File this under Strange Bedfellows. The crazy-huge success of E L James' Fifty Shades erotic trilogy — which as of late May stood at more than 10 million sales in all formats and 60 physical printings, according to publisher Vintage Books — has made quite the impact in ... classical music, of all things.
Consider this: Thomas Tallis' wondrous 40-part motet Spem in alium, written around 1570 and recorded by The Tallis Scholars more than 25 years ago, has bounded up the classical charts, thanks to its mention in the first installment of Fifty Shades.
I've just learned through fans' postings online — I must admit I haven't read the book — that Spem is what the seductive Christian Grey is listening to on his first night with the book's heroine.
This unexpected rebounding has been enough of a high/low cultural collision that Peter Philips, the very proper and rather starchy founder and director of The Tallis Scholars, has actually issued a statement about it. "I haven't read Fifty Shades of Grey," Philips said, "but I am most grateful to the author for introducing so many new listeners to the musical sensation that is Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium. Written during the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth it features 40 individual voices singing in Latin that combine to a thrilling climax for the words 'respice humilitatem nostram' (be mindful of our humiliation)."