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Tallis Scholars bring 'War and Peace' to MI

Nick Rutter
The Tallis Scholars surrounding Peter Phillips

The famed British early music ensemble, The Tallis Scholars, arrive at East Lansing’s Fairchild Theatre Sunday night to sing a program called War and Peace. WKAR’s Jamie Paisley spoke with the man who founded them back in 1973, Peter Phillips, to talk about performing music that is centuries old.

"When I was asked to put a program that was dedicated to War and Peace together," recalls Peter Phillips,  "I thought of the most warlike elements in the music that we normally do and the most peaceful ones. Sort of hopeful, peaceful ones. And the warlike one came down to 'L'homme armé,' which is 'The Armed Man' in French, and 'The Armed Man' in the medieval period was a figure of horror who roamed Europe. Nobody knows quite who he was, but he terrorized people. I mean, there are many possible references to 'L'homme armé,' lots of composers took up this very famous tune, but I've just given one example, which is from a mass by Josquin [des Prez]."

[Excerpt from Josquin's Mass on 'L'homme armé']

In addition to a lot of the early music that the Tallis Scholars are widely known for interpreting, there is a bit of modern music Phillips has brought into this War and Peace program. One of which is Arvo Pärt, and his 'The Woman with the Alabaster Box,' where does that fit in with Phillip's theme?

"Yes," ponders Phillips. "I'm trying to remember. The Renaissance elements a much more obvious with the battle mass and the requiem mass and that's sort of very straight forward War and Peace, but we've recorded a lot of Pärt. We've worked quite closely with him, actually. His music is always extremely reflective. It encouraged you to sit back and think hard about basic questions of life and death. 'The

"[Arvo Part's] music is always extremely reflective. It encouraged you to sit back and think hard about basic questions of life and death." - Peter Phillips

Woman and the Alabaster Box' ends with the word 'burial.'"

[Excerpt from Pärt's "The Woman with the Alabaster Box"]

The Tallis Scholar's War and Peace program ends with Tomas Luis de Victoria's setting of 'Libera me.'

"Well this is the end of the Victoria Requiem." explains Phillips. "This is the last movement in the Requiem of perhaps, well, one of the three or four greatest pieces of high Renaissance writing. It's a long Requiem, it lasts about 45 minutes. But this movement at the end is just a short. It sets a beautiful scene and it ends, you've got to imagine you're standing over the coffin, which was how it was originally staged, as it were, in the original funeral service for the person it was written for and you're standing over the coffin and you're just singing 'Kyrie eleison.' some chant and then 'Kyrie eleison' again and Victoria gets it exactly right. He gets the mood just right at the end there. So you go away feeling, not sad, he was a hopeful Christian was Victora."

[Excerpt from Victoria's 'Libera me']

Peter Philips and The Tallis Scholars, currently in their 45th year bring their program of War and Peace, commemorating a century since the end of World War I to Michigan. The concert will be in East Lansing’s Fairchild Theatre this Sunday evening at 7 as part of the Taylor Johnston Early Music Series. More info at music.msu.eduand you can also learn more about this early music group at their website TheTallisScholars.co.uk

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