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Tallis bright - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Tallis bright
This post is written in the length of time it takes to play two different recordings of Tallis's Spem in Alium: the first by the Clerkes of Oxenford, the second by the Winchester Cathedral Choir.

Spem in Alium is a 40-part motet: forty separate vocal lines (eight choirs of five lines each). Sometimes the voices imitate each other, interweaving so seamlessly that it's impossible to pick one line and follow it. Sometimes they move together in vast and glorious chords, vast but not burdensome; it's as if the music is poised en pointe in a moment that seems endless, suspended in space and time, before spinning into the dance once more.

If you are a singer, and you ever get a chance to sing in it, grab that chance with both hands. To sing it is to stand in the middle of a work of creation or evolution: to see galaxies form and grow and blossom into slow-motion supernovas, finally stabilising in a rich, harmonious universe. In the beginning is the word, and the word is hope, and everything grows from that: one single note, two notes meeting in a bare yet perfect fifth, and from then on an exponential unfurling into complexity and majesty.

And to listen? To listen is to stand on the sidelines and to realise, with a growing sense of wonder, that the sidelines are also the middle; that you are the point at which the interweaving melodies converge; that you are both a part of the creation and its purpose; that you are the still point of the turning world.
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Comments
kjaneway From: kjaneway Date: November 26th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glorious piece. So beautiful you can just drown in it.

Have heard it live twice in the Bridgewater Hall. Once as usual, from the audience at a Tallis Scholars concert; Second time, from the stage, listening to the impromptu choir singing from where the audience would usually be, made up of people who'd turned up for a BBC come and sing thing, and included teacantata and my next door neighbour.
sbp From: sbp Date: November 27th, 2007 01:47 am (UTC) (Link)
It's a lovely piece but a bugger to perform if you're in one of the lower choirs, and usually there's only one of you on a part, so you really have to a) read well and b) PAY ATTENTION AND DON'T LOSE YOUR PLACE or you're really buggered, which is difficult because the options are i) a half-score with only 4 choir parts, so you don't see all the entries, or ii) a full-score with all the parts but is so huge you probably can't see the conductor. I've done it a number of times, including one where the eight choirs were spaced around the concert hall with the audience in the middle.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: November 27th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)

the beginning of courtship

In the small hours of a rainy night in Oxford when I was slightly hallucinatory with a fever, and on my own, and the Unsuitable Object was in the hospital for the nth time, I woke up to hear Spem in alium playing on the World Service. Needless to say, I was enchanted, and it became My Song. I heard it live in Dorchester Abbey, and later in London, have three recordings of it, and have drooled over the implausible score.

A few years later I was in the pub on another rainy Oxford night, with the dancers, including one of the new boys. Sitting next to one another and somehow not involved in the group conversation, we found that we had listened to the same broadcast. Or so he said at the time ;-) and who was I to doubt him?

Reader, I married him.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: November 27th, 2007 12:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

spemming in public

teleute From: teleute Date: November 27th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
It sounds wonderful, I'm going to see if I can find a copy to listen to.

Now the real reason for the post...initially I read 'sperm'. Then when I corrected that, my brain started translating 'Alium' to 'garlic'. So now I'm reading 'sperm in garlic', which really, isn't quite so poetic ;-)
bluedevi From: bluedevi Date: November 28th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC) (Link)
'Everybody is in the middle and nobody is on the edge'?

That sounds amazing. I need to hear it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 29th, 2007 12:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Tallis

I had the most entertaining time playing this to a jewish friend who knew nothing of English choral music - he sat with his mouth open. Pretend all English choral music is like that!
brightybot From: brightybot Date: December 1st, 2007 11:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Let me know if you ever are singing it in Oxford and need an extra voice
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