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Tallis Scholars at St John’s, Smith Square

13 December, 2019 — By Michael White

Choir conductor Peter Phillips. Photo: Albert Roosenburg

Immodestly but with a donnish charm that lets him get away with it, the celebrated choir conductor Peter Phillips talks about his Tallis Scholars as “the Berlin Philharmonic of the choral world”. Which actually is not untrue.

Across the globe, the Tallis are acknowledged as a benchmark for the kind of repertoire they sing. Their CDs groan under the weight of stacked awards. And it’s been so for more than 40 years of an extraordinary venture with a universal reach but still run from a terraced house – Phillips’ own – in Islington.

On December 19 the Tallis make their umpteenth Christmas appearance at St John’s Smith Square, singing works by Poulenc, Messiaen, Byrd and Messiaen that they’ve doubtless sung a thousand times before. But it will still be special, and immaculate, and of a quality few other vocal groups on earth could match.

And something else that’s special about this performance is that it involves settings by different composers of the same Latin texts – so you get multiple Salve Reginas, multiple O Sacrum Conviviums to compare, contrast and maybe vote on.

Not that it’s a competition. 7.30pm, £14-£35, Thursday December 19, St John’s Smith Square, SW1P 3HA, 020 7222 1061, www.sjss.org.uk

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