The Sixteen Harry Christophers CBE conductor Britten Hymn to the Virgin Cornysh My love she mourneth Britten Hymn to Saint Cecilia Cornysh Salve Regina Britten Advance Democracy Cornysh Ave Maria, Mater Dei Cornysh Woefully array’d Cornysh Ah Robin, gentle Robin Britten Sacred and Profane The Sixteen’s annual Choral Pilgrimage returns in 2018 to explore the sacred and secular music of William Cornysh and Benjamin Britten. William Cornysh and Benjamin Britten were prolific in both sacred and secular music. Cornysh is actually two people, often confused with one another and quite possibly father and son. Both originated in Westminster, the Elder died in 1502 and the Younger in 1523, of whom much more is known. The matter of telling which man wrote which works is impossible to settle, therefore for the purpose of this programme the two composers are linked as one. Whether it be the Elder or the Younger, fortunately they not only excelled at writing complex and adventurous antiphons for the church but also beautiful secular songs for the Tudor court. For Britten writing in the 20th-century life was very different; he is a composer who encompassed so many facets of music excelling in opera, solo song and all manners of vocal and instrumental music. This programme looks at the way these two composers mixed sacred with secular. Whilst Cornysh’s sacred music is elaborate and rhythmically complicated, his secular music is simple yet subtly evocative. Britten makes constant demands on vocal artistry, best displayed in the last work he ever wrote for unaccompanied voices, Sacred and Profane, composed in the winter of 1974-5. Britten chose his texts with great care and devotion: these are mediaeval lyrics and give a fascinating mixture of the devotional and the rumbustiously secular. The final song A death is a wicked blend of horror and gallows humour far removed from the melancholic canon Ah Robin by Cornysh.

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