I heard Stile Antico on 9/26/20 as part of the Live From London series produced by VOCES8. I’ve seen every concert in this series, and I nearly always watch it after the fact, rather than when it’s live. This time I happened to be home and available, so why not? And whadya know, Stile Antico was unable to be in London on that date, so they prerecorded their concert. Sometimes ya just can’t win!
Their program was titled *Treasures of the English Renaissance* and they certainly made a joyful noise. The first piece, “O Praise the Lord” by Thomas Tomkins, showed them off with a full-bodied, red-blooded, boisterous sound. A nice change of pace from a lot of the carefully manicured English choral music we’ve heard from previous groups in the series.
There are twelve members of the group, and since they perform without a conductor, they chose to sing in a circle. I could FEEL them listening to each other. But do you think it was a little off-putting for the audience...? Two other things I’ll say about the group: I think they’re the only group in the series to have an all-female also section. Every other group has had either all male altos or a mixture of male and female altos. And I recognized one of the basses of Stile Antico from the concert by The Sixteen from the previous week.
Here they are singing a Tiny Desk Concert on NPR in 2010. The first piece they do in this performance, "Vigilate" by William Byrd, was on the VOCES8 program:
It was a treat to hear them sing “O Clap Your Hands” by Orlando Gibbons - - I sang this piece with my college choir and I was surprised that I still knew the second tenor part (more or less), over thirty years later. “Gaude Maria Virgo” by Peter Phillips was sweet and reflective - - “Factum Est Silentium” by Richard Dering was downright raucous. “In ieiunio et fletu” by Thomas Tallis pared the group down to just five singers, an alto and five men, including two LOW basses. It was damn tasty, like dark chocolate. Here's a performance by Alamire:
“Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria” by John Sheppard was a highlight of the concert. They had the ecstatic, reverent sound that I love to hear in sacred Renaissance music. Or any music, for that matter. There were a few sections of chant embedded in the piece, sung in unison by the three tenors in the group. STUNNING. Clearly the three of them grew up singing chant, it was heavenly, shapely, effortless singing.
“O Praise the Lord” by Thomas Tomkins
“The Lord’s Prayer” by John Sheppard
“O Clap Your Hands” by Orlando Gibbons
“Gaude Maria Virgo” by Peter Phillips
“Factum Est Silentium” by Richard Dering
“In ieiunio et fletu” by Thomas Tallis
“Vigilate” by William Byrd
“Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria” by John Sheppard
“Never Weather Beat’n Sail” by Thomas Campion