‘Fower Sovereygnes Reygnes’ - The Music of Thomas Tallis
St Georges Church, Kendal. Sat 10th March Levens Choir and Marian Consort Director: Rory McCleery
I might have stayed at home in the company of Father Brown, had I not been lured out by the combined forces of Levens Choir and the Marian Consort singing the music of Thomas Tallis. And what a rewarding experience it was, complete with its own musicological detective story.
Tallis composed at a time of religious turmoil, during the reigns of Henry 8th, Edward 6th, Mary 1st and Elizabeth 1st. He rolled with the tide, writing music to suit the latest religious and political outlook: for Catholic worship; the new Protestant Church; the English Prayer Book; the Catholics again, and finally, new Anglicanism. So, we were taken on a sublime musical journey as we listened to compositions which reflected these changes in style. Throughout, we were grateful to the erudition of Director Rory McCleery. His brief introductions were delightfully apposite, his programme notes masterly in charting our tour.
This was a memorable evening, the singing lovely throughout the richly varied concert, larger choral items being interspersed with works for the Consort alone. Levens Choir, each section strengthened by the soloists of the Marian Consort, produced a glowing, seemingly effortless tone, throughout the vocal range. The blending and balancing of voices was excellent too, even in the works for more than four parts, as for example in the magnificently sung Gaude Gloriosa, the highlight of my evening. The full sections in this work allow little let-up for the singers, with rests few and far between, but energy levels never faltered. The solo sections shone. Indeed, the eight voices of the Consort shone all evening, whatever they sang.
I struggled to find shortcomings. I might have wished for greater dynamic range on occasion or clearer diction on another? Did I detect some uncertainty at the opening of Sacrum Convivium? Perhaps this was the reason that when the audience demanded an encore, we were treated to a beautiful repeat performance, one which summed up the whole evening. A sacred banquet indeed!