40 Part Motet by Janet Cardiff
Wandering back through Brighton I popped my head into Fabrica and saw an ellipse of 40 speakers on poles all pointing inwards towards the centre. They were playing choral music. So in we stepped and sat down. All I can say is go hear this. It’s about fifteen minutes long. Wait until the piece starts then sit as near the middle as you can. 40 voices, one from each speaker, sing a 16th century piece by Thomas Tallis. It’s absolutely sublime.
I always feel uncomfortable when made to look at a cliff of choristers’ faces. All those lawyers and accountants in one place, they look so smug that it puts me off the music. All those jolly, over eager expressions. So for me it was a delight to listen to a choral piece without the men and women in black. Here you can sit, on your own, in a small church, with the sun streaming in from the windows on three sides, and just listen.
First, the music is just beautiful, second the movement of the voices round the ellipse, as well as deliberate contrasts across the space, makes the whole thing seem just very alive. When all rise up into full crescendo, it overwhelms. I genuinely had a tear in my eye.