The Tallis Scholars launch 40th birthday celebrations

- 8 March 2013

A celebratory concert at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday opened the Tallis Scholars’ 40th anniversary year, with Peter Philips, the group’s founder and artistic director, conducting a fluid group of singers ranging from 11 to a thunderous 40.

The programme was a very apt summary of what the Tallis Scholars are all about: works from the renaissance, with Thomas Tallis especially prominent of course, but also four contemporary works, two of them world premieres. Gabriel Jackson and Eric Whitacre had been commissioned to write works specially for the concert, which were joined by Arvo Pärt’s Nunc Dimittis and Robin Walker’s spectacular 40-part I have thee by the hand, O man. 

In terms of the renaissance repertoire which the Tallis Scholars have done some much to champion over 40 years, there was a ‘greatest hits’ element ‒ and why not? ‒ with the inclusion of Allegri’s Miserere and Tallis’s Spem in alium to close the concert.

The Tallis Scholars 40th Anniversary Concert in St Paul’s Cathedral, 7 March 2013.
Photo: © Clive Barda

There are few venues as grand as St Paul’s ‒ the 2,000-plus audience members serried all the way down the nave and both transepts ‒ and it offered a truly memorable sense of occasion which no sleek concert hall with just-so acoustics could hope to match. The cavernous reverberations gave an other-worldly quality to the sound, especially in the Miserere, where the second choir was hidden in the Whispering Gallery 30 metres above.

Of the new works, Gabriel Jackson’s Ave Dei patris filia was the stand-out offering. It captured a sense of a spring dawn, with elements of birdsong in its wide-interval trills, and a pure, celebratory joy in its lambent pandiatonic harmonies.

There are plenty of opportunities to here the Tallis Scholars in 2013, bother in the UK and abroad ‒ check here for full details

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