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.
So begins Josquin’s famous motet comemorating the Virgin Birth, part of a programme celebrating a Renaissance ‘Four Seasons’ covering St Cecilia, St Andrew, Advent and Christmas. Byrd is in exuberant mood in ‘Lift up ye gates’ alongside the rich vocal satin of Spanish Renaissance music. After a sorbet of a medieval monody, arctic music from Bo Holten and Poulenc’s winter cantata before a lush original setting by Adrian Williams’ of familiar seasonal words.
Music on sombre themes but delivering rich music. Byrd’s nine-voice polyphonic psalm motet is set beside double-choir music from Phinot and Brahms while White and Gombert’s highly expressive textures create a dark world of their own. York MA student Ben Rowarth references words from a Tallis Lenten motet, Rore quotes Savonarola’s post-torture outpouring on psalm 51 while Poulenc’s apparently Lenten subject matter reflects the mood in Europe on the eve of World War II.
Donne, Fletcher, Spenser, Jonson, Marvell, Shakespeare and Raleigh: poets whose playful conceits in their metaphysical poetry inspired composers of a later age. Adrian Williams’ passionate cycle (written for I Fagiolini) includes John Donne’s ‘A Valediction of weeping’ and ‘The Flea’. Richard Rodney Bennett’s beautiful set includes sea monsters and words from The Tempest. King and Whitacre have re-set madrigal texts while Vaughan-Williams’ powerful setting intersperses a psalm text with words by Isaac Watts.