"The Deer's Cry" from The Sixteen

Feb 16, 2016

This new album from The Sixteen juxtaposes William Byrd's music with Arvo Pärt's to create a beautiful polyphonic wall of sound.

This is part of a series of WCRB blog posts that bring you a personal perspective on richly rewarding CD releases you may not encounter otherwise.

Any time I see an album that features choir music of Arvo Pärt, I get really excited. Pair that with Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, and I can't rip off the plastic covering fast enough.

British choral ensemble The Sixteen, led here by Harry Christophers (who also serves as Artistic Director for Boston's Handel and Haydn Society), are in perfect form on this album, which interweaves church music of the English Renaissance (Byrd and Tallis) with three pieces by modern Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. This music needs to be sung 'straight'- no (or minimal) vibrato, so that the voices blend well, and no one sticks out, and boy, does this choir deliver. There is a clarity and purity to their sound that many choirs strive for and fail to achieve.

The choral music of Byrd (1543-1623) and Pärt (born in 1935) is both lush and sparse at the same time. It's haunting, it's ethereal. It makes you want to turn out the lights, sit on the floor, crank the volume, and just let it wash all over you. But don't take my word for it - try out tracks 11 and 12.