Tallis in Wonderland

An aural fantasy – I Fagiolini with Artery (Netherlands)

Performers: 6 singers, 8 medium loudspeakers, 30 medium loudspeakers
Extra requirements: lighting, if available.

Music by Josquin, Gombert, Manchicourt, Tallis, Byrd, Gesualdo, Rore, Palestrina and Monteverdi

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears…”

Caliban in The Tempest

“The English don’t like music – just the noise it makes.” Thomas Beecham


I Fagiolini in performance at Snape Maltings

Following the success of The Full Monteverdi, I Fagiolini’s new music-theatre project with Dutch company Artery gets to grips with the fundamental problem of how an audience actually hears Renaissance vocal music.

How to get further inside such web-like music, usually heard from performers at one end of a church or hall?

How to give context to music from a very different time?


Tallis in Wonderland explores ten Renaissance works of genius, finding musical and dramatic routes in to their magical but complex soundworld. Sometimes the pieces are de-constructed and then recreated; sometimes the sound is spread around the hall via the speakers (through software designed especially for the project) or the singers themselves. The whole becomes a game for singers and loudspeakers, the entire space the sound’s playground. The audience is at times surrounded by sound and performers, and at times focused on an intimate moment.

The show lasts one hour, preceded by a ten-minute soundscape as the audience take their seats.

“Their title, Tallis in Wonderland, managed to trump that of the highly successful The Full Monteverdi. [ … ] The whisperings, the disembodied voices of authority threw the aural focus sharply back on to the resolutely controlled singing.” The Guardian

“It’s not out to shock, but to open the ear to every wonder-filled strand of Renaissance polyphony by means of a highly physical “aural fantasy”. The project is not half as coy as its title, and it works because it listens intensively to the music itself. Not one aural effect, not one staged movement distracts — and that is something of a small miracle.” The Times

“As they move, the group subdivides, parting and reforming in a way that mirrors the polyphonic weave of the music… All this makes something remote seem thrillingly immediate. We see as well as hear why Byrd’s Attolite Portas has a lovely dancing quality… A marvellous show, with wonderful singing at its heart.” Daily Telegraph


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