New York Polyphony first came together without fanfare or rehearsal when four singers who shared a love of early music came together to provide incidental music for a radio production. 11 years later, they’re going strong, with two of the founding members, including bass Craig Phillips. They sing a program called Sing Thee Nowell at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church this Sunday evening through San Francisco Performances.

There’s more information about the concert at the San Francisco Performances website.

Craig Phillips says they’re frequently asked the same questions by confused audience members: “‘Are you a small choir? Are you a small chamber ensemble?’ We try to draw a line between what we do and a string quartet, and we have very intentionally tried to retain the individual qualities of our voices, and instead of blend the sound, as many choirs would, we try to balance the sound…We consider ourselves to be very individual instruments that work well together.” He says that independence particularly helps them when they sing Renaissance polyphony, “because it’s actually built on four independent lines. So there are four simultaneous melodies, and so it makes the listening experience much more rich, so people can actually follow a part.” The ensemble’s repertoire in Sunday’s concert spans 700 years. “There’s a great kind of symmetry between the sensibilities of the early music we sing and many of the modern composers that we work with. Very early on, we decided that our focus would be primarily early music, but we would try to blur the lines between ancient and modern, and add some modern pieces in, primarily things that were written for us.”

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