The Sixteen aren’t used to being shut in for so long – Harry Christophers’ group of choral singers are more suited to hallowed halls and splendid sounds, but like the rest of us, they’ve had to change things this year. Not wanting to deprive us of their sensational sounds, the group have come up with a pandemic-prepared alternative.
They’ve released a harmony of documentary and choral music performances, expanding five episodes of history and iconic landmarks, in a wonderful celebration of choirs and their music. And after you’ve sang along to these, you can get in the festive spirit with some cracking Christmas carols, from Cadogan Hall, in their ‘as live’ special.
Led by Simon Russell Beale, the series is wonderfully low key, with no excited puppy-presenting. Instead, we have genuine enthusiasm and intrigue. Naturally, Russell Beale doesn’t have the complete score on the history of music, but luckily conductor Christophers is on hand to deliver the details. With this set up, the show is completely accessible to people just dipping their toes in the choral pool – the pair explore the history of music, discussing how tastes and trends have changed according to social and political cultures. They also explore the amazing architectural sites that the group grace, visiting some fascinating locations including Soho’s Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Hatfield House and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
The Guardian’s Fiona Maddocks gave the series five stars, calling it “inspired,” and saying The Sixteen give viewers “plenty to chew on.” Neil Fisher of The Times agreed, praising the group who he says sang “with heartfelt feeling and elegant sweep.”