Music review: The Sixteen
Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: The Sixteen at Usher Hall, reviewed by Carol Main
The Sixteen have grown these days to be rather more than that number, maxing out at 40 last night for Tallis’s monumental motet Spem in Alium. For the most part, they were a flexible group of around 30 singers in a sublimely crafted programme of old and new unaccompanied choral music that filled the Usher Hall’s acoustic well.
Beautifully balanced and blended whether turning to Tallis’s 16th-century psalm settings or the more recent scores of James MacMillan, the group, founded by conductor Harry Christophers, was on breathtaking form, especially in the latter composer’s Miserere, a stunningly effective setting of Psalm 50, Have Mercy on Me, God. With sopranos sounding like choirs of angels in the plainchant sections and solo voices emerging effortlessly from within the ensemble, there was a deep sense of the everlasting significance of the ancient text, and not without resonances of Scotland too.
Hearing MacMillan’s O Bone Jesu alongside Scottish Renaissance composer Robert Carver’s 19-part setting of the same words made for a compelling experience, while the combined 40 voices of Spem in Alium were shot through with luminosity.
Originally published in The Scotsman