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09 November 2019 7:30pm

Few living composers communicate with the emotional directness of James MacMillan. The preeminent Scottish composer of our time draws upon his Celtic heritage and Catholic faith for revelatory choral works that tap into our universal humanity. MacMillan's Stabat Mater for choir and string orchestra is a gripping masterpiece evoking a mother's anguish. For the composer, 'beauty is at the heart of our Christian faith' and his new Stabat Mater is sure to be profoundly shaped by his beliefs. But this is a work with deep roots and a universal message; a celebration both of tradition and of radical renewal.

'MacMillan's Stabat Mater is a masterpiece of choral invention.' - Scotsman

MacMillan's Stabat Mater was first performed at the Barbican in 2016 with Britten Sinfonia and The Sixteen, under the baton of Harry Christophers. They will present the US premiere of Stabat Mater in New York on 7 November before coming to perform the work in the imposing surroundings of Ely Cathedral.

'The Sixteen and Britten Sinfonia produced one of those performances during which you can hardly breathe for fear of missing a nuance of expression.' - The Times

Just over 25 years ago, Britten Sinfonia was established as a bold reimagining of the conventional image of an orchestra. A flexible ensemble comprising the UK's leading soloists and chamber musicians came together with a unique vision: to collapse the boundaries between old and new music, to collaborate with composers, conductors and guest artists across the arts, focussing on the musicians rather than following the vision of a principal conductor; and to create involving, intelligent music events that both audiences and performers experience with an unusual intensity.

The orchestra is named after Benjamin Britten, in part a homage to its chosen home of the East of England, where Britten's roots were also strong. But Britten Sinfonia also embodies its namesake's ethos. Its projects are illuminating and distinctive, characterised by their rich diversity of influences and artistic collaborators; and always underpinned by a commitment to uncompromising quality. Britten Sinfonia musicians are deeply rooted in the communities they work with, with an underlying philosophy of finding ways to reach even the most excluded individuals and groups.

Today Britten Sinfonia is heralded as one of the world's leading ensembles and its philosophy of adventure and reinvention has inspired a new movement of emerging chamber groups. It is an Associate Ensemble at London's Barbican, Resident Orchestra at Saffron Hall in Essex and has residencies in Norwich and Cambridge. It performs an annual chamber music series at London's Wigmore Hall and appears regularly at major UK festivals including the Aldeburgh, Brighton, the Norfolk and Norwich Festivals and the BBC Proms. Over the last year the orchestra has performed a live broadcast to more than a million people worldwide from the Sistine Chapel, toured to Amsterdam, Paris and Bilbao and in the 2019-20 season will be touring to the US, Mexico, China and much of Europe. It is a BBC Radio 3 Broadcast Partner and has award-winning recordings on the Hyperion and Harmonia Mundi labels.

The Sixteen group photo credit Molinavisuals

The Sixteen

Whether performing a simple medieval hymn or expressing the complex musical and emotional language of a contemporary choral composition, The Sixteen does so with qualities common to all great ensembles. Tonal warmth, rhythmic precision and immaculate intonation are clearly essential to the mix. But it is the courage and intensity with which The Sixteen makes music that speak above all to so many people.

The Sixteen gave its first concert in 1979 under the direction of Founder and Conductor Harry Christophers CBE. Over 140 recordings reflect The Sixteen's quality in a range of work spanning the music of 500 years, winning many awards including the coveted Gramophone Award for Early Music and the prestigious Classical Brit Award for Renaissance, which was recorded as part of the group's contract with Universal Classics and Jazz. In 2009 The Sixteen was given the accolade of the Classic FM Gramophone Artist of the Year as well as Best Baroque Vocal for its recording of Handel's Coronation Anthems.

Tickets £40, £25, £15 and £10

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