Tallis Scholars, Norwich

MICHAEL DRAKE Not for the first time, the festival starts in May – and what a start last evening. Not with symphonic and percussive fanfares, those come later in the next week and a half, but magnificent voices in perfect cohesion.

MICHAEL DRAKE

Not for the first time, the festival starts in May – and what a start last evening. Not with symphonic and percussive fanfares, those come later in the next week and a half, but magnificent voices in perfect cohesion.

The cathedral's nave and aisles were packed to thrill to the brilliant tones and blend from the 10 voices of this world class ensemble in the Evershed- sponsored concert of 16th century music. It started, not surprisingly, with two pieces from Thomas Tallis in which sopranos projected immaculately placed lines, with every last note totally poised and countering the gentlemen's plainsong.

That poise was sustained through to the final anthem by Osbert Parsley, who himself spent some half a century singing in the cathedral and whose “voice” was heard again in Conserva me – again, sopranos soared with the scholars moving seamlessly from two to three and five parts in a fulsome conclusion. Parsons' Ave Maria built to a wonderful Amen, William Mundy was all-enveloping in lilting comfort or dignified statements, and always, whichever voice had the dominant part, was heard.

One could only sit back and admire the vocal ebb and flow in what was truly a festal opening. Give them a return ticket.

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