Thomas Tallis Classical Genius Still Popular Today with Spem in Alium

Thomas Tallis was an organist and Renaissance composer in 16th century England. Throughout his career he was hired to write music for the royals - King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I being among them. His musical works have been called genius.

He must have also had some pretty genius people skills as well. Throughout his career, working so closely with the royals and during times when people were being burned at the stake for their religious views, Thomas Tallis never seemed to have any problems with religious matters. Even as a church organist.

One of his most famous masterpieces still popular to this day is Spem in Alium. Spem in Alium is a forty part motet which was written for eight choirs of five voices each. I fell victim to that song a couple months ago. I was in the kitchen making a cup of tea or something like that, and I decided to turn the radio on to the classical station - which isn't something I normally do.

Good thing I was listening that day, because when Tallis' Spem in Alium came on I couldn't move. I had to keep listening until it was over. I had never heard a classical piece written and performed in such a way. The timing of the song and the way the voices were intertwining and moving around each other like waves was amazing.

Immediately when the song was over I ran to the computer to find out more about Thomas Tallis and his song Spem in Alium. Oddly enough in doing so, I found that The People's Chorus had just performed the piece in Manchester, England and was due to be broadcast by the end of the year. I was so disappointed to see that they had already recorded, as I would have loved to be apart of such a big event.

This past weekend the performance of Spem in Alium by The People's Chorus was on BBC 4. They originally tried to get 1,000 singers for the event to make it one of the biggest and most difficult attempts to perform the song. After drop outs and no shows, the number ended up being more like 650 (or 800 - 1,000 depending on where you look on the net), though they still pulled it off after rehearsals and the final performance within one day. It was difficult watching it on TV because I know that the acoustics in person would have been so much better, but it still came across beautifully.

There is a very detailed account of the day by one of the singers of The People's Chorus which you can find by following this link.

To buy the DVD for the performance of Spem in Alium by The People's Chorus go to Digital Classics DVD Website

There are many versions of Spem in Alium - one short clip by The Kings Singers can be found here.

The Tallis Scholars Sing Thomas Tallis on

By: Jenny May

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About Jenny May

Jenny May is the founder of Band Weblogs. Based in Oxford, England (originally from New England), Band Weblogs was created in 2005. With a passion for music, Jenny May has performed with bands in the US and the UK, her music has appeared in films, she was a vocal coach for the Yamaha Rock School and has worked on music projects with musicians such as Jon Fishman (Phish), Fyfe Dangerfield (Guillemots) and Cisco Adler (Shwayze). Jenny is currently writing music commentary and reviews for Band Weblogs and writing, recording and performing music with songwriter and musician Dave Tommo.
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