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Tallis Festival 2011 - OPEN TO EVERYONE

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Jan 16, 2011, 2:41 AM

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Tallis Festival 2011 - OPEN TO EVERYONE

Tallis Festival 2011 Saturday 5 / Sunday 6 March 2011

Concert: Sunday 6 March 2011 7.30pm

Union Chapel, Islington

Exmoor Singers of London Music director James Jarvis

On behalf of Exmoor Singers of London I am delighted to invite you to the Tallis Festival 2011.

The festival weekend will be 5-6 March 2011 concluding with a fantastic free concert at the Union Chapel, Islington, on Sunday 6 March 2011. There will be two optional Sunday rehearsals leading up to the festival and an optional rehearsal on the evening of Friday 4 March 2011.

Last year’s Tallis Festival, as some of you will remember, went with a bang with Carmina Burana featuring 2 concert grand pianos and a 60-inch gong and the world premiere of James Lavino’s Visitations. This time around we will be tackling, for only the second time in Tallis history, baroque masterpiece Handel’s Dixit Dominus accompanied by string orchestra. The programme also includes Finzi’s In terra pax, with strings, harp and cymbals, and, of course, the raison d’être of Tallis weekends – Tallis’ Spem in alium.

James Jarvis will once again be guiding us through the intricacies of singing in up to 40 parts throughout the weekend at Imperial College London’s South Kensington campus.

A message from James:

I'm always excited by the prospect of working with the Tallis Festical Choir but particularly so this time.

Handel's Dixit Dominus is one of my all-time favourite choral works and, whilst it is from the ‘traditional’ end of the repertoire, it is relatively under-performed and enjoyably wacky. Best of all, it’s a choral tour de force that will perfectly exploit the Tallis choir – which I like to think of as a chamber choir on steroids – and will form the backbone of our programme.

The presence of a string orchestra provides the perfect opportunity for me to slip in a personal favourite: Gerald Finzi’s In terra pax. It is hardly seasonal but it is sublime and will be new to many (perhaps the majority) of the group. I urge you not to miss out on this performance.

Spem in alium with highly inauthentic forces is of course the nucleus of the weekend and always a stimulating experience! An important word about the approach to rehearsing it: the Festival is very different from a standard “Spem workshop”; we are giving a full-length public concert at the end of the weekend, so Spem will get its fair share of rehearsal time but not more. This means that those who know the piece well are likely to feel over-rehearsed (not that they will object); whereas Spem virgins are likely to approach the performance with a bit more adrenaline... but I promise to get you through it on the night!

Last, but by no means least, the concert will include the first performance of Jaakko Mäntyjärvi’s Nine Dawn Watercolours in the presence of the composer. As many Tallis regulars will instantly spot, these vignettes are a strange lovechild of the Tallis Festival: internationally-renowned Finnish composer and loyal friend of the Festival Jaakko Mäntyjärvi sets texts by another great friend Peter McGarr, whose “Lindisfarne lovesong” Love you big as the sky, highlight of Tallis 2007, embodies these original verse fragments. After the event Jaakko was inspired to write his own setting of Pete’s words and this première will be the result.

The Watercolours are an Exmoor Singers commission (this is not a commissioning year for the Festival) but I cordially invite Festival participants to play a supporting rôle in this first performance on a purely optional basis for just the price of a score. (If you prefer to experience this 10-minute performance as listeners you will still be an absolutely full participant in the Festival proper but you will gain a small amount of extra free time over the course of the weekend, which I know some will welcome and which we will do our best to schedule at a helpful juncture.)

The Handel, Finzi and Mäntyjärvi works contain solos of a range of difficulty and, as usual, these will all be taken by Festival participants following an open audition process in early February. The panel on this occasion will comprise one of our regular Tallis repetiteurs, a hardened Tallis alumnus from outwith Exmoor Singers, and yours truly.

I very much look forward to seeing you in March!

For those of you who are new to the Tallis Festival, it began as a small choral workshop weekend and through its growing popularity and ever-increasing standard of performance we are hoping to exceed the 200-singer mark for the first time. Each year participants praise the friendly atmosphere and the enthusiasm with which we all work to achieve the common goal of putting a superb concert together over the course of a single weekend.

For this amazing opportunity we are offering an early-bird participation fee of £55 if you sign up before 13 February or £65 afterwards. We also offer a discounted rate for full-time students of £15. Music costs (either hire or buy) will be extra.

A word about Jaakko’s new work: it is written for nine small ensembles set against a spatially-shifting sonic background made by humming and other vocalisations and by the use of regular and improvised percussion instruments/effects. You can form part of the sonic background with no extra commitment apart from the purchase of a score, or you can try out for one of the ensembles through the same February audition process that selects the Handel and Finzi solos. The ensembles will involve an additional time commitment as it is important that the ensembles (which are, however, very short) are known prior to the weekend. Alternatively you may opt to sit this item out and simply enjoy hearing the premiere. (Even so you may choose to buy a score: Jaakko will be signing copies all weekend and they will provide a splendid souvenir of the event!) Please express your preferences on the web form.

For further information please visit our website at and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me (

I do hope you are able to join us and I look forward to singing with you!

Tom Smith

Tallis 2011 Organiser

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