Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Chorus sings Tallis and Tippett

Although The Chorus may not be attracting the audiences in UK cinemas our leading vocal ensembles are packing them into concert venues. Last night The Sixteen with their founder and conductor Harry Christopher were visiting the superb English Perpendiular church of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich (see my post Bach at St Peter Mancroft).

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Tallis meets Tippett - medieval meets modern: St Peter Mancroft Norwich seen from the new Forum

Pilgrimages are all the rage among vocal groups as well as on this blog (see Pliable's Travels). I have been listening to the first CD releases from the Monteverdi Choirs Bach Pilgrimage project (which also brought us the sublime Santiago a Cappella disc - see my Pilgrimage post) and will write about that shortly. The Sixteen are on their own Choral Pilgrimage taking an innovative programme of Tallis and Tippett to our great cathedrals, including Canterbury, York, Lincoln, Douai Abbey, and last night St Peter Mancroft in Norwich. (Interestingly St. Peter Mancroft is most definitely not a cathedral. Norwich has a very fine one of those too, about a quarter of a mile away. St. Peter Mancroft is the town church built for a great merchant city. It is where the medieval merchants worshipped in their guilds - for me the lofty interior with its shafted piers conjures up images of Hans Sachs and the Mastersingers).

Tallis and Tippett are this year's birthday boys (500 and 100 respectively, although Tallis is a 'presumed' date, so if the scholars come up with some fresh evidence we may have a re-run in a few year's time). Programming the Five Spirituals from Tippet's Child Of Our Time with Tallis' exquisite Loquebantur Varies Linguis (which also featured in the Keswick Hall Choir's Master Tallis' Testament concert) looks strange on paper. But hearing Tippett's wonderful Plebs Angelica alonside Tallis simply underlined Tippett's profound knowledge, and love, of Tudor polyphony.

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Michael Tippett

In a fascinating pre-concert talk founder memeber of The Sixteen and musicologist Sally Dunkley reminded us of the ground-breaking performance of Tallis' Spem in Alium in Bath Abbey in 1970 in which she sung, with Tippett conducting Schola Cantorum of Oxford (who perform the Palestrina Masses reviewed in my post Brilliant Classics). The previous Sunday Hugh Maquire had provided us with a direct line to Britten at the Kamus Quartet concert, last night Sally Dunkley connected us with Tippett and his pioneering role in the revival of Tudor polyphony. Tippett's pioneering 1948 recording of Spem in Alium has just been re-issued (see details from this link), and there is a fascinating remiscence of Tippett and Tallis by John Amis at this link (titled Spem with Tippett!).

After recording for years on Hyperion The Sixteen have joined the growing band of forward thinking musicians with their own record label Coro. ( For more on classical musician owned record labels see my posts Dog eats dog and MaxOpus). The many US readers of On An Overgrown Path should try to catch The Sixteen on their US tour next month (see dates and venues at the end of this post). In 2006 The Sixteen will continue on the pilgrimage route, this time celebrating the Spanish priest, scholar, and singer Tomas Luis de Victoria. Meanwhile in Norwich more riches await us with a visit from The Tallis Scholars to St Peter Mancroft in May for a Norwich Festival performance of Tallis and Sheppard.

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Detail of stained galss from Canterbury Cathedral,
which is being visited by The Sixteens Choral Pilgrimage

The Sixteen 2005 overseas tour dates:

6th April New York, USA - Lincoln Centre TALLIS, TIPPETT, TAVENER
7th April Jackson, Mississippi, USA TALLIS, TIPPETT, TAVENER
8th April Chicago, USA - Fourth Presbyterian Church TALLIS, TIPPETT, TAVENER
9th April Cincinnati, USA - St. Peter in Chains Church TALLIS, TIPPETT, TAVENER
10th April Minneapolis, USA - Ted Mann Concert Hall TALLIS, TIPPETT, TAVENER
13th April Kansas City, USA - Visitation Church TALLIS, TIPPETT, TAVENER
15th April Denver, USA - Augustana Lutheran Church TALLIS, TIPPETT, TAVENER
17th April Los Angeles, USA - First Congregational Church TALLIS, TIPPETT, TAVENER
4th May Bologna, Italy HANDEL's Messiah
27th May Lisbon, Portugal MELGAS, REBELO, LOTTI, SCARLATTI
28th May Lisbon, Portugal MELGAS, REBELO, LOTTI, SCARLATTI
3rd June Halle, Germany HANDEL's Messiah
2nd July Granada Festival, Spain GUERRERO, TALLIS, LOBO, VICTORIA, BYRD
28th August Utrecht, Holland Festival MELGAS, REBELO, LOTTI, SCARLATTI
29th August Utrecht, Holland Festival TALLIS, SHEPPARD
30th August Utrecht, Holland Festival DEBUSSY, STRAVINSKY, JOSQUIN
15th-19th September Spain - Cathedrals Tour VICTORIA Requiem
7th October Oporto, Portugal IBERIAN MYSTICS, Victoria, Guerrero, Lobo
18th-25th October Frankfurt, Germany BACH, MELGAS, SCARLATTI
29th October Arnhem, Holland TALLIS, TAVENER
30th October Groningen, Holland TALLIS, TAVENER
12th November Budapest, Hungary TALLIS, TIPPETT
12th December Innsbruck BACH Christmas Oratorio
14th December Vienna BACH Christmas Oratorio

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