The Sixteen by Candlelight

MICHAEL DRAKE Norwich Cathedral (Norfolk and Norwich Festival event)

MICHAEL DRAKE

Norwich Cathedral (Norfolk and Norwich Festival event)

It is to be expected that a festival with such a wide reputation would open with class, and one cannot aspire much higher - certainly in the field of choral music - than this mixed voiced choir with international credentials. The Sixteen is becoming a firm favourite in our city and last night it continued its nationwide 2006 Choral Pilgrimage of “inspiring music in glorious buildings” - and there could hardly have been a better introduction than that.

At the heart of the programme of Renaissance music by the Spanish master composer of polyphony was Thomas Luis de Victoria's Requiem of 1605. Conducted by its founder Harry Christopher, the choir now has 18 voices but they still sing with extraordinary unity and vocal precision. The balance of the ensemble is quite perfect and the Requiem - as well as being full of the most exhilarating vocal sounds - was an emotional experience. The whole was always dynamic with its rhythmatic changes, and particularly interesting for its plainsong introductions and changes of mood in the quiet Kyrie compared with a quite explosive Sanctus, for example.

The first half of the programme contained a number of antiphons and motets.

Under the expressive direction of Christopher, every musical change and nuance was undertaken seamlessly, yet retaining a spontaneity and communication with the full audience.

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All glorious indeed and an inspiring opening to the festival.