The Sixteen’s choir and period-instrument orchestra stand today among the world’s greatest ensembles, peerless interpreters of Renaissance, Baroque and modern choral music, acclaimed worldwide for performances delivered with precision, power and passion. The Sixteen arose from its Founder and Conductor Harry Christophers’ formative experience as cathedral chorister and choral scholar. His enterprise, launched in 1979, built on the best of the British choral tradition while setting new standards of virtuosity and musicianship. The Sixteen’s professional female and male voices create a distinctive sound of great warmth and clarity. Although refined over four decades, that sound has remained remarkably consistent, always responsive to the emotional content of words and music, ever alert to subtle nuances of colour and shading.
Perhaps the most significant ongoing collaboration with The Sixteen has been the formation of Genesis Sixteen in 2011, a young artists’ scheme, delivered at no charge to participants, which aims to nurture the next generation of talented choral singers and create a bridge from conservatories/universities into the singing profession. Participants, who now total over 200 singers, receive group tuition, individual mentoring and masterclasses run by some of the industry’s top vocal experts. Central to each of the four annual courses is the development of vocal ability, musicianship and team ethics, but also guidance in how to become a successful freelance musician and how to maintain good vocal health. Alumni of this programme, the first of its kind in the UK, have gone on both to take an entrepreneurial approach by establishing their own vocal ensembles and to perform with professional groups, including The Sixteen itself. Since 2006 The Sixteen has performed (and recorded) more than 20 new religious choral works commissioned by the Genesis Foundation from a total of 14 composers; four new commissions were premiered in 2018.
Genesis Foundation Commissions for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen
Symphony No.5: Le grand Inconnu (2019)
Symphony No.5: ‘Le grand Inconnu’ (The Great Unknown) is a major new choral symphony commissioned by the Genesis Foundation contemplating the mysteries of the Holy Spirit.
O virgo prudentissima (2018)
Sir James MacMillan’s O Virgo Prudentissima, based on a tiny fragment from the Eton Choirbook by Robert Wylkynson, was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for the Eton Choirbook and its Legacy of Sacred Music. The programme featured four new commissions based on the iconic music manuscript, the Eton Choirbook, by MacMillan, Phillip Cooke, Marco Galvani and Joseph Phibbs. On 22 May, these works received their premieres at Eton College Chapel.
Stabat mater (2016)
The Genesis Foundation commissioned Sir James MacMillan to compose a new Stabat mater for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, which received its world premiere with Britten Sinfonia at the Barbican Centre, London on 15 October 2016. On 22 April 2018, the work was performed in the Sistine Chapel. It was the first time a concert had ever been live-streamed from the Sistine Chapel and it reached millions of people around the world.
Padre Pio (2008)
The Genesis Foundation’s association with Sir James MacMillan dates back to 2008 when he was commissioned by the Foundation, along with Roxanna Panufnik and Will Todd, to compose musical settings to Padre Pio’s Stay with Me Lord.
Angus McPhee – Panem Nostrum…Ave Maria (2019)
Angus McPhee’s Panem Nostrum… Ave Maria was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for a concert (on 27 February 2019) at the Royal Academy of Arts with Eamonn Dougan and The Sixteen inspired by Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life, Death, Rebirth, which paired installations by pioneering video artist Bill Viola with rarely-seen drawings by Michelangelo.
Phillip Cooke – Ave Maria, mater Dei (2018)
Phillip Cooke’s Ave Maria, mater Dei, a response to William Cornysh’s setting of the same text that moves between a main SATB choir and off-stage trebles, was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for The Eton Choirbook and its Legacy of Sacred Music.
Marco Galvani – Stella caeli (2018)
Marco Galvani’s Stella Caeli, a motet for unaccompanied SATB Choir responding to Walter Lambe’s setting of the same anonymous text, was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for The Eton Choirbook and its Legacy of Sacred Music.
Joseph Phibbs – Nesciens Mater (2018)
Joseph Phibbs’ Nesciens mater, written as a companion piece to the celebrated work of the same name by Walter Lambe, was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for The Eton Choirbook and its Legacy of Sacred Music.
Stephen Hough – Hallowed (2018)
Hallowed was the focal point of a concert designed to complement the British Museum’s Living with gods exhibition, supported by John Studzinski and the Genesis Foundation.
Will Todd – Whisper Him My Name (2016)
Whisper Him My Name was commissioned for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen by the Genesis Foundation to celebrate the 60th birthday of its founder and chairman, John Studzinski CBE, in 2016.
Alissa Firsova – Stabat mater (2014)
Alissa Firsova’s Stabat mater was premiered by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers at two separate concerts on 4 June 2014. The work forms part of the Genesis Foundation’s Stabat Mater 2014: Spirit, Strength and Sorrow project where The Sixteen and Harry Christophers performed the world premieres of three new Stabat Maters by Alissa Firsova, Tõnu Kõrvits and Matthew Martin.
Tõnu Kõrvits – Stabat mater (2014)
Tõnu Kõrvits’ Stabat mater was premiered by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers at two separate concerts on 4 June 2014. The work forms part of the Genesis Foundation’s Stabat Mater 2014: Spirit, Strength and Sorrow project.
Matthew Martin – Stabat mater (2014)
Matthew Martin’s Stabat mater was premiered by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers at two separate concerts on 4 June 2014. The work forms part of the Genesis Foundation’s Stabat Mater 2014: Spirit, Strength and Sorrow project.
Ruth Byrchmore – The Dark Night (2011)
‘The Dark Night’ was commissioned for the release of O Guiding Night in May 2011, a CD composed of six new choral works from three of Britain’s most exciting contemporary composers: Ruth Byrchmore, Tarik O’Regan and Roderick Williams.
Ruth Byrchmore – Prayer of St. Teresa of Ávila (2011)
‘Prayer of St. Teresa of Ávila’ was commissioned for the release of O Guiding Night in May 2011.
Tarik O’Regan – fleeting, God (2011)
‘fleeting, God’ was commissioned for the release of O Guiding Night in May 2011.
Roderick Williams – O Guiding Night (2011)
‘Beloved, all things ceased’ was commissioned for the release of O Guiding Night in May 2011.
Roderick Williams – Let nothing trouble you (2011)
‘Let nothing trouble you’ was commissioned for the release of O Guiding Night in May 2011.
Roxanna Panufnik – Stay with me Lord (2008)
Roxanna Panufnik was one of the composers to set the Saint Pio Prayer, Stay with me Lord, premiered by The Sixteen at Westminster Cathedral on 3 June 2008. This piece, along with settings by James MacMillan and Will Todd, was recorded and released on a disc entitled, Padre Pio Prayer.
Will Todd – Stay with me Lord (2008)
Will Todd was one of the composers to set the Saint Pio Prayer, Stay with me Lord, premiered by The Sixteen at Westminster Cathedral on 3 June 2008. This piece, along with settings by James MacMillan and Roxanna Panufnik, was recorded and released on a disc entitled, Padre Pio Prayer.
Will Todd – Among Angels (2006)
Will Todd’s Among Angels (with librettist Ben Dunwell) was premiered in front of an invited audience in St Wolfgang, Austria, on Sunday, 19 March 2006 and performed by The Sixteen under their founder and conductor, Harry Christophers at the 50th birthday celebrations of Genesis Founder and Chairman, John Studzinski.
Roxanna Panufnik – Westminster Mass (1998)
John Studzinski commissioned Roxanna Panufnik’s Westminster Mass for Cardinal Hume’s 75th birthday, anticipating the formation of the Genesis Foundation.