and Profane, composed in the winter of 1974-5. Britten chose his texts with great care and devotion; these are mediaeval lyrics and he gives us a fascinating mixture of the devotional and the rumbustiously secular. The final song A death is a wicked blend of horror and gallows humour far removed from the melancholic canon Ah Robin by Cornysh.


Britten Hymn to the Virgin
Cornysh My love she mourneth
Britten Hymn to Saint Cecilia
Cornysh Salve Regina
Britten Advance Democracy
Cornysh Ave Maria, Mater Dei
Cornysh Woefully array’d
Cornysh Ah Robin, gentle Robin

View the tour film.

Tickets are £15 to £25, and are available to book online or over the phone on 01904 651485.


17th May 2018
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm