ASOUL-stirring concert in Durham Cathedral this Diamond Jubilee weekend will see the acclaimed Tallis Scholars joined by Durham Cathedral Choir for a performance of Renaissance masterpieces.
Another highlight of the Saturday evening concert will be the very first performance of the two winning entries to the National Centre for Early Music's 2012 Composers' Awards. As you might have seen in The Journal on Monday, Ben Howarth, a 20-year-old music student at Durham University and one-time chorister at Hexham Abbey, won the 19 to 25-year-olds category for his piece Where is Thy God? The 18 and under category was won by Alex Woolf, aged 16, from Cambridge, for Lux Aeterna.
Young composers were asked to write a new piece with The Tallis Scholars in mind, taking as their starting point a theme from a piece by the English 16th Century composer John Taverner.
This year's response to the prestigious competition, run in partnership with BBC Radio 3 and The Tallis Scholars, delighted the judges.
Delma Tomlin, director of the National Centre for Early Music, in York, said: "The winners' pieces will sound spectacular in Durham Cathedral and have very obviously been written for The Tallis Scholars' unique sound."
Peter Phillips, the group's director, said: "With The Tallis Scholars I have created an instrument which has a very distinctive sound.
"I can't think of anything more useful than to put this highly trained instrument at the disposal of these inspiring young composers and am hugely appreciative that they have written so well for us."
More than 100 young composers entered the competition, a clear sign that Renaissance sacred music has a modern following.
Largely this is thanks to The Tallis Scholars. Founded in 1973, they were trailblazers who went from performing for a few like-minded individuals to becoming world renowned.
"Whole concerts of Renaissance music back then were very rare," recalls Peter Phillips.
"It was assumed people weren't interested in the repertoire but we were a group of friends in Oxford doing what we enjoyed doing.
"We had no strategy and every time we did a concert we would wonder what we were going to do next."
Peter well remembers the first public concert which sounds as if it was a bit of a joyful shambles.
"What we did was hire a little church in Oxford, stuck up some posters and hoped some people would come along. They didn't. It was a very intimate evening with just some family and friends."
He remembers that the approach back then was amateurish with rehearsals treated as optional affairs by some of the singers. …