This weekend my wife and I went to the Cloisters and experienced a stunning exhibit, forty parts singing Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium numquam habui (1556?/1573?), which translates "In No Other Is My Hope," each part on one of forty speakers situated around the late-12th-century chapel from Fuentidueña, Spain. The exhibit continues to December 8.
Here's the link to more information:
We were inspired to go partly by this NY Times article in September: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/nyregion/moved-to-tears-at-the-cloisters-by-a-ghostly-tapestry-of-music.html?_r=0
To give you a hint of what I'm writing about below, try listening to a recording of the piece such as this one: http://www.studio360.org/story/janet-cardiffs-40-part-motet/
For the full effect, go to the Cloisters!
On "The Forty Part Motet"
I think that I have never seen
One hundred people all convened
In rapt attention and in awe,
Although no habit, rule or law
Decreed that they should silent be.
Somehow, to his or her degree,
Each one became a devotee
Of God - or grace - or mystery
That none had power to resist
Amongst the voices that dismissed
The world, the cares, the feeling plain,
As sacred overcame profane.
The forty speakers each proclaimed
A voice, not perfect, but when framed
Within that chapel made of stone,
Together, perfect love intoned.
The crucifix, for those inclined,
Could only add to hearts and minds
Their thanks; While seated on the floor,
Or standing, each seemed then restored,
With eyes cast high, or down in prayer,
Or simply glad that they were there,
Each one made new within that space
By such experience of grace.
Scott L. Barton