The Tallis Scholars

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The Tallis Scholars is a British professional early music vocal ensemble normally consisting of two singers per part, with a core group of ten singers. They specialise in performing a cappella sacred vocal music. The group was formed in 1973 by Peter Phillips, who in 1972-1975 was an organ scholar at St John's College, Oxford and studied music with David Wulstan and Denis Arnold. Philips invited the members of chapel choirs from Oxford and Cambridge to form an amateur Renaissance vocal music ensemble, which turned professional after ten years of concert-giving. From the first performance in the Church of St. Mary Magdalen, Oxford on November 3, 1973, Phillips aimed to produce a distinctive sound, influenced by choirs he admired, in particular the renowned Clerkes of Oxenford, directed by David Wulstan.[1][2] Since winning a Gramophone Award in 1987, the Tallis Scholars have been recognised as one of the world's leading ensembles in Renaissance polyphony.[3]


The Tallis Scholars singers tour widely, performing some 70 concerts a year, in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. In April 1994, they sang Allegri's Miserere mei, Deus in the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Vatican, and performed in February 1994 in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome to commemorate Palestrina's 400th anniversary.[3] In 1999, they toured China, giving two concerts in Beijing. In 1998, the Tallis Scholars marked the ensemble's 25th anniversary with a performance in London's National Gallery. At the millennium, they performed in New York City with Paul McCartney. During the 2013-2014 40th-anniversary concert series, the group announced a world tour including the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The Tallis Scholars started the tour with a concert in St Paul's Cathedral in London for 2000 people.


Since March 1980, the Tallis Scholars have recorded on their own label, Gimell Records, established by Peter Phillips and Steve Smith.[4] The label was named after the compositional technique gymel. In accordance with Philips,

The word Gimell comes from the Latin word ‘gimellus’, meaning ‘a twin’, and it’s a technical term. It’s a corrupt form of the word gimellus that you find in manuscripts of the Tudor school where the part is twinned. You have to understand that in those days the music wasn’t written in score; it was written in parts so you’d only see your part. If you were singing your part and you saw the word ‘gimell’ it had to be decided in rehearsal that some of you singing that part would have to look elsewhere on the page, or even pick up another book and find your part. So it was a signpost.[5]

Soon, there was a critical consensus that, "the Tallis Scholar's recordings are of reliably high quality".[6] Between 1981 and 2006, the group recorded 40 critically acclaimed discs.[3] The recordings covered a repertoire from over 150 years of music history (approximately the years 1450–1600), with some excursions into later repertoire. In 2010, Gimmel released its 50th recording, Victoria's Lamentations of Jeremiah.[7] Other notable releases included Gramophone magazine's Record of the Year Award winning disc of Josquin's Missa Pange lingua and Missa La sol fa re mi.[3] In 2011, the ensemble's recording of Allegri's Miserere mei, Deus in Merton College, Oxford in 1980 was named by BBC Music Magazine as one of the "50 Greatest Recordings of All Time".[8] In 2013, the recording of John Taverner's Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas became the number one in the UK Specialist Classical Chart.[9]

Membership of the group[edit]

According to Philips, during the 1982-1983 concert season, the group formed its core that was more or less consistent for the next 25 years. Some singers, such as Michael Chance, Mark Padmore, James Gilchrist, John Mark Ainsley, and Jeremy White, who became a principal bass at Covent Garden, left the Tallis Scholars to develop their successful solo careers.[10]


The Tallis Scholars ensemble contributed to the wider and greater recognition of choral works of Tallis, Palestrina, Byrd, Tye, and de Victoria, among the other European Renaissance sacred and secular composers, while performing over 1800 concerts around the world and releasing 50 discs.[11] The singers have paved the way for many younger groups such as The Sixteen, The Clerks, The Cardinall's Musick, The Binchois Consort, Trinity Baroque, the Gabrieli Consort, and Octarium.[12] Founded in 1999, the Boston-based early-music a cappella ensemble Blue Heron is viewed by some critics as a direct influence of the Tallis Scholars on the American early-music scene.[13]

In 2000, the group established the Tallis Scholars Summer Schools, a program providing amateur singers and promising young professionals the opportunity to be coached by Phillips and other members of the ensemble in their specialist repertoire.[14] The program now includes three courses which take place in Oakham in the United Kingdom, Seattle in the United States, and Sydney in Australia.

Various members of the group have scholarly interests in addition to their activities as professional musicians. Phillips has published a scholarly text English Sacred Music 1549–1649.[15] Sally Dunkley, Francis Steele, and Deborah Roberts are all active as music editors and publishers with interests spanning the Renaissance and early Baroque music. Andrew Gant is also organist at the Chapel Royal.

The Tallis Scholars have also performed and recorded Russian Orthodox repertoire, including music by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Igor Stravinsky, and contemporary music, including works by Norbert Moret, Ivan Moody, Arvo Pärt, John Tavener and Eric Whitacre.

Accolades and awards[edit]

In 2013, the New York Times characterized the Tallis Scholars as the "superb a cappella ensemble founded and conducted by Peter Phillips".[16] During their 40 years of concert performances, the group collected a number of recognitions. In 1987, the Gramophone magazine awarded The Tallis Scholars its Record of the Year, and in 1989 the French magazine Diapason added its Diapason d'Or de l'Année award. In 1991 and 2004, the Gramophone magazine gave The Tallis Scholars its Early Music Award. In 2012, the singers again received the Diapason d'Or de l'Année award, and in 2013 they were elected by a popular vote to the Gramophone's Hall of Fame.


  • 1980 Allegri - Miserere
  • 1983 Palestrina - Missa Nigra sum
  • 1985 Thomas Tallis - Spem in alium
  • 1985 William Byrd - The Three Masses
  • 1986 Christmas Carols and Motets
  • 1986 Palestrina Masses: Missa Brevis; Missa Nasce la gioja mia
  • 1986 Thomas Tallis: The Complete English Anthems
  • 1987 Carlo Gesualdo: Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday
  • 1987 Clemens (non Papa): Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis/Motets
  • 1987 Josquin des Prés: Missa Pange Lingua; Missa La Sol Fa Re Mi
  • 1987 Victoria: Requiem; Lobo: Versa Est in Luctum
  • 1987 William Byrd: The Great Service; Anthems
  • 1988 Sarum Chant Missa in Gallicantu
  • 1988 William Cornysh - Stabat Mater
  • 1989 John Sheppard: Media Vita
  • 1989 Josquin Desprez: L'homme armé Masses
  • 1989 Orlandus Lassus - Missa Osculetur me
  • 1990 Frei Manuel Cardoso: Requiem
  • 1990 Palestrinia Masses: Missa Assumpta est Maria & Missa Sicut lilum
  • 1990 Russian Orthodox Music
  • 1990 Victoria - Tenebrae Responsories
  • 1991 Isaac: Missa de Apostolis; Motets
  • 1991 Tomkins: The Great Service
  • 1992 Antoine Brumel - Missa Et ecce terrae motus (The Earthquake Mass)terrae motus; Lamentations; Magnificat secundi toni
  • 1992 Duarte Lôbo: Requiem; Missa Vox clamantis
  • 1992 Thomas Tallis - Lamentations of Jeremiah
  • 1993 Western Wind Masses
  • 1994 Cipriano de Rore: Missa Praeter rerum seriem
  • 1994 Live in Rome
  • 1995 John Taverner - Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas
  • 1995 Robert White: Tudor Church Music
  • 1996 Jacob Obrecht: Missa Maria Zart
  • 1997 A Tudor Collection
  • 1997 Johannes Ockeghem: Au travail suis; De plus en plus
  • 1997 Sacred Music By Alonso Lobo
  • 1997 The Yearning Spirit: Voices of Contemplation
  • 1998 Lamenta
  • 1998 Tallis Scholars 25th Anniversary
  • 1998 Tallis Scholars Live in Oxford
  • 1998 The Tallis Christmas Mass
  • 1999 The Best of the Renaissance
  • 2000 Cristóbal de Morales: Missa Si bona suscipimus
  • 2001 Allegri: Miserere
  • 2001 Tavener: Ikon of Light; Funeral Ikos; The Lamb
  • 2002 Nicolas Gombert: Magnificats 1-4
  • 2002 Nicolas Gombert: Magnificats 5-8
  • 2002 Tallis: Complete English Anthems
  • 2002 Tallis: Lamentations of Jeremiah
  • 2003 Christmas with the Tallis Scholars
  • 2003 The Essential Tallis Scholars
  • 2004 The Tallis Scholars sing Palestrina
  • 2004 The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis
  • 2005 Allegri - Miserere (25th Anniversary Edition)
  • 2005 John Browne - Music from the Eton Choirbook
  • 2005 Tallis Scholars sing Palestrina
  • 2005 Victoria: Requiem (2CD)
  • 2006 Francisco Guerrero: Missa Surge Propera
  • 2006 Palestrina - Missa Benedicta es (25th Anniversary Edition)
  • 2006 Playing Elizabeth's Tune - Sacred Music by William Byrd
  • 2006 Renaissance Giants
  • 2006 The Tallis Scholars sing Josquin
  • 2007 Allegri's Miserere & Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli
  • 2007 English Madrigals (25th Anniversary Edition)
  • 2007 The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd
  • 2008 Josquin - Missa Sine nomine & Missa Ad fugam
  • 2008 The Tallis Scholars sing Tudor Church Music - Volume One
  • 2008 The Tallis Scholars sing Tudor Church Music - Volume Two
  • 2009 Flemish Masters
  • 2009 Josquin Desprez: Missa Malheur me bat; Missa Fortuna desperata
  • 2010 Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 1
  • 2010 Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 2
  • 2010 Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 3
  • 2010 The Victoria Collection
  • 2010 Tomás Luis de Victoria: Lamentations of Jeremiah
  • 2010 Victoria - Lamentations of Jeremiah
  • 2011 Josquin - Missa De beata virgine and Missa Ave maris stella
  • 2011 The Victoria Collection
  • 2012 Jean Mouton: Missa Dictes moy toutes voz pensées
  • 2013 Allegri's Miserere & Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli
  • 2013 Eric Whitacre: Sainte-Chapelle
  • 2013 John Taverner - Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas and Magnificats
  • 2013 Renaissance Radio

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Phillips, Peter. What We Really Do: The Tallis Scholars. London: Musical Times, 2003, p.143.
  2. ^ Milsom, John. A Tallis Scholars' retrospective. Early Music, Volume 32, Number 3, August 2004, p. 466-468.
  3. ^ a b c d Libbey, Theodore. NPR Listener's Encyclopedia of Classical Music. New York: Workman Pub, 2006.
  4. ^ Wilson, Nick. Art of Re-Enchantment:Making Early Music in the Modern Age. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  5. ^ Gimell Records. MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews. Accessed 9 December 2013.
  6. ^ Sherman, Bernard D. Inside Early Music: Conversations with Performers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 131.
  7. ^ Gimell is 30!
  8. ^ 50 Greatest Recordings of All Time.
  9. ^ 40th Anniversary release goes straight to number one.
  10. ^ The Tallis Scholars’ and Gimell Records’ 30th Anniversary: Peter Phillips and Steve Smith in conversation with John Quinn. MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews. Accessed 9 December 2013.
  11. ^ Gimell Records. Official website. Accessed 9 December 2013.
  12. ^ Knighton, Tess, and David Fallows. Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music. New York: Schirmer Books, 1992, p. 34.
  13. ^ Keogh, Tom. It’s choral early-music season in Seattle. The Seattle Time, December 9, 2013.
  14. ^ Tallis Scholars Summer Schools
  15. ^ Phillips, Peter. English Sacred Music, 1549-1649. Oxford: Gimell, 1991.
  16. ^ Shweitzer, Vivien. Exploring Spirituality, and Ending on a Prayer: Tallis Scholars Feature Taverner Works at White Light Concert. The New York Times, November 18, 2013.

External links[edit]