What is the seating capacity of Duke University Chapel?
That’s the question I typed into my phone at the concert by the Tallis Scholars last night. The answer I got was 1600, and although I couldn’t see all the way to the back, the building looked pretty full to me.
The Tallis Scholars is a British a cappella early music vocal ensemble which specializes in mostly Renaissance sacred music. The group was founded in 1973 by Peter Phillips, the organ scholar at St. John’s College in Oxford from 1972-1975 and is based on two singers per part.
Here is a YouTube video of Peter Phillips’ talking about the origins of the Tallis Scholars:
Last night’s concert was their 5th concert at Duke University since the mid 90s, although Phillips announced only 2 people of the present group sang that first concert twenty-four years ago. Last night was the first stop on their “War and Peace” tour of the U.S. in 2018.
The program commemorated all those who died in the First World War, 1914-1918. It consisted mostly of mass settings as you can see by the list below:
Monody: L’Homme Armé
Josquin: Kyrie from the Missa L’Homme Armé
Guerrero: Gloria from the Missa Batalla
Pärt: The Woman with the Alabaster Box
Mouton: Quis dabit oculis
Lobo: Versa est
Guerrero: Credo from the Missa Batalla
Victoria: Requiem aeternam (from the Missa pro Defunctis)
Guerrero: Sanctus from the Missa L’Homme Armé
Tavener: Song for Athene
Palestrina: Agnus dei from the Missa Papae Marcelli
Victoria: Libera me (from the Missa pro Defunctis)
Joey Fala got me a great seat near the front, which you can see from the photo I took as the choir was taking its place to sing the second half.
I was immediately transported by the music which was a blissful respite and time of peace in this noisy, conflicted world. To say that their music was sublime was a vast understatement—I don’t think that their intonation, phrasing, and musical sensitivity could have been more perfect. It was heaven! I last heard the group at the Boston Early Music Festival in Jordan Hall, which acoustically is dry compared to the cavernous acoustics of the Duke University Chapel—and the acoustics made a big difference in my reaction to their music-making.
Here’s the picture I took of the group back in 2011:
Out of the whole program, I think the Arvo Pärt piece was my favorite, and I was able to find a performance of it on YouTube.
We were reminded not to take photos during the concert, but I did photograph the audience’s standing ovation at the end.
I’m soooo glad I changed my air reservations to take in this concert!