Harmonia Early Music

A Spotlight On Harry Christophers

We’re honoring the work of Harry Christophers – conductor, singer, and founder of The Sixteen. Plus, highlights from EMA’s Young Performer’s Festival and more.

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Harry Christophers

Photo: Marco Borggreve

Harry Christophers.

Time capsule for this episode: 1711

Harry Christophers, a native of Kent County England, started out as a singer at Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.  After leaving the choir of Magdalen College, Oxford, a friend invited Christophers to put on a concert of some of his favorite pieces.  This chance invitation formed the very beginning of the vocal ensemble The Sixteen.

In its first few years, Christophers’ choir performed in and around Oxford.  Members were paid £5 and a pint of beer for each concert.  Since their debut performance in 1979, the ensemble has gained ground through their sweeping exploration of renaissance polyphony.  Their work spans the gamut from Tenebrae responsories by Tomas Luis de Victoria to English music from before the Reformation.  Today, The Sixteen boasts of worldwide performances, an award-winning discography of over seventy-one recordings, and training programs for the next generation of choral singers.

Henry Purcell : Jehova quam multi sunt hostes mei (6’17”)
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers — Bright Orb of Harmony (Coro, 2009)
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Francisco Guerrero : Pastores Loquebantur (6:17)
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers — Philip & Mary: A Marriage of England & Spain (Coro, 2005)
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At the dawn of the new millennium, The Sixteen performed a unique undertaking, bringing their music on a tour of cathedrals and churches across the UK.  The success of the Choral Pilgrimage prompted similar tours in subsequent years and even inspired a real pilgrimage.  In 2010, Harry Christophers and members of The Sixteen walked 110 miles from Guilford Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral.  Together, the musicians raised over £12,000 for World Vision and The Canterbury Gift.

2011′s Choral Pilgrimage marks the 400th anniversary of Tomas Luis de Victoria’s death.  Several years earlier, The Sixteen toured Victoria’s Requiem to sold-out venues across the UK.  Now, The Sixteen continues its exploration of the great Spanish composer with music for the Virgin Mary.  Let’s listen to a piece from their program “Marian music by Tomás Luis de Victoria”: a setting of Ave maris stella or “Hail, star of the sea.”

Tomas Luis de Victoria : Hymn, Ave maris stella (5’28”)
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers — Victoria: Hail, Mother of the Redeemer (Coro, 2011)
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Highlights from the 2011 EMA Young Performers Festival Ensemble Concert

Early Music America’s 2011 Young Performers Festival ran concurrently with the Boston Early Music Biennial Festival and Exhibition, giving today’s fresh talent a chance to shine.

The festival featured six days packed with performances by young musicians from across North America. Imagine fifteen different concerts given by students from fourteen different universities! Also exciting was the turnout – many of the concerts were completely sold out or standing-room only!

Thirty-four of these students were selected by a jury and brought together for the festival’s culminating concert.  Under the direction of Scott Metcalfe, the EMA Festival Ensemble presented a program of instrumental and sacred vocal works from the turn of the seventeenth century.  Here are some highlights from the June 18th performance titled “Gabrieli, Praetorius, and the Blossoming Baroque.”

Giovanni Gabrieli - Canzon XIV (3’27”) / Giovanni Gabrieli - Sonata XVIII (5’46”) / Adam Gilbert - Jubilate musica (3’15”)
2011 Early Music America Young Performers Festival Ensemble — live performance recording; not commercially available
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Featured release: Music by Georg Muffat

The differences between French and Italian baroque genres have been described in many different ways, not all consistent. However, writings from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries generally agree on French music’s deep connection with dance and Italian music’s reputation for ostentatious virtuosity.

Our featured release is dedicated to the music of Georg Muffat, whose instrumental works are known for their delightful mingling of French and Italian musical styles.  Muffat admired and absorbed these seemingly opposed styles over the course of his international musical career. While in France, he studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, Louis XIV’s foremost court musician.  Later travels to Italy put Muffat in contact with lauded keyboardist Bernardo Pasquini and legendary violin virtuoso Arcangello Corelli.

Concerto XII / Propitia Sydera: Sonata (2’14”) / Ciacona (9’29”) / Borea (1’05”)
La Concordanza / Irene de Ruvo — Georg Muffat: Propitia Sydera / Concerti Grossi (Stradivarius, 2011)
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album cover

Henry Purcell : Jehova quam multi sunt hostes mei (6’17”)
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers — Bright Orb of Harmony (Coro, 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Francisco Guerrero : Pastores Loquebantur (6:17)
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers — Philip & Mary: A Marriage of England & Spain (Coro, 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Tomas Luis de Victoria : Hymn, Ave maris stella (5’28”)
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers — Victoria: Hail, Mother of the Redeemer (Coro, 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Giovanni Gabrieli - Canzon XIV (3’27”) / Giovanni Gabrieli - Sonata XVIII (5’46”) / Adam Gilbert - Jubilate musica (3’15”)
2011 Early Music America Young Performers Festival Ensemble — live performance recording; not commercially available
album cover
Concerto XII / Propitia Sydera: Sonata (2’14”) / Ciacona (9’29”) / Borea (1’05”)
La Concordanza / Irene de Ruvo — Georg Muffat: Propitia Sydera / Concerti Grossi (Stradivarius, 2011)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Laura Osterlund

Laura Osterlund is a scriptwriter for Harmonia, recorder player, and student at McGill Univeristy in Montreal, Canada. In 2007, she moved from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois to Montreal in pursuit of a B.Mus. with major concentrations in Early Music Performance and Music History. Laura is an active musician throughout Montreal and Chicago and an avid memberof the movement to promote Early Music performance, pedagogy, research, and appreciation throughout North America.

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