The Sixteen: The Choral Pilgrimage 2016

28th May 2016 7.30pm - 28th May 2016 Event Type: Concert

Although separated by over four centuries, the music of William Byrd and Arvo Pärt makes for a perfect match. Both spent many years facing adversity and persecution and both sought solace through their sacred music.

 Byrd‘s later life was lived under constant threat of religious persecution – a practising Catholic in a country where only the Anglican faith could be celebrated. However, Queen Elizabeth I not only loved music but also possessed a private empathy for Catholicism and in 1575 she granted a patent to Byrd and the aged Tallis to publish music. The result was Cantiones Sacrae, a collection of 17 pieces by each of them, six of which, including the monumental Tribue, Domine, feature in this programme. The long text comes from the book of Meditations attributed to St Augustine, and Byrd treats us not only to a variety of vocal combinations, but also clear codes to his unswerving Catholic faith. Just as in Ad Dominum we hear urgent cries to be heard “I speak peace to them and they clamour for war” (Ego pacem loquebar et illi bellum conclamabant), so in Tribue, Domine he portrays the “kingdom” (imperium) with a certain triumphalism.

Pärt spent most of his life in Soviet controlled Estonia and for most of his young life it all seemed perfectly normal. “We had what we had…it wasn’t until I was older that I began to appreciate what it was to live in the Soviet Union, everything enclosed or forbidden.” In 1979, Pärt and his family acquired exit visas to leave the Soviet Union and moved to Berlin and it was around this time that he began to experiment with tintinnabulation. As Pärt himself explains “I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me. I work with very few elements – with one voice, with two voices. I build with the most primitive materials – with the triad. The three notes of the triad are like bells. And that is why I called it tintinnabulation.”

The result is music where the text has total clarity but is highly charged in a very specific manner. His setting of the Nunc Dimittis is at times tender and serene, but then bursts out into exhilarating joy. The Woman with the Alabaster Box is even more extraordinary, with Jesus’ words eloquently delivered and made even more powerful by the silences.

Unlike Byrd, Pärt did not write for the liturgy but that does not mean his music is any less sacred – far from it. His music will resonate around our wonderful cathedrals and abbeys just as Byrd’s has done for centuries.

Harry Christophers, Founder and Conductor, The Sixteen


The Sixteen
Eamonn Dougan conductor

Concert programme

Byrd Diliges Dominum
Byrd Christe qui lux es et dies
Arvo Pärt The Deer’s Cry
Byrd Emendemus in melius
Arvo Pärt The Woman with the Alabaster Box
Byrd Miserere mihi Domine
Byrd Ad Dominum cum tribularer
Tallis /Byrd Miserere nostri
Tallis When Jesus went
Byrd O lux beata Trinitas
Arvo Pärt Nunc Dimittis
Byrd Laetentur coeli
Byrd Tribue, Domine

Tickets: £30, £15 and £12 available online from the Cathedral Box Office or by phone on 01962 857 275.

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