The Tallis Scholars are among the world's preeminent choral ensembles. Cultivating a distinctive vocal sound backed by impeccable scholarship, the group has helped raise the general level of interest in Renaissance choral music in Britain and beyond through a large catalog of recordings and numerous international tours.
The Tallis Scholars were formed in 1973 by Peter Phillips, who at the time was a student of Renaissance music at Oxford University. He has remained the group's director. Phillips assembled the group from choral scholars, or scholarship holders, at the various colleges of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and he named the new ensemble for English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis. By 1978 the new ensemble had placed itself on a permanent institutional footing and had begun to tour. Its worldwide appearances have included those at such prestigious events as the 400th-anniversary observance of the death of Palestrina at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and the celebration of the restoration of Michelangelo's "The Last Judgment at the Sistine Chapel." Without sacrificing scholarly rigor, the group has had a broad appeal among Britain's musical public and has appeared multiple times at the BBC Proms.
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the Tallis Scholars' career is the depth of their recording catalog. The Gimell label was formed by Phillips and Steve Smith in 1981 specifically to record the Tallis Scholars. In this, they were well ahead of the curve in a recording world that, even in the classical field, was dominated by major labels. Since the early 1980s, the Tallis Scholars have issued multiple albums per year on Gimell; the year 2001 alone saw 11 separate Tallis Scholars releases. Their recordings fell broadly into three categories: those featuring the music of Tallis and other English Renaissance composers, those featuring continental Renaissance composers, and contemporary works in a minimalist vein including those by John Tavener, a personal friend of Phillips'. By the late 2010s, the Tallis Scholars' catalog was approaching 100 recordings. In 2019, the Scholars released an album featuring Josquin's Missa Mater Patris and Noel de Bauldewyne's Missa da Pacem on Gimell.