An eclectic and inspirational range of seasonal pieces

Chris Gebbie, Kirsty Hopkins (Soprano), Veronica and Harry Christophers and Kathy Gore. Picture by Roger Bloxham
Chris Gebbie, Kirsty Hopkins (Soprano), Veronica and Harry Christophers and Kathy Gore. Picture by Roger Bloxham

Harry Christophers’ The Sixteen, Glyndebourne, Sunday, December 14

Harry Christophers’ The Sixteen – arguably the UK’s top chorale – visited Glyndebourne – arguably the UK’s finest opera house – on Sunday (December 14) to deliver a concert that delivered goodwill to all men.

The Sixteen performed an eclectic and inspirational range of seasonal music, A Christmas Carol, at Glyndebourne in aid of Friends of Sussex Hospices, (FSH.) This uplifting concert raised a total of more than £57,000.

FSH chair Kathy Gore thanked ‘our superb sponsors’ whose support guaranteed organisational costs and overheads were amply covered, thus ensuring every penny of the proceeds go to support the work of the 12 hospices in East and West Sussex.

She also paid tribute to Mr and Mrs Gus Christie and all the staff at Glyndebourne, Harry Christophers CBE and The Sixteen, Glyndebourne Youth Opera and the team of Leiths – in fact everyone who came together to make the concert happen.

The concert itself blended familiar carols with sacred works by Morten Lauridsen, Palestrina and Gardner, all sung without accompaniment on a stage bare of all decoration save two illuminated Christmas trees.

The Sixteen are the ‘voices’ of radio station Classic FM and specialise in music ranging from early English polyphony to relatively unknown later glories of the 20th and 21st centuries such as Lauridsen and Whitacre.

Their interweaved voices alight on top of notes with crystal clarity to blend in harmony or unify in glorious plainsong. The wonderful scale of the Glyndebourne opera house provided an acoustic similar to that of the great English cathedrals for which much of the music was written.

The concert was exceptionally moving when the choir sang Holst’s interpretation of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ and both the familiar (Vaughan Williams) and little known (Walford Davies) adaptations of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’.

But we were all stirred (and a little shaken) when asked to rise to our feet for four audience carols towards the end of the concert. Members of a local church choir must have bought tickets en masse as they rendered full descants from a spot just to the west of my left ear – giving the rest of us confidence to launch into a full-throated finale of ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’.

When my son was little he used to say there were two sorts of time; the sort when you are doing exams and the sort when you are on holiday. Holiday time won hands down on Sunday night with a fabulous, heart-stopping and emotionally engaging opener to the Christmas season.