Contemplating War and Peace with the Tallis Scholars

War and Peace — The Tallis Scholars

When: April 21, 7:30 p.m. (pre-concert talk 6:45 pm)

Where: The Chan Centre at UBC

Tickets and info:

That celebrated British vocal ensemble The Tallis Scholars makes a much-awaited return to Vancouver this month. Founded in 1973 by a very young Peter Phillips, the Scholars has since sung all over the world, won almost every award imaginable, and issued many definitive recordings.

Many of us would probably head out to the Chan Centre to hear the Scholars sing an evening of perfectly in-tune scales and the occasional sonorous interval, let alone a fascinating and unconventional program commemorating the First World War.

One uses that term under advisement: celebrating the “war to end all wars” would be wrong. Phillips and his hand-picked singers scrupulously avoid sentimentalizing an event which still resonates in our collective consciousness. What they offer is music for contemplation and solemn remembrance.

When the Scholars were founded they were something of an anomaly: a small vocal ensemble of mixed voices devoted to pre-Baroque music. In a 2015 interview, Phillips admitted their prospects were dicey. “The Tallis Scholars started when the idea of doing a whole concert of Renaissance music was pretty unusual. We thought the public wouldn’t come and there was no future in it.”

He was wrong in the best sort of way. In the last quarter of the 20th century all manner of received ideas about choirs and repertoire were being re-considered. Church choirs were jettisoning traditional music practices with reckless abandon; large ensembles with their roots in Victorian-era practice were in decline; other emerging groups (our Elektra and Chor Leoni come to mind) stressed community in new, often very specific ways. And fully professional ultra-elite groups like the Scholars took vocal music to sublime new levels of achievement.

For the commemorative War and Peace program the Scholars’ plan was to assemble a composite mass from music by continental Renaissance composers like Victoria, Josquin des Prés, and Palestrina. (Brexiteers, take note!) Several of the works on the program reference the tunes L’Homme armé (The Armed Man) and Batalla (Battle), creating a web of interconnections around the ideas of weaponized conflict.

When the program was first heard in the UK in 2014, the on-line journal Seen and Heard International’s John Quinn commented: “You might reasonably ask what relevance a programme consisting mainly of Renaissance polyphony has to the commemoration of those who died in the Great War. Well,

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Entertainment


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