Stile Antico's Minnesota Debut

by Sam Kjellberg
April 11, 2013

Listen Stile Antico discusses polyphonic music and their tour program Listen Stile Antico discusses their new commission and their process

In 2010, the UK magazine Gramaphone organized an international panel of judges to rank and decide the top 20 choirs in the world. It came as no surprise to me that the 12-voice English vocal ensemble Stile Antico, a relatively new and young choir on the scene, was among the ranks—number 18 to be exact. It also did not come as a shock to me that 12 of the 20 choirs were from the UK. As in other English choirs, each musician of Stile Antico offers their own history to the nearly 1,000 year old tradition that is English choral singing.

We Minnesotans certainly know choral music and have our own, very strong tradition. We also recognize the English sound and hold it in high regard. Precise and unified vowels, a clear but not "white" tone, crystalline expression, crispness of the individual line and vertical sonority, and of course...the blend! Stile Antico has these characteristics in spades. But they offer another unique quality—they work without a conductor.

Founded on the principles of equality (the ensemble consist of 6 women and 6 men), this conductor-less ensemble comes from a deep sense of humility, democracy, and servitude to the music, something more impressive than their world ranking. They believe the democratic way they work offers each musician the responsibility to be attentive and offer ownership to the entire music-making process. The voice follows what they believe, offering a liberated sound that is truly unparalleled!

Stile Antico is making their Minnesota debut this Thursday, April 11 at the Basilica of Saint Mary. Don't you think we should welcome this fine ensemble with a warm, open embrace? Let's give them our great Minnesota hospitality and show them an appreciation from the "choral epicenter of the United States." Really, you cannot miss this event! Tickets can be purchased from The Rose Ensemble's website, as they are the host and presenter for this concert.

Some fun tour gossip: three members of the ensemble are sisters (the Ashby sisters), including twins that are both sopranos. One of the sisters is too far along in her pregnancy to attend this tour, so they called upon a trusted soprano to take her place. Also, Stile Antico recently appointed a new bass who received his offer on the way to airport when leaving for this tour. He has been a member for maybe a week now!

Also, keep on the lookout for their new album being released sometime this summer, The Phoenix Rising, which will pay homage to the centenary of the Carnegie UK Trust, whose work and funding by Andrew Carnegie helped unearth and publish many important pieces of the Tudor church music tradition. It could be argued that his effort is the reason ensembles like Stile Antico are performing music of the Tudor tradition.