Review: The Tallis Scholars at the Portsmouth Festivities

Absolute flawless perfection! A glittering jewel! The finest choir in the land, the Tallis Scholars, produced a truly memorable evening of serene music at Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral as part of the Portsmouth Festivities.

This event, now in its 19th year, is the envy of many much larger cities and manages to pull in some of the best names in the arts.

You don’t get much better than the Tallis Scholars, so the capacity audience will have appreciated the Festivities achieving such a coup. The choir’s conductor, the incomparable Peter Phillips, is a local lad who spoke warmly of the city and its cathedral.

The programme was perfectly suited to the cathedral’s rich and warm acoustic, with the glorious polyphonic lines of William Byrd and the more ascetic music of Arvo Pärt and John Tavener seemingly purpose-written for the building.

The chamber choir of Portsmouth Grammar School joined with the Scholars and it was impressive to note that the overall sound remained just as disciplined and just as well-blended and balanced. The school should feel justifiably proud that it can produce young singers of this quality, especially in the unfashionable backwater that is Renaissance choral music. We will become poorer as a nation when Byrd, Tallis and their ilk are forgotten, so hearing young people singing such sublime music is heartening indeed.

So let’s hear it for the Festivities, for PGS and for Pompey lad, Peter Phillips. After all – it’s about time a Portsmuthian was knighted for services to music.

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