Meet the singers


Sally Dunkley



Please tell me a little about the journey you’ve been on to arrive as a core member of The Sixteen who else have/do you sing for? Where did you study? Did you have any particularly inspiring teachers? What lessons have you taken from them?

In fact I took part in the very first concert by the Sixteen, and am delighted still to be here now (especially as in some of the intervening years I was only able to do about 50% of the concerts – busy touring with the Tallis Scholars for more than 20 years).
Harry and I met as colleagues in the Clerkes of Oxenford, which was my home for a long time, originally as a student but also for years afterwards. Its director, David Wulstan, was my tutor at Oxford, and he inspired much of my interest in 16th-c English music, both as performer and editor. I also owe a huge amount to Martindale Sidwell, who let me sing in his choral society as a very green 17-year-old; his professional consort singers were certainly my role models (and in an internalised way continue to be so); I listened to their wonderful programmes of Byrd and Tallis for Radio 3 in my student days.  Two of the distinguishing features about their singing was that they made a beautiful sound, which is something I have always particularly valued, and they made sense of the music through phrasing, above all.
As a professional singer myself I started off with very little vocal technique but a great determination to sing the music!

What repertoire do you particularly enjoy performing and why?

Bach, most of all.

Which performance experiences (with The Sixteen) have made an impact on you and why?

As far as repertoire is concerned, discovering Poulenc’s Figure humaine, surely one of the most moving works of all time.
Rediscovering the Brahms Requiem as a chamber piece in the version for two pianos. Being introduced to works by the 17th-c Portuguese composers Melgas and Rebelo, and the extraordinary Te Deum by Teixera (five choirs, eight soloists and orchestra = expensive) I have always enjoyed travelling; most interesting experiences with the Sixteen include catching a glimpse of Macau, and of Mexico City.
And getting to see something of UK cathedral cities, many of which I hardly knew.

How does singing for a recording differ from live performance for you and which do you prefer?

Recording is an interesting process, and quite different from concerts, I’d say. With digital editing, there came extra pressure to produce a blemish-free product; I have always felt that it was more possible to take positive risks in live performance, which naturally generates momentum and excitement.

Which Sixteen recording is your favourite?

Bach motets (Hyperion) – a particularly good vintage of singers, and my favourite repertoire too.
Also Carver – some wonderful singing.

What are your interests outside of singing?

Editing, studying, writing and talking about 16th-c music is the other main element of my work (which generates rather modest profits, though lots of artistic satisfaction).
Apart from that, ordinary things like eating and drinking with good friends, travelling and roasting in the sun. If I have spare time in London, I’m most likely to be found either at the V & A or the NFT, searching out films by Bergmann, Tarkovsky, Haneke, that sort of thing (nothing too cheerful, NB).

What is the best thing about being in The Sixteen?

It has always been an unusually friendly group to work in. And I very much appreciate Harry’s kindness in offering me so many valuable opportunities to contribute not only as a singer but also in many other ways – that is really pleasing.

What football team do you support?

I have absolutely no interest in sport whatever.....


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