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The Choral Pilgrimage 2017 The Olive Branch Music by Palestrina and Poulenc


© Marco Borggreve

Welcome to our 17th Choral Pilgrimage Harry Christophers CBE Founder and Conductor, The Sixteen

For the Choral Pilgrimage 2017, I will be exploring the legacy of two composers, whose work, for me, represents the very pinnacle of sacred music – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Francis Poulenc. Both honest composers, they never try to appear other than they are. Palestrina is the master craftsman whose work composers from all ages have attempted to emulate, while Poulenc’s music always bears a human face and he himself felt he put his best and most authentic side into his choral writing.

sacred music? Palestrina spent his whole life in the service of the church and in his preface to his Song of Songs, which he dedicated to Pope Gregory XIII, he apologised, and indeed ‘blushed and grieved’, for possessing light and vain ideas in the past! Francis Poulenc was born and bred a Catholic but lapsed during and after World War I, preferring to live a witty hedonistic life in 1920’s Paris where he took great delight in tweaking the noses of moribund establishments. Poulenc ironically enjoyed huge popular success, and never really looked back until he received the devastating news in 1936 of the death in a horrendous car crash of a friend and colleague, PierreOctave Ferroud. He sought solace in a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of the Vierge Noire at Rocamadour, and as a result he regained his faith. With his renewed faith, Poulenc composed sacred music of unique quality that for me makes him stand out among more recent composers. The French musicologist and critic Claude Rostand once said of him ‘In Poulenc there is something of the monk and something of the rascal.’ I rather like that, and it comes across in his music especially in the way he sets his liturgical texts. Every sentence has a different inflection, a personal stamp – he’s telling us ‘this is what these words mean to me’.

Palestrina’s legacy and impact on sacred music worldwide is second to none. Composers through the centuries have studied and learnt from his gift for writing exquisite polyphony. Palestrina penned over 100 masses, and I have chosen some of the movements from his mass based around the famous L’homme Armé tune. This song was immensely popular in the 15th century and its warlike nature serves as a timely reminder of the savagery of conflict, something which Poulenc was deeply affected by. Poulenc’s Un soir de neige, composed in December 1944, reflects ‘both the inner feeling of peace generated by Christmas and the bleak solitude of another winter of occupation in France’. The texts by Paul Éluard, though secular, nevertheless possess a sacred tone. A parallel can be drawn with Palestrina’s settings of the Song of Songs. Originally Hebrew love poetry, written down possibly 300 years or so before the birth of Christ, these are texts which in Renaissance times were used in praise of the Virgin Mary, and were often considered too sensual and erotic to be read.

Poulenc and Palestrina lived more than three centuries apart, and their musical language is completely different. Yet they share a perspective on sacred music that is both intensely personal but also immediate in its expression.

But how important is a composer’s personal faith, when they are writing


The Olive Branch

The Sixteen Harry Christophers conductor Eamonn Dougan associate conductor (for selected performances)

Concert programme Poulenc Salve Regina Palestrina ‘Surge amica mea’ and ‘Surgam et circuibo civitatem’ from Song of Songs Palestrina Parce mihi, Domine Poulenc Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence Palestrina Peccantem me quotidie Palestrina ‘Kyrie’, ‘Gloria’ and ‘Credo’ from Missa L’Homme Armé Poulenc Un soir de neige Palestrina Salve Regina Poulenc ‘Agnus Dei’ from Mass in G major

COR16149 Released 27 January 2017


All of the music from the Choral Pilgrimage 2017 can be heard on the above CDs which can be purchased at all Choral Pilgrimage concerts and from our website.

Join us online


Tour Dates and Locations March Thursday 16 8pm St John’s College Chapel, Cambridge Friday 17 7.30pm Winchester Cathedral Conducted by Eamonn Dougan Saturday 18 8pm Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford April Thursday 13 7.30pm Kings Place, London Exclusive Box Office: 020 7520 1490 May Wednesday 10 7.30pm Friday 12 7.30pm Wednesday 24 7.30pm Thursday 25 7.30pm Friday 26 7.30pm

Old Royal Naval College Chapel, Greenwich Douai Abbey, Newbury Exclusive Box Office: 0845 5218218 (on sale 28 February 2017) Llandaff Cathedral Exeter Cathedral Truro Cathedral

June Thursday 15 7.30pm Croydon Minster Conducted by Eamonn Dougan Friday 16 7.30pm The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester Exclusive Box Office: 0161 907 9000 (tickets on sale) Saturday 17 7.30pm Carlisle Cathedral Wednesday 21 7.30pm All Saints Church, Northampton July Tuesday 11 7.30pm York Minster Wednesday 12 7.30pm Lancaster Priory Thursday 13 7.30pm Lichfield Cathedral Exclusive Box Office: 01543 412121 (on sale April 2017) September Wednesday 6 7.30pm St James’ Church, Spanish Place, London 4

Friday 8 7.30pm Saturday 9 7.30pm Tuesday 19 7.30pm Thursday 21 7.30pm Friday 22 7.30pm Saturday 23 7.30pm Saturday 30 7.30pm

Wells Cathedral Local Box Office also available: 01749 762772 Tewkesbury Cathedral Rochester Cathedral Southwell Minster Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral Blackburn Cathedral Conducted by Eamonn Dougan St Albans Cathedral Local Box Office also available: 01727 890290

October Thursday 19 Friday 20 Saturday 21 Thursday 26 Friday 27 Saturday 28

Sheffield Anglican Cathedral Durham Cathedral Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh Holy Trinity Church, Hull Coventry Cathedral Peterborough Cathedral

7.30pm 7.30pm 7.30pm 7.30pm 7.30pm 7.30pm

November Saturday 25 7.30pm Chelmsford Cathedral Exclusive Box Office: Ticketsource 0333 666 3366 (on sale 1 February 2017) Key: Pre-concert talk Reserved seating (excluding side aisles) Concert not promoted by The Sixteen Doors generally open 30 minutes before the concert start time, or 30 minutes before a pre-concert talk (may vary for concerts not promoted by The Sixteen).

Book now Tickets are now on sale for all Choral Pilgrimage 2017 concerts (exceptions are marked in the listings above). Tickets can be booked through our National Box Office at or on 01904 651485. Please note that there will be no local box office service for the majority of Choral Pilgrimage 2017concerts (exceptions are marked in the listings above). Concerts with an exclusive box office are also marked in the listings above. 5

Delve Deeper… Choral Workshops

York Insight Day

Our popular choral workshops are a rare and rewarding opportunity for keen amateur singers to explore a selection of the music from our 17th Choral Pilgrimage programme, under the expert guidance of Associate Conductor, Eamonn Dougan, and singer and practical scholar, Sally Dunkley. The workshops include advice on vocal technique, as well as performance interpretation and historical context.

Tuesday 11 July Whether you are new to the Choral Pilgrimage repertoire or want to expand your existing knowledge, our Insight Day provides a fascinating exploration into the stories behind the music. • Join Sally Dunkley and musicologist John Milsom for talks, debate and discussion. • Discover the rich history behind the Choral Pilgrimage repertoire. • Experience at close-hand, intimate performances from a consort of Sixteen singers. Tickets cost £25 (including refreshments and a light lunch) or £20 if booked with a Choral Pilgrimage concert promoted by The Sixteen. Tickets can be booked through the National Box Office on 01904 651485.

Dates and locations Saturday 18 March Saturday 27 May Saturday 10 June Sunday 3 September Saturday 9 September Saturday 23 September Saturday 30 September Saturday 14 October Saturday 21 October Saturday 25 November

Oxford* Truro London London Tewkesbury Blackburn St Albans* Hull Edinburgh Chelmsford

Pre-concert Talks Many concerts include a free preconcert talk with Harry Christophers and a member of The Sixteen. These last for approximately 15 minutes and explore the context and performance practice of the repertoire. Concerts offering these talks are marked in the diary listings.

*Conducted by James Burton

Book now Workshop tickets are £25 – £30 which includes sheet music and refreshments. Concessions are available for under 18s, jobseekers and students. Workshop bookers are entitled to a £5 discount for any Choral Pilgrimage concert promoted by The Sixteen (workshop place must be booked first). Book online at or by phone on 020 7936 3420


Booking Information Concessions

With grateful thanks to all our supporters and sponsors.

A 50% discount is available for the following groups: • Registered disabled (plus one companion) • Those aged 18 and under • Jobseekers (proof of eligibility will be required on the door) • Students (proof of eligibility will be required on the door) A 10% discount is available for groups of 10 or more.

Dunard Fund

All discounts are subject to availability and only one discount can be applied per transaction. Concession rates for concerts not promoted by The Sixteen may vary.

Exchanges and refunds Tickets for concerts and choral workshops cannot be exchanged or refunded except in the event of a cancellation.

The John Coates Charitable Foundation

The National Centre for Early Music acts as an agent for The Sixteen. Third party contact information (postal and email addresses) recorded by the NCEM is passed on to The Sixteen for use in future mailings. If you do not wish this information to be passed on please say when booking.

Michael Watt

The Sixteen Ltd.

Registered in England No. 1930741 at Quadrant House, 10 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1AU. General enquiries: 020 7936 3420. Email: Registered Charity No. 326917 All information is correct at the time of going to press.


11907-CLASS The Sixteen Partner Ad 148x210mm.indd 1

24/11/2016 16:08

8 page tour leaflet high res  

The Sixteen's 2017 Choral Pilgrimage tour features the music of Palestrina and Poulenc.