Review: The Sixteen @ Saint David’s Hall
It’s that time of year where we give into all things Christmas (I may put up a front, but I always give in as we get closer to the holidays). For me it was getting into the spirit of attending a concert of The Sixteen, a choir with much kudos today. Not only have they achieved a status as one of the best choirs in the British Isles, but perhaps even the world.
Their main programme of music for the concert was expectedly ancient pieces for solo voices. A vast quantity of sacred choral music exists, but it seems they would never run out of music to perform.
Granted, this was the first performance my mother had joined me for, since I started with TheSprout. I wanted to treat her to an evening of blissful serenity, something I was more than happy to supply. With her car off the road, my mother was bold enough to get the train to the concert, something she should do more often.
It was during the performance that she turned to me and said, "Is there any orchestra coming on?" I explained to her that it was purely just a choir, to which she pulled a face. Later on she confessed to me it was shock as I had taken her to so many operas and concerts. My mother also wondered why the conductor had a little harmonica on stage. Through my so-so knowledge of musical performance, I explained to my mum it was to tune the singers, but it did look a bit silly every time he whipped it out of his suit jacket. I myself gelled into the purity of just the voices. Their clarity remains phenomenal and the simplicity of their sounds is forgettably hard in the stamina of the writing.
It had been a long time since I had seen Saint David’s Hall so busy. The atmosphere was just right, although more people means more coughing! This is an issue that I could easily go on to discuss in another article (give me time and I will) but some people just don’t know the meaning of taking a bottle of water and some throat sweets. It would save so much hassle.
I noticed that there were eighteen as opposed to the listed sixteen singers, which seems to defeat the object of it being named just that. It was the conductor Harry Christophers who had originally gathered a group of singers together, who continually has the singers in a cycle of replacement (I had hoped local singer Elin Manahan Thomas would be playing, as she was part of the original set and was not present). Humbled, he made sure every time there was applause that he would move out of the way so the singers themselves could be in full view so as to not take the attention away from them.
We were even treated to three encores. I do wish encores would be listed in the program. I have seen many musicians give an encore without any hint as to what the piece is. The first one I had no idea who it was by, the second was accompanied by two tambourines, the only instruments used in the performance. The last encore was Ding Dong Merrily On High, a carol everyone reacted to with great familiarity and delight.
So many concerts this time of year have decorations on the stage. Even just a set of two candles around the choir would have added a warmth and grace to the evening. But for them, it must look stylish and certainly not tacky. It was through this that the stage looked quite bare.
This sort of music is undoubtedly very relaxing but I would not say it's my favourite type in the classical canon. I say classical when I know I shouldn’t since that only refers to a very specific time and place in music and art (generally speaking 1750 to 1810). It could be said that the music is so beautiful that it is agony. Indeed, what do you listen to after hearing this? What should you listen to after hearing this? There is nothing to compare