Peter Phillips on the joys and perils of touring, and why the Tallis Lamentations beat that Allegri Miserere.
I started the Tallis Scholars when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate at Oxford. I was an organ scholar and I had a chapel choir I could experiment with a little bit, but the limitations of a minor chapel choir meant I couldn’t really go for it. So I got the best people I could find and put on concerts of the music I wanted to do, which is precisely the sort of polyphony we still do now.
There were some choirs at the time I thought were OK, but I quite quickly developed an idea that we could produce a special sound, and that sort of ideal is what I’ve been trying to get ever since. That’s what I try to do onstage: to take the sound that got stuck in my head in November, 1973 and try to recreate it. The sound of the Tallis Scholars hasn’t changed very much over the years, we’ve just got a bit nearer to that ideal.