Many Voices


October continues treating us with passion and gentleness as befits this time of year.

There are few people that I know (outside of my classical musician neighbors) who might totally geek out with me about this piece of music. But I’m going to share it with you and the tiny little glimmer of hope that it gives me. (And the shiver down my spine that it gives me when I listen to it and a longing to perform it that I can barely understand.)

Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis, sung here by the Tallis Scholars

It is a motet for 8 five-part choirs.

That is 40 separate voices.

It should be chaos. It isn’t. And that is a extended metaphor that works for me.

The Latin text is from the Book of Judith. (in translation)

I have never put my hope in any other but in you,
O God of Israel
who can show both anger and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins of suffering man
Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth
be mindful of our lowliness.

For me the text is less important that the lesson of the poliphony.  We don’t have to speak or sing the same song to make something beautiful together.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. liz says:

    It is beautiful. I have always like motets. There is a soprano though in this that is a bit jarring for me.

    1. Kate Tabor says:

      I know which one you are referring to, but I’m just in awe of the technical aspects of the art here. This piece is often performed with the 40 voices around the hall, so they all have to know right where they are at any moment and trust that the sound that is merging in the middle is happening. Gary Lewis would have LOVED this. I’m surprised (and only slightly facetiously) that we didn’t try it and only stayed with those eight voiced motets.

      We should find some folks to sing with.

  2. Paul C says:

    Love the metaphor: many voices as one. I enjoyed singing the Bach motets in university, the fugues intertwined, repeating, repeating the glorious theme.

    1. Kate Tabor says:

      I just love the whole idea of the motet. Each individual voice being as important as the others blending, some backing off to let other voice move to the front, sometimes all voices sounding one chord. The technical virtuosity that it must take to write one is staggering. But as a metaphor – each voice building, enhancing, magnifying the others – all working together on a glorious whole knowing that the others will all be bringing beauty as well – such a metaphor I love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s