Now in its 35th year, The Sixteen, under the baton of founder and conductor Harry Christophers CBE, is recognised as one of the world’s greatest ensembles. It has a special reputation for performing early English polyphony and masterpieces of the Renaissance, and it offers fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music alongside 20th- and 21st-century music.
Known as ‘The Voices of Classic FM’, The Sixteen promotes The Choral Pilgrimage, an annual tour of the UK’s finest cathedrals, which aims to bring music back to the buildings for which it was written. It has given regular performances at major concert halls and festivals around the world. Over 100 recordings reflect the group’s quality in a range of work spanning 500 years, and it has won many awards, including the coveted Gramophone Award for Early Music and the prestigious Classical Brit Award. In 2009 The Sixteen was given the accolade of the Classic FM Gramophone Artist of the Year.
Since 2001 The Sixteen has been building its own record label, CORO, which released its 117th title in autumn 2013. In 2011 the group launched Genesis Sixteen, a new training programme for young singers. Aimed at 18- to 23-year-olds, this is the UK’s first fully-funded choral programme for young singers designed specifically to bridge the gap from student to professional practitioner.
For 50 years, the Swingle Singers have set a standard for what the human voice can achieve and their signature blend of vocal agility and captivating showmanship has thrilled generations of fans worldwide. In 1963, American-born Ward Swingle assembled a group of Parisian session singers to sing Bach’s keyboard music. The resulting album, Jazz Sebastian Bach, launched the Swingle Singers to fame. The seven extraordinary voices that make up today’s young, London-based Swingle Singers share the original group’s innovative spirit. Their repertoire spans pop, classical, folk, Latin and jazz music, and powerful original songs.
The Swingle Singers’ recorded output – encompassing more than 50 releases – has won them five Grammy Awards and spots on the soundtracks of Sex and the City and Glee. 2014 sees the release of their ‘Swingle50’ anniversary album, which marks a new direction for the group, featuring bold original songs alongside breathtaking reinventions of Bach, Debussy, Billie Holiday and Mumford & Sons to create the Swingle sound anew for their next half-century.
The Swingle Singers present their own London A Cappella Festival at Kings Place each January. The festival is the first of its kind in the capital, welcoming the finest international talent from the a cappella world. Through the festival, their education work and numerous TV and radio appearances, they are passionate ambassadors for their craft.
As a young boy, Neil Cowley studied at London’s Royal Academy, where his prodigious talent saw him performing a Shostakovich piano concerto at the age of 10. As a teenager, he turned his back on his classical career, entering the world of old school R&B, soul and funk, and by the age of 17 had begun to work with some of the most successful bands of the day.
In 2005 Cowley returned to his first love, the piano, and formed the Neil Cowley Trio. Creating dynamic, thrilling music, their jazz-meets-rock ethic placed them at the forefront of a new British post-jazz movement, turning the concept of the jazz piano trio on its head. To date, the Trio has released four studio albums and won many awards, including the 2007 BBC Jazz Award for Best Album and the 2013 Jazz FM award for Best UK Jazz Act. Its fifth studio release, ‘Touch and Flee’, was released in June 2014, cementing Cowley’s credentials as a brilliant, dazzling composer.
Aside from his Trio recordings, Cowley has become the go-to pianist of many soul and pop acts, most notably Adele for her global chart topper, 21. Cowley was awarded the position of Musician in Residence in Derry-Londonderry for the 2013 UK City of Culture.
The International Summer Academy ‘Utopia & Reality’ is a project established in 2011 by two conductors, Ragnar Rasmussen from Norway and Urša Lah from Slovenia. They have brought together talented young singers from different countries to perform contemporary choral music. The aim of the project is to perform at a high artistic level and to explore different ways of affecting audiences. Encouraged by their excellent singing companions, every young singer rapidly improves their singing ability, grows in the role of performer and develops an understanding of different nations through their singing traditions.
The project is aptly named ‘Utopia & Reality’: two very diverse ideas become interdependent through creative activity and through the human desire to change.
Is it utopia or reality to bring together talented young singers from different singing traditions and get them to sing advanced contemporary music at a high artistic level in just a few days? Is it utopia or reality to expect young people in today’s world to pay for their journey to become part of a project during which they will rehearse tirelessly? Is it utopia or reality to hope that these young ambassadors of their countries might teach their politicians to invest in culture in order to make our world a better place?
Under the guidance of Dónal Doherty, Codetta is an internationally acclaimed chamber choir based in Derry. Its members live and work throughout Ireland and the UK, and return home for intensive weekend rehearsals each month. Codetta has given many concerts locally and across Europe. It has successfully competed in a range of international choral festivals, including the Cork and Montreux Choral Festivals, and it reached the final of the Grand Prix in Maribor, Slovenia in 2008.
2013 was a particularly exciting year for the group, with many notable performances both at home and abroad. These included two Prom concerts in London’s Royal Albert Hall, with Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Vasily Petrenko and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and the premiere of ‘City Songs’ with Imogen Heap at the Voices Now Festival in the Roundhouse, Camden. Other City of Culture highlights included the opening Sons & Daughters concert, Verdi’s Requiem with the Ulster Orchestra, and a performance with Barry Douglas and his orchestra, Camerata Ireland, of a new cantata by Mark-Anthony Turnage, ‘At Sixes and Sevens’, marking the 400th anniversary of Derry’s Walls.
In April 2014 Codetta travelled to Cuenca, Spain, where it gave two concerts as part of the prestigious Sacred Music Festival, including a performance of Feldman’s Rothko Chapel and the world premiere of ‘La vaca traslúcida’ by Klaus Lang, as well as a further collaboration with Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland on Beethoven’s Christ on the Mount of Olives, which was broadcast live on Spanish radio.
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