This concert has been conceptualized around Thomas Tallis’ s motet Spem in alium nunquam habui praeter in te, Deus Israel (I have never placed my hope in any other but in You, O God of Israel). Spem in alium is rarely performed. Its last presentation at Indiana University took place during the 1975-76 season, under the baton of Chancellor Professor Jan Harrington. A work of extraordinary contrapuntal ambition and complexity, it was composed for a choir of 40 independent voices. Although its date of composition is obscure, and only estimated to be around 1572-73, there are records suggesting it was performed in the summer home of the Earl of Arundel, Nonsuch Palace, which featured an octagonal hall with four balconies. This fact, plus the internal voicing of the motet, suggest that the work was performed with the singers positioned both on the floor and the balconies in a horseshoe shape. The motet has carried a legendary reputation through history, not only because of its substantial demands on the musical acumen of the singers, but for its implied invitation to relate the music to its surrounding architectural space. It gained a new artistic dimension when artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller created a horseshoe-shape installation with sound speakers representing each singer, to be experienced by the audience through an act of penetration into the sculpture’s space. This performance pays homage to this concept, and creates a new interaction between Spem in alium and the multiple triangular spaces of the I.M. Pei Atrium at Indiana University Art Museum. It also comments on the echoes that an early composition may generate in future creativity. All the accompanying works in this concert lead us to reflect on the connections between the past and the future, as much as between music and space. They include the iconic Miserere by Allegri that fascinated the young Mozart a century later, and Sven-David Sandstrom’s contemporary version of Purcell’s Baroque anthem Hear my Prayer, O Lord.
We invite you to forget convention at any point in the concert, and stand up to walk through the space, passing by the singers if you wish, or entering the galleries while you listen to this specially selected repertoire for the Atrium of the Indiana University Art Museum.