Renaissance Masters The Tallis Scholars Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary On Saturday, March 23 At First Congregational Church In Berkeley


Celebrating its 40th anniversary, The Tallis Scholars, a Cal Performances favorite, returns to First Congregational Church on Saturday, March 23 at 8:00 p.m. The ten-member a cappella group, led by conductor and scholar Peter Phillips, will offer a program that includes comparisons of Renaissance classics and their 20th-century counterparts. First, a selection of religious works by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594) (Magnificat for Double Choir, Nunc dimittis, Laudate pueri) is juxtaposed with modern re-settings by celebrated Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) (Magnificat, Nunc dimittis). In a bit of composer wordplay, works by John Taverner (c. 1490-1545) (Quemadmodum, Mater Christi) follow works by John Tavener (b. 1944) (The Lamb, As one who has slept). Setting the music of Palestrina against Pärt, Taverner against Tavener, exposes the common musical fabric of two ages, exploring the long shadow cast by the polyphonic masters and the values of clarity, expression and drama they share with today’s choral composers. Lastly, in honor of the ensemble’s historic milestone, the concert will also feature the Bay Area premiere of a newly commissioned piece by Eric Whitacre, one of the foremost choral composers of our era, titled Sainte-Chapelle. It was inspired by a trip Whitacre took to the 13th century chapel of the same name. The New York Times summed it up at a recent concert when it said, “Only a zombie would have been unmoved by the transcendent singing of The Tallis Scholars.”

A Sightlines pre-performance talk will be given by Peter Phillips beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 at First Congregational Church in Berkeley. Sightlines talks are free to ticket holders.

The Tallis Scholars, founded in 1973, is dedicated to preserving Renaissance music and launching the genre into mainstream Western music. The group is named after Thomas Tallis, a renowned early British composer. The ten-member group became leaders in Renaissance music through their acclaimed recordings and live concerts. The ensemble has produced over 50 records on its own label, Gimell Records, founded in 1980 by its director Peter Phillips and Steve Smith. These albums have garnered many awards including two Diapason d’Or de l’Année awards from the French magazine Diapason, People’s Choice Award, and also two Gramophone Awards including Gramophone Record of the Year in 1987, the first and only Renaissance recording to win this prestige. The group has been nominated for four Grammy Awards. Their most recent album, Renaissance Radio, a two-disc compendium of French, Spanish, Italian, English, and German Renaissance music, is to be released on March 12, 2013.

In addition to presenting Renaissance music, The Tallis Scholars has premiered and commissioned works by contemporary composers, including Robin Walker, Errollyn Wallen, and John Tavener, as in this Berkeley concert. The ensemble and director Peter Phillips annually present three weeklong summer schools—one each in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia—at which talented amateur musicians can learn from and sing with the group.

Director of The Tallis Scholars Peter Phillips has made a career out of researching and performing Renaissance polyphonic music. Phillips has made numerous television and radio broadcasts, and was featured in a 2002 documentary about the life of William Byrd, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite composer, as well has having been featured on BBC Music Weekly, NPR and many other international radio stations. His work was praised in 2005 when he was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettre, by the French Minister of Culture, for his contribution to the understanding of French culture in the world. Last year, Phillips was also made a Fellow for Life of Merton College, Oxford. As a scholar, he is a regular contributor in The Spectator, a weekly UK magazine, and is also the publisher and owner of The Musical Times, the oldest continuously published music journal in the world. He has also written a book based on his knowledge of classic English repertoire titled English Sacred Music, 1549–1649 as well as a second book, What We Really Do, which recounts touring with The Tallis Scholars.

This performance is sold out. Tickets for The Tallis Scholars on Saturday, March 23 at 8:00 p.m. at First Congregational Church are $52.00, and are subject to change. Tickets may become available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at; and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets. For more information about discounts, go to or call (510) 642-9988.


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