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A reflection on Thomas Tallis' Loquebantur

I was most elated to be approached to write a gospel-influenced reflection on ‘Loquebantur’. The obvious, exciting challenge  was to be faithful to the brief, whilst recognising the magnificent ORA’s core sound and typical performance setting  is different from that of a gospel choir. How would the two musical worlds juxtapose?

I  found Tallis’s masterpiece was actually perfect  for the nature of my reflection. For example, it has a fluid Jazz-like motion,  interspersing of  solo and group, the  false relations in Tallis’s harmonies are akin to the ‘bluesing’ of notes in gospel music,  and of course the  subject matter –  the  Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts chapter 2, which describes a mighty rushing wind filling a room and those present simultaneously declaring the wonders of God in different languages – gave much scope for painting a  musical picture.

I did originally intend to superimpose phrases from  the different languages represented, but opted to use a neutral syllable, and layer different types of scales and rhythms.  This way, the very excellent singers could tell their ‘own’ story. I have dipped in and out of traditional and contemporary choral styles, capitalising on the choir’s amazing array of vocal colours.

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Ken Burton is an international choral and orchestral conductor, singer and instrumentalist,  composer, arranger, trainer, educator, judge, and presenter.He read music at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London where he completed his Bachelor of Music in 1991 and continued with further professional studies in Voice Education. His training and education was in the field of Classical music, and he is widely known for his versatility, ability to bring different genres together, and musicianship skills for which he has won awards. 

As a Composer And Arranger Burton has several choral volumes published by major music publishers, including the best selling Feel The Spirit (Faber Music) and Christmas Spirituals For Choirs (Oxford University Press); his music, both original and arranged, is performed by choirs across the world. He arranges extensively for BBC Songs Of Praise and a large number of other programmes. Among these programmes is The X Factor, where he did choral arrangements for songs for One Direction, Robbie Williams, Christina Aguilera, will.i.am, and Rihanna. He has also done broadcast arrangements for Ruby Turner, Mica Paris, Beverly Knight, Ruthie Henshall, Heather Small, Lesley
Garrett, Sir Willard White, and US artists Donnie McClurkin, Kym Mazelle, and Gregory Porter.

He worked with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber on styling an arrangement of  the song Love Never Dies  for US singer Nicole Scherzinger.  He has also been commissioned on several occasions, writing works for The Choir Of St Johns College, Cambridge,  Hereford Three Choirs Festival, Aldeburgh Music Festival, among others.