Thomas Tallis: Spem in alium
Singers of Nederlands Kamerkoor, Det Norske Solistkor, Tallis Scholars and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. Conductor: Peter Dijkstra
The online streaming has ended! From May 1 – September 27 we streamed a new Psalm on this page daily. Through this initiative, started in a time where we could not perform live, we reached over 20.000 people from across the globe. We thank everyone for the messages of support and moving stories we received and hope to see you all again soon in real life. Stay safe.
The Netherlands Chamber Choir (Nederlands Kamerkoor) will be streaming 150 Psalms, set to music by 150 composers, over the course of 150 days. The Psalms’ themes, based on texts from thousands of years ago, are nowadays as relevant as they were when they were written. The Psalms sing about hope and sorrow, about leaders in trying times and about powerlessness and the joy of life. The Psalms form a mirror of our society. The Netherlands Chamber Choir, the Tallis Scholars, the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street are sharing these performances with the world, hoping it will fill the silence, and bring a moment of hope in the world. We are immensely looking forward to meeting our audiences again in real life. The performances were recorded by Parmando 24Culture.
In times of disaster, war, doubt or deprivations, there can scarcely be any better antidote than to burst into song and to dance. Throughout the history of Moses’ people, song, dance and jubilation provide the necessary festive change of scene, and relaxation, however temporary. But even then, ethical behaviour towards others is not lost sight of. Swüste: ‘When the Psalms start rejoicing, they actually become little professions of faith. ‘No strange gods’ is the motto, i.e. no desire for wealth, power and luxury. But care for the oppressed, the poor and the stranger.’
The final concert of this 12-part cycle again contains a great variety of composers and a great variety of ways of setting a psalm. The most practical settings are either unison (plainsong) or homophonic (chorales). Psalm 105 by the British composer Thomas Attwood Walmisley and Psalm 50 by the American Samuel Holyoke are good examples of English chants or chorales. Of a totally different nature is the often luxuriant polyphony of Adriano Banchieri, Ruggiero Giovanelli, Jakob Handl and Jan Tollius. George Kirbye in England and Andreas Hammerschmidt in Bohemia, with their different religious backgrounds, both opted for a fairly taut setting of the Psalms. This was primarily homophonic, to enable the text to be followed as well as possible. And in fact this homophonic approach can also be found in most Russian-Orthodox psalm settings, as in that of Alexander Grechaninov, and in a lot of choral music of the French school in the first half of the 20th century, such as that of Francis Poulenc. In some sense that also applies to the psalm settings of Belgian Vic Nees, even though his Psalm 87 is one of the more complex of his choral works. The influence of Regensburg Caecilianism on Joseph Rheinberger is shown in his setting of Psalm 84, modelled on Palestrina’s counterpoint. As well as the commissioned work by the Serbian composer Isidora Žebeljan, two more special psalm settings remain. The fi rst is by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, a Benedictine nun from Milan, who left behind an astonishing oeuvre, including a splendid Dixit Dominus, otherwise known as Psalm 110. The second is Henry Purcell’s Psalm 106, one of the pearls of the English Baroque era.
Musicological concept and programme note: Leo Samama (2017)
Note: this programme note was taken from the programme booklet for the original project in 2017. The performance order of the Psalms was different to the way we will be streaming the Psalms online. Nonetheless these notes may provide you with additional background information on the musicological concept and the Psalm themes.
150 Psalms was initiated by the Netherlands Chamber Choir and its artistic and general manager Tido Visser in 2017. During the Early Music Festival in Utrecht (NL), the Netherlands Chamber Choir, the Tallis Scholars, the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street performed a ‘monumental ode to 1,000 years choral music’. In 12 concerts spread over 2 days, they performed musical settings of all 150 Psalms by 150 different composers. The Psalms, arranged into 12 different themes by theologian Gerard Swüste, are a combination of both older and newer compositions. This marathon-concert tour premiered during the Early Music Festival Utrecht (NL) in 2017, followed by performances in New York (2017), Brussels (2018) and Adelaide (2020).