Spem in Alium

Saturday 6 April 2019, 7.30–9 pm, Durham Cathedral

About the music | Tickets and box office

Tallis: Savator Mundi I
Howells: Requiem

Vaughan Williams: Silence and Music
Tallis: Sancte Deus
Vaughan Williams: Rest
Tallis: Loquebantur
Vaughan Williams: Valiant for Truth
Tallis: Spem in Alium

Conducted by Francesca Massey and Julian Wright

About the music

Thomas Tallis’s Spem in Alium is a one-off masterpiece that stands out in musical history like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’. There’s nothing quite like it in choral music. The forty parts are divided into eight choirs. Every single line has its own individual personality, and they come together to create an overall effect of astonishing complexity, with ever-shifting kaleidoscopic colour. The effect is like looking at the skies on a clear night as the eye takes in individual stars, constellations and the whole complex structure of the heavens.

What else could we sing alongside such an extraordinary piece? We build up to it with other pieces by Tallis that illustrate on a smaller scale his mastery of harmony and counterpoint: the mysterious Sancte Deus is a microcosm of the dark and fearful world of early Tudor politics, and in the Pentecost motet Loquebantur variis linguis, the miracle of the Apostles speaking in tongues tumbles out through seven elaborate vocal lines.

We’ve also chosen music by Howells and Vaughan Williams. Both composers wrote famous pieces that explicitly paid homage to Tallis, and here in their unaccompanied vocal music, we hear how they found the modal harmonies of the Tudor era liberating and inspiring,

Francesca Massey directs us in Howells’s Requiem, an intensely personal work that became associated with the death of Howells’s young son, Michael. Howells interleaves traditional Latin Requiem texts with psalm settings in English that express a hope in the eternal rest and comfort of heaven, a theme that threads its way through much of the music for this programme and which returns in Vaughan Williams’s partsong “Rest” and “Valiant-for-Truth”.

This is music by composers whose lives took them into different musical and spiritual moods but who speak clearly across the centuries, shedding colour and light on one another, and culminating in a musical tapestry as extraordinary as any Renaissance stained-glass window would have been to a pilgrim coming to a Cathedral for the first time on a sunlit morning.

Tickets and box office

Tickets £15, Students and under-25s: £10. Children 13 and under, free

Ticketsource telephone box office: 0333 666 3366
(Monday to Friday 9 am–7 pm and Saturday 9 am–5 pm)
If you book tickets online and print them yourself, there is no booking fee.  If you book tickets via the telephone box office or require online tickets to be sent by post, there is a fee of £1.50 per order.

Tickets will also be available from choir members or from Durham Music Shop, High Street, Langley Moor.

To reserve tickets on the door, please email info@durham-singers.org or telephone 0779 0148062.

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