Antony Pitts will have his new multi-choral piece for Sydney Philharmonia Choirs at Sydney Opera House premiered on Easter Saturday. The composer and Artistic Director of The Song Company tells Angus McPherson about the piece, and why he hopes 50 will be the new 40.

Antony Pitts, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs Antony Pitts. Photo © Nick Gilbert

The composer writes:

The first composition I wrote down – I think I was eight – was a hymn in the classic four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). In my 30s I was asked by Simon Halsey to write a 40-part companion motet for Thomas Tallis’s Spem in aliumto be sung by the Rundfunkchor Berlin in the Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal. Whether you’re writing for four parts or for 40 parts, there’s always a bottom and a top note at any one time, and a limit to the number of different pitches sounding simultaneously (in four parts, that’s up to four pitches; in 40 parts, the maximum is still only 12, unless you’re going microtonal). The difference of scale, however, does matter: in a 40-part piece each vocal line is more like an individual bird lost in but...