The London-based a cappella choir Stile Antico brings a program of Christmas music to Cambridge, Mass.
The London-based a cappella choir Stile Antico brings a program of Christmas music to Cambridge, Mass. Marco Borggreve
Stile Antico is a 13-member a cappella choir based in London. Most of these fresh-faced singers are still in their 20s, but they've already racked up some impressive awards for their recordings — mainly of intricately woven music from the Renaissance.
And that's just what the group has in store for us in this concert at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, Mass. — hand-picked sacred music for the Christmas season from the English Tudor era, by such 16th century composers as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd.
Stile Antico loves the luminous sound of intricately woven vocal lines, and in a resonant space like St. Paul's, soprano Helen Ashby says it's especially glorious.
"It's actually a really lovely acoustic for this kind of music," Ashby says, "because it's a church which is designed for this sort of music. You can hear all the different parts, and it also has a big bloom around the sound which helps blend it all together."
Stile Antico in rehearsal at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, Mass.
Stile Antico in rehearsal at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, Mass. Tom Huizenga/NPR
There was a full house for this concert at the beautiful old church in Harvard Square, at the heart of Harvard University. The 90-year-old building in the Italian Romanesque style has bold and sweet acoustics. Voices reverberate off the shimmering yellow Italian marble on the front altar. That's probably why Stile Antico is back again at St. Paul's — when they stand in a semi-circle to sing, their voices take flight.
It's fascinating to watch these young singers. They work without a conductor, so they watch each other closely, giving cues just with body language.
- William Byrd: Rorate cæli
- Thomas Tallis: Videte miraculum
- William Byrd: Tollite portas
- Thomas Tallis: Agnus Dei, Sanctus and Bendictus (from Missa Puer natus est)
- John Sheppard: Verbum caro
- Tomás Luis de Victoria: O Magnum mysterium