Tallis Aforethought: Using historical techniques to access new audiences for contemporary classical choral music

The event is aimed at opening up a discussion about the accessibility of contemporary classical music and is part of a larger UWL initiative focused on the London & SE 21st Century Music Practices Research Network set up by Simon Zagorski-Thomas and involving many TCCE partners (over 70 academics from more than 20 HEIs).

Francis Pott is Professor of Composition at London College of Music [LCM], within the University of West London [UWL]. Here he interrogates the ways in which familiar and well established composition techniques – and counterpoint in particular – can be used in contemporary composition, and aims to use them to provide a ‘way in’ for non-specialist audiences.

Minimalism, by creating a new compositional language out of the repetition of popular music and Buddhist chanting, has been hailed as an accessible face of contemporary classical music. At the same time, within the world of contemporary choral music, there has been a popular wave of pieces that retain a more traditional tonal approach to harmony, from composers such as Eric Whitacre and Paul Mealor.

Francis has taken a different path, using counterpoint to create a series of contemporary pieces that have been widely adopted by small as well as larger choirs. A short choral carol setting from 2009 has now gone to six commercial recordings, with the most recent (2016, by the groundbreaking UK ensemble, Voces8 ) attracting 145,000 ‘hits’ on Facebook when the group posted a video of their performance from London’s Gresham Centre.

Francis will play some recorded examples of his own and other works as part of a wider discussion about the ways in which counterpoint retains its validity and fruitfulness within modern practice, while emphasising a line of continuity from much earlier models. He hopes to blur rather than clarify the ways in which we perceive one thing as ‘old’ and another as ‘new’.

The talk by Francis will be followed by an ‘armchair’ interview in which he will be questioned by Gareth Wilson, currently Lecturer and Director of Chapel Music at Girton College, Cambridge, and a successful composer in his own right.

Professor Francis Pott
and interviewer: Gareth Wilson (Lecturer and Director of Chapel Music, Girton College, Cambridge)

Image by Isabel Pott
Biog Image by Rumen Mitchinov Photography