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The Thomas Tallis Trail -

A choral pilgrimage with The Tallis Scholars

Five concerts with The Tallis Scholars, the leading specialists in Renaissance choral music.

Performances in the places where Thomas Tallis (1505–85) worked, most being spectacular churches.

Four concerts are exclusive to The Tallis Trail, one is a collaboration with the Canterbury Festival. 

Polyphony mainly by Tallis and his 16th-century peers with some modern works.

Talk by Professor Owen Rees of The Queen’s College, Oxford.

Prices include two nights in Canterbury with breakfasts, some refreshments, dinners and a light lunch, and travel by comfortable coach.

Admission to both Canterbury Cathedral and Hampton Court, for independent visits, is also included.

  • The Tallis Scholars ©Nick Rutter.
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We are delighted to launch the second edition of The Thomas Tallis Trail, a unique touring mini-festival which celebrates the music of Thomas Tallis in all five of the places where he is known to have worked.

As with the first outing in 2013, there is just one ensemble, and it could not be a more appropriate one: The Tallis Scholars (TTS). Founded 45 years ago by a juvenile Peter Phillips, TTS is widely regarded as the world’s finest interpreter of Renaissance polyphony.

Nearly half the music is by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585), one of the greatest English composers of all time, and one of the finest composers of polyphony in Europe. None surpasses him for variety; a long life helped, but so did his skill at negotiating the treacherous eddies of religious belief and liturgy that swirled around him during the English Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

Not only his livelihood but also his very survival depended on adapting his creative genius to please both Catholic and Protestant patrons. Simply to have served four disparate monarchs for 40 years is a remarkable achievement.

Other Tudor composers we hear are Taverner, Byrd, Sheppard and Gibbons. Italy is represented by Giovanni Croce and Gregorio Allegri (his Miserere), while Arvo Pärt, John Rutter, Nico Muhly and Matthew Martin provide stunning contemporary pieces, some written specially for TTS.

The festival begins in the City of London at the church of St-Mary-at-Hill and continues to the great Romanesque church of Waltham Abbey in Essex. The next day is spent in Kent, with concerts at Dover Priory and Canterbury Cathedral. On the third day we decamp to Middlesex for the final concert at Hampton Court Palace. As far as possible, music has been chosen to suit Tallis’s association with these buildings.

With the unmatched event-planning skills of Martin Randall Festivals, and TTS’s near-half-century of devotion to Tallis’s compositions, this promises be an exceptionally enthralling, intense and moving three days.

The Thomas Tallis Trail is available as a package which includes not only all five concerts but also two nights’ accommodation, travel by coach, two dinners and a light lunch, tickets to Canterbury Cathedral and Hampton Court Palace for independent visits, a talk by a musicologist, and opportunities to meet Peter Phillips and the singers. There is a choice between two hotels in the historic heart of Canterbury, the 4-star Abode and the Lodge, the cathedral’s conference centre.

The festival package

Prices include:
— Admission to all five concerts.
— Accommodation for two nights in Canterbury.
— Breakfasts, refreshments on the first day, one light lunch and two dinners with wine.
— Lecture by Professor Owen Rees. 
— Interval drinks for the concert in Canterbury Cathedral.
— Tickets for admission to Canterbury Cathedral and Hampton Court Palace.
— Travel by comfortable private coach.
— A programme booklet, and the assistance of festival staff.

The Musicians 

The Tallis Scholars
The Tallis Scholars were founded in 1973 by Peter Phillips. Through their recordings and concerts they have established themselves as the world’s leading exponents of Renaissance sacred music.

Peter Phillips has worked with the ensemble to create, through good tuning and blend, the purity and clarity of sound which he feels best serves the repertoire from the late 15th to the early 17th centuries.

They have performed in sacred and secular venues on six continents and give around 70 concerts each year. Gimell Records was set up in 1980 solely to record the group, and their recordings have attracted many awards throughout the world.

Highlights in the 2018/19 season include performances at the Salzburg Festival, Bremen and Utrecht Festivals, a special concert at Miller Theatre, New York, where they will give the world première of a new Nico Muhly piece, and tours of Japan and Brazil, in addition to their usual touring schedule around the USA, Europe and the UK.

In spring 2015 The Tallis Scholars released a disc of music by Arvo Pärt called Tintinnabuli which has received great praise across the board. The latest recording of Josquin masses, Missa Gaudeamus and Missa L’ami Baudichon, was released in November 2018. This is the seventh of nine albums in The Tallis Scholars’ project to record all of Josquin’s masses before the composer’s 500th Anniversary in 2021.

Peter Phillips

Founder of The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips won an organ scholarship to St John’s College Oxford in 1972.

He has dedicated himself to the research and performance of Renaissance polyphony, appearing in over 2,200 concerts and making over 60 discs. As a result of his work, Renaissance music has come to be accepted as part of the mainstream classical repertoire.

For 33 years he contributed a regular music column to The Spectator and is owner and publisher of The Musical Times, the oldest continuously published music journal in the world. In spring 2018 BBC Radio 3 broadcasted Phillips’ view of Renaissance polyphony, in a series of six hour-long programmes.


Day 1: Friday 1 November

The festival begins with a concert at St-Mary-at-Hill in the City of London at 11.15am. Before this, refreshments are served at two nearby hotels – where luggage can be stored until the afternoon.

Concert, 11.15am
St-Mary-at-Hill, City of London
Tallis ‘Dorian’ Magnificat and Nunc dimittis; Tallis Absterge, domine; Tallis Derelinquat impius; Tallis Miserere; Tallis Honor virtus et potestas; Tallis Audivi vocem; Tallis If ye love me; Sheppard Lord’s Prayer; Tallis Te Deum ‘for meanes’.

Within the walls of St-Mary-at-Hill is masonry of the church Thomas Tallis would have known, but after the Fire of London of 1666 it was rebuilt under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren. Subsequent alterations have not seriously altered its character, and it remains one of the most satisfying church interiors in the City.

Tallis appears on the payroll in 1537 and 1538, presumably as organist and singer.

A sandwich lunch follows the concert. Then retrieve your luggage and board a coach for Waltham Abbey in Essex, an hour to the north.

Concert, 3.15pm
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Tallis Loquebantur variis linguis; Tallis Quod chorus vatum; Tallis Miserere; Croce Miserere; Allegri Miserere; Martin Ave Virgo Sanctissima; Rutter Hymn to the Creator of Light; Byrd Tribue domine.

Thomas Tallis was a singer and possibly an organist at Waltham Abbey from 1538 until its dissolution in 1540 (it was the last monastery to be dissolved under Henry VIII). It had been one of the largest abbeys in the country but most of the buildings were soon demolished – except for the splendid Norman nave, which became the parish church.

Drive from Waltham Abbey to Canterbury (the journey should be under two hours), where both nights are spent. Dinner is in the hotels.

Day 2: 
Saturday 2 November

Coaches take you the half hour from Canterbury to Dover.

Concert, 11.15am
Dover College, Refectory
Tallis Mass for Four Voices; Martin The Silver Swan; Gibbons The Silver Swan; Tallis Miserere; Byrd Miserere; Byrd Tribulationes civitatum; Tallis Ave rosa sine spinis.   

Built in the 1130s, the refectory of Dover Priory is one of the most impressive non-ecclesiastical buildings of the period. The monastic precinct having become a school, Dover College, in 1868, the refectory is once more a dining hall – one with excellent acoustics.

Thomas Tallis was organist at Dover Priory 1530–31, his first recorded appointment.

Return to Canterbury after the concert for a free afternoon. There is plenty to see, not least the cathedral, one of the great medieval buildings of Europe. Admission is included in the festival package.

There is a talk at 5.30pm at the cathedral conference centre by Professor Owen Rees, Director of Music at The Queen’s College, Oxford.

This is followed by the first part of dinner at the Cathedral Lodge; the main course and dessert are served after the concert.

Concert, 7.30pm
Canterbury Cathedral
Tallis Loquebantur; Tallis Lamentations I; Muhly Recordare; Pärt Triodion; Taverner Quemadmodum; Sheppard Jesu salvator seculi; Tallis Jesu salvator seculi; Tallis Miserere; Tallis O salutaris hostia; Tallis In manus tuas; Taverner O splendor gloriae.

We have organised the evening concert in association with the Canterbury Festival, and the audience fills the nave. Abode residents have the highest category of seat, Lodge residents the next best category. Interval drinks for Tallis Trail participants only are provided at the Cathedral Lodge.

Having been founded by St Augustine in ad 597, Canterbury Cathedral has claims to be the oldest organisation in the English-speaking world. It was rebuilt shortly after the Norman Conquest. The eastern parts were rebuilt and extended a century later – the first major construction in England in the Gothic style.

This extension followed the murder of Thomas Becket in the cathedral in 1170, which led to Canterbury becoming one of Europe’s major pilgrimage destinations. The nave was refurbished in Perpendicular Gothic garb at the end of the 14th century. (There is likely to be scaffolding in the nave.)

Thomas Tallis probably came to Canterbury Cathedral in 1540 after leaving Waltham Abbey; he is recorded in the next two years as a lay clerk here.

Day 3: 
Sunday 3 November

Drive from Canterbury to Hampton Court (about 2 hours). Here there are 2½ hours to visit the palace (tickets provided) and have lunch (cafeteria in the grounds or restaurants in the village).

Rebuilt by Cardinal Wolsey from 1514, confiscated in 1528 by Henry VIII who further enlarged it, Hampton Court is the largest and most sumptuous of surviving Tudor palaces. Soon after William and Mary came to their joint throne in 1689, Sir Christopher Wren added a grand Baroque residence. Iconic architecture, formal gardens, lavish interiors, fine paintings and tapestries – this is one of the great historic sites in Britain. 

Concert, 1.45pm
Hampton Court, Chapel Royal
Gibbons ‘Short’ service Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis; Tallis Jam Christus astra; Tallis Miserere; Muhly Marrow; Pärt Virgencita; Tallis Missa Puer natus; Byrd Ye sacred muses.

The chapel is part Henry VIII – the amazingly elaborate ceiling – and part Queen Anne, the furnishings being designed by Wren and Hawksmoor in 1710.

Tallis served as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal from, probably, 1543 until his death in 1585, serving four monarchs – Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I.

Coaches drive towards central London immediately after the concert. City-centre locations could be reached around 4.30pm.







Accommodation & Prices

Choose from two places to stay in Canterbury during the festival. Prices – per person.

Canterbury Cathedral Lodge
Located inside the cathedral walls, the Lodge began life in 1998 as a study centre and has since been converted into conference facilities. A huddle of many-sided buildings around a courtyard, its interior is contemporary and functional. The hotel is decorated and furnished simply, but comfortably. Rooms vary in size, and all have showers (none have baths, with the exception of one room in the Lodge’s ‘value’ accommodation, see below). Service is very friendly and helpful. There is a cosy, communal library.

There are a small number of rooms in the Lodge’s ‘value’ accommodation – these rooms are only accessible via two flights of stairs, and do not have views of the cathedral. All other rooms do have cathedral views, and are accessible by lift.

Coaches do not fit through the cathedral precinct’s medieval gates and so have to stop outside, entailing a c. 8–10 minute walk.

Two sharing
Value double/twin: £1,070
Standard double/twin: £1,230

Single occupancy
Value double: £1,150
Single (single bed): £1,320
Standard double: £1,360

The Abode Canterbury

Part of a chain of luxury hotels, the Abode is a 4-star located on the pedestrianised High Street, about five minutes on foot from the cathedral and opposite The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. Furnishings and décor are contemporary in style, yet there are also charming period interiors. Parts of the fabric date to the 12th century.

Service is professional and friendly. The hotel’s restaurant has been awarded three AA rosettes. There is a lift to all floors. All rooms have baths with the exception of two with showers in the Comfortable double for single occupancy category.

Two sharing
Desirable double/twin: £1,420
Enviable double
(twin beds not possible): £1,530

Single occupancy
Comfortable double: £1,480
Desirable double: £1,570

More about the concerts

Seats. Except in Canterbury Cathedral, specific seats are not reserved. You sit were you want. If we reach full capacity, a very few seats in Hampton Court Chapel may have restricted sightlines.

Exclusive access. Again, except at Canterbury Cathedral, the concerts are private. The other four are planned and administered by Martin Randall Festivals exclusively for an audience consisting of those who have taken the full festival package. The capacity is around a hundred. 

Duration. Four of the concerts are about an hour long and have no interval. The concert at Canterbury Cathedral is about two hours, with an interval. 

Fitness for the festival

Some walking is unavoidable.

In places, coaches park up to half a mile from the venue. Participants need to be able to walk unaided for at least 20 minutes and to stand for 15.

If you are staying at Canterbury Cathedral Lodge, you will have to walk c. 8–10 minutes from where the coach drops off, with your luggage. If you are staying in the ‘value’ rooms at the Lodge, there are two flights of stairs to climb to get to your room.

Are you fit enough to join the tour?

Post-festival options

Opera in Southern Sicily5–11 November 2019 
Five operas and five historic theatres in beautiful Baroque cities. Please let us know if you would like us to arrange accommodation at the Ambassadors Bloomsbury Hotel between the two festivals – a simple 4-star hotel located near Kings Cross railway station (

Japanese Art in London, 4 November 2019 
A London Day – visit the V&A and the British Museum to view their Japanese art collections. Led by Japanese art specialist Dr Monika Hinkel.

‘My first love is choral, and I was thrilled to hear The Tallis Scholars.’

‘Another wonderfully rich experience of both music and buildings.’