Festival Firsts: Introducing Siglo de Oro

This year we’re welcoming festival newcomers Siglo de Oro to our Winter Festival. We’ve caught up with Patrick Allies, their founder and director to find out more about the group and what to expect when they come to Spitalfields this December.

Patrick Allies with Siglo de Oro

Patrick Allies with Siglo de Oro

You’re coming to Spitalfields for the first time this December, who are Siglo de Oro?

Siglo de Oro is a small choir of about 14 singers that was formed by me and a group of friends when we were studying together at various colleges in London.

Where does the name Siglo de Oro come from, it’s quite unusual?

I get asked that quite a lot! The name is a Spanish phrase, and literally means ‘century of gold’ but a more imaginative translation is probably ‘the golden age’. We took this name because a big interest for the choir has always been renaissance music and the phrase ‘the golden age’ refers to a period in Spanish cultural history basically spanning the sixteenth century when a lot of wonderful renaissance music was written.

How would you describe what you do to people who haven’t heard you before?

We specialise in is unaccompanied choral music on an intimate scale. We started out doing a lot of renaissance music but actually our other specialism is more recent music by living composers and I suppose that’s what we give people, the two ends of the spectrum: the earliest choral music and the latest. We try to create programmes that weave the two together.

What are you and the group up to at this year’s Spitalfields Music Winter Festival?

We’re doing a programme that combines renaissance and medieval music with music from the 20th and 21st centuries. We’re using these two styles of music to retell the traditional Christmas narrative in a slightly unusual and, we hope, imaginative way. So we’re dividing our programme into four sections and in each of the parts of the narrative you’ll hear music that’s from the sixteenth century and also from the present day.

 What are you hoping that the audience will get from looking at the Christmas story across these four different angles?

It’s a way of focusing attention on a particular theme, so for example we finish the concert with a section called ‘The Light’ and in that section we will be singing music both by Thomas Tallis from the 16th century but also Eric Whitacre and they both address the theme of light within the context of Christ’s birth. The idea is that we focus in on a particular area of the story and use these musical resources to bring this to life.

What do you hope the audiences will take away from your performance?

The aim of the programme is to do something new with what is possibly the most famous story of all and to present some new music to people. There are some new works we’re singing that audiences won’t be acquainted with. I hope we can create a new experience out of one of the oldest narratives around.

You can listen to Siglo de Oro here performing a setting of the Magnificat by Hieronymus Praetorius.


Siglo de Oro
7.00pm, Tuesday 9 December
Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s)
Book tickets now


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