PROM 50: THE SIXTEEN SINGS TALLIS’S SPEM IN ALIUM

Award-laden choral ensemble “The Sixteen” may have started at that number in 1979, but for this late-night Prom we had the privilege of forty-eight singers on stage, perfect for Tavener’s mighty, multi-part “Hymn to the Mother of God”, and Byrd’s musical palindrome “Diliges Dominum”.

Performed a capella throughout, the programme alternated renaissance pieces with modern works. The core of the programme contrasted Tallis’ infamous 40-part “Spem in alium” with a new 40-part work by Sir James MacMillan, “Vidi aquam”, written as a modern-day response to it.

The Tallis didn’t quite work in the non-reverb acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall, with the four choirs of ten all bunched together (rather than spread out across an echoey cathedral). The MacMillan however was a highlight of the whole concert; made richer by the chance to hear the original and the response in the same programme.

Another highlight was Górecki’s “Totus Tuus”, written in deceptively simple homophony but handled here with extraordinary care. However, it seemed a strange choice to include not one, but two renaissance settings of “Agnus Dei” (Christopher Tye; John Sheppard). Founder Harry Christophers (CBE) is one of Britain’s most celebrated choral conductors, packing out the arena and receiving a well-deserved ovation.

Tickets for all 72 Proms are available from just £7.12 on the BBC Proms 2022 website.

The Prickle - About transp