News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

Deceptive Cadence

A Choral Christmas With Stile Antico


Stile Antico in rehearsal at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, Mass.
Tom Huizenga, NPR

Stile Antico in rehearsal at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, Mass.

Stile Antico is a 13-member a cappella choir based in London. These young, fresh-faced singers have already racked up some impressive awards for their recordings — mainly of intricately woven music from the Renaissance.

And that's just what the group has in store for us in this concert at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge, Mass. — hand-picked sacred music for the Christmas season from the English Tudor era, by such 16th century composers as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd.

Stile Antico loves the luminous sound of complex vocal lines, and in a resonant space like St. Paul's, soprano Helen Ashby says it's especially glorious.

"It's actually a really lovely acoustic for this kind of music," Ashby says, "because it's a church which is designed for this sort of music. You can hear all the different parts, and it also has a big bloom around the sound which helps blend it all together."

There was a full house for this concert — the choir's U.S. debut — at the beautiful St. Paul's Church in Harvard Square. The Italian Romanesque-style building has bold and sweet acoustics, and voices reverberate off the shimmering yellow marble on the front altar.

Support comes from

It's fascinating to watch these young singers. They work without a conductor, so they watch each other closely, giving cues just with body language. When they stand in a semi-circle to sing, their voices take flight.


  • William Byrd: Rorate cæli
  • Thomas Tallis: Videte miraculum
  • William Byrd: Tollite portas
  • Thomas Tallis: Agnus Dei, Sanctus and Bendictus (from Missa Puer natus est)
  • John Sheppard: Verbum caro
  • Tomás Luis de Victoria: O Magnum mysterium

Originally recorded in 2009.

Copyright 2017 WGBH Radio. To see more, visit WGBH Radio.

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.