The Sixteen have established themselves as an elite ensemble in the world of choral music. Acclaimed for its interpretation of music from the Renaissance and the Baroque, the Sixteen have also ventured forward in time to the music of the 20th and 21st centuries. They've reached audiences across the globe through their performances, recordings, and outreach initiatives.
The Sixteen were founded in 1977 by Harry Christophers as a nameless choir, adopting the "Sixteen" name and giving their first billed concert in 1979. The ensemble's concept from its inception was to perform the music of the English polyphony through contemporary choral music. Christophers created a period-instrument ensemble for the Sixteen as well, dubbed at different times as the Orchestra of the Sixteen and the Symphony of Harmony & Invention; the ensemble is essential to the Sixteen's performance of the oratorios, odes, and operas of composers such as Handel, Monteverdi, and Purcell. The ensemble premiered Sir Harrison Birtwistle's opera Gawain at Covent Garden in 1991, and they've toured extensively, regularly performing throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Beginning in 2000, the Sixteen annually tours England with a concert series titled the "Choral Pilgrimage." In 2017, they embarked on their first tour of China. Since 2010, the ensemble have worked with the Genesis Foundation in the U.K., which has fostered a youth program, Genesis Sixteen. The foundation also commissioned a new work for the Sixteen, James MacMillan's Stabat Mater, which the ensemble premiered in 2016, and they've also been featured on the BBC series "Sacred Music."
The Sixteen have made recordings almost from the beginning of their existence, recording for Hyperion, Chandos, Virgin Classics, Collins Classics, and since 2001, their own label, Coro. The ensemble has won several awards, including the 1992 Gramophone Award for The Rose and the Ostrich Feather: Music from the Eton Choirbook, Vol. 1, as well as the Diapason d'Or and Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. In 2009, Classic FM named the Sixteen "Artist of the Year." In 2019, the Sixteen celebrated its 40th anniversary with 40, an album of highlights from the group's recordings, on Coro.