As part of this year’s Cape Town Baroque Festival, singers from various Cape Town-based choirs came together to perform the colossal 40-part motet by Thomas Tallis, Spem in alium. Eight small choirs of five voices each were placed throughout the interior of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on Heritage Day, supported by historical keyboard instruments.

Spem in alium was conducted by Patrick Cordery. There were four performances, and each performance included two hearings of this work which gave audience members an opportunity to move to an alternative seating position for a different aural experience. In between the performances, the audience was invited to view an exhibition inspired by the church building compiled by architecture students from UCT.

Five of our current singers (Peter Borchers, Casey Driver, Jennifer Matlock, Owen Rogers and John Woodland) participated in this special project as well as a number of our former singers and many of our close musical friends.

This is the third time that VOX contributed to the Cape Town Baroque Festival. Previously, we performed the Little Organ Mass by Haydn at the inaugural Baroque Festival in 2017 and Vivaldi’s much-loved Gloria at the Baroque Festival in 2018. Visit the website of the Cape Town Baroque Festival to find out what else is on this year’s programme, including exciting performances by our musical colleagues the Cape Town Baroque Orchestra and the Lutesong Consort.

For the intriguing history behind this legendary composition, listen to the podcast of Anna’s Baroque Bon Bons that aired on Fine Music Radio on Tuesday 6 September.

We already have a longstanding relationship with the music of English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585):

At our first New Soundscapes performance in 2016, A Tale of Two Tave(r)ners, which also took place at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, we sang a more manageable (!) 11-part version of Spem in alium.

In early 2020, we sang two further motets by Thomas Tallis – Videte Miraculum and O Nata Lux – at A Brief History of Harmony, the Universe, and Everything with Grant McLachlan for the UCT Summer School and In The Dark :: Evolution: From Plainchant to Polyphony at the Youngblood Gallery.

One of our favourite works is Tallis’s gentle motet If Ye Love Me, a piece we use to audition new singers and one that we recorded for our first Virtual VOX project!