The Tallis ScholarsThe Tallis Scholars vocal ensemble seems to have a direct line to heaven inspiring reverence for the power of the human vocal chords to echo spiritual realms.

The acapella group, conducted by Peter Phillips, takes to the stage and treats Melbourne audience members to a sanctified selection of Christian sacred music. The initiated recognise names such as Phinot, Tavener, Clemens, and Muhly on the program. The uninitiated sit back and enjoy the introduction to quality Renaissance choral music. This is western sacred music at its best.

The Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall becomes a hallowed hall as The Tallis Scholars open with one of the highlights of the night – Cecilia Virgo by the conductor’s namesake Peter Phillips. Cecilia Virgo is a “paean of praise to the patroness of music” and requires contrast, highs and lows of the human voice. The Scholars rendition is sublime. Quickly the mind clears of mundane matters and soars to divine realms. 

Two songs by 16th century composer Thomas Tallis follow. Firstly Suscipe quaeso considered to be one of the masterpieces of 16th Century England followed by Lamentations 1. It seems unfair to criticise such otherworldly and excellent music, however; both of these pieces lacked contrast. This is a minor criticism as the result is a wall of sound, one that is transcendent.

The program continues under the skilful hands of Phillip’s minimalistic and masterful conducting. Another highlight is the Renaissance song Ego flos campi by composer Jacobus Clemens non Papa. This piece alones goes a long way to proving The Tallis Scholars to be the finest Renaissance polyphony on the planet.

The finale is an excellent choice of song by a quintessential English composer William Byrd. The tripartite motet Tribue domine has been described as ambitious and masterful. In the safe hands of Philips and his Scholars it is awe-inspiring, with a particularly satisfying exalted Gloria coda.

The Tallis Scholars was formed in 1973 in the UK by Peter Phillips, who sought to be bring Renaissance works to a wider audience. Phillips has certainly achieved his goal. Since then The Tallis Scholars group has  toured the world and done more than any other group to establish sacred vocal music of the Renaissance as one of the great repertoires of Western classical music.


Arts Centre Melbourne in association with Orchestral Manoeuvres and Maxima Artists presents
The Tallis Scholars

Venue: Hamer Hall | Arts Centre Melbourne
Date: 6 November 2016
Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au