With a reputation forged under Professor William Brooks, The 24 is now conducted by Robert Hollingworth, founder/director of I Fagiolini, one of the UK’s top professional vocal groups.
This year three a capella programmes bring together 16th/17th century repertoire with more recent music and commissions.
‘L’homme armé’ is a 15th century tune whose characterful melody was used by many of the Renaissance’s greatest composers as a device around which to write mass settings. This concert is a rare opportunity to hear movements from these by the greats of the 15th as well as the 16th century - and to realise how vigorous as well as modern-sounding some of them are. As a total contrast, a fantastically imaginative creation by the Norwegian composer Per Nørgård, who combines texts by the Swiss poet/artist Adolfph Wölfli (written in a mental asylum c.1920) with recordings of birdsong which gradually decrease in speed to allow the singers to try to copy them.
Shortly after Ash Wednesday, two great settings of the Lenten psalm, ‘Miserere mei’ (Have mercy on me) by the Tudor composer Robert White, and James MacMillan. The concert then features other double-settings by an early and a later composer including Roderick Williams’ haunting hommage to Byrd’s Ave verum and Penderecki’s powerful and beautifully-crafted ‘Veni creator’. The concert finishes with Tomkins’ famous setting of ‘When David heard’ (at the implied low pitch) and Eric Whitacre’s demanding but devastating setting of the same words.
‘It’s love, Jim, but not as we know it.’ Unconventional love poetry from e.e.cummings, Blake and the Song of Songs in ravishing and surprising settings. Mundy’s great work is one of the great unsung works of the Tudor period with a slow build to its final climax. Mark Edgley Smith’s symmetrical cycle is by turns moving and comic. Bo Holten builds the sick rose’s decay into his three-choir work while Rodrigues’ ‘Eres’ is a soft minimalist setting of a beautiful Portuguese poem.
The 24 recently completed their fourth tour of China – find out all about it here.