Thomas Tallis

Thomas Tallis

Overview
Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century Tudor England
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English musicianship. No contemporary portrait of Tallis survives: the earliest, painted by Gerard van der Gucht, dates from 150 years after Tallis died, and there is no certainty that it is a likeness.

Little is known about Tallis's early life, but there seems to be agreement that he was born in the early 16th century, toward the close of the reign of Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

.
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Encyclopedia
Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century Tudor England
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English musicianship. No contemporary portrait of Tallis survives: the earliest, painted by Gerard van der Gucht, dates from 150 years after Tallis died, and there is no certainty that it is a likeness.

Early years


Little is known about Tallis's early life, but there seems to be agreement that he was born in the early 16th century, toward the close of the reign of Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

. His first known appointment to a musical position was as organist
Organ (music)
The organ , is a keyboard instrument of one or more divisions, each played with its own keyboard operated either with the hands or with the feet. The organ is a relatively old musical instrument in the Western musical tradition, dating from the time of Ctesibius of Alexandria who is credited with...

 of Dover Priory
Dover Priory
The Priory of St. Mary the Virgin and St. Martin of the New Work, or Newark, commonly called Dover Priory, was a priory at Dover in southeast England...

 in 1530–31, a Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 priory
Priory
A priory is a house of men or women under religious vows that is headed by a prior or prioress. Priories may be houses of mendicant friars or religious sisters , or monasteries of monks or nuns .The Benedictines and their offshoots , the Premonstratensians, and the...

 at Dover
Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

 (now Dover College
Dover College
Dover College is a co-educational independent school in Dover in southeast England. It was founded in 1871, and takes both day pupils and boarders....

) in 1532. His career took him to London, then (probably in the autumn of 1538) to the Augustinian abbey of Holy Cross
Christian cross
The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is the best-known religious symbol of Christianity...

 at Waltham
Waltham Abbey (abbey)
The Abbey Church of Waltham Abbey has been a place of worship since at least 1030, and is in the town of Waltham Abbey, Essex, England. The Prime Meridian passes through its grounds. Harold Godwinson is said to be buried just outside the present abbey...

 until the abbey was dissolved
Dissolution of the Monasteries
The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland; appropriated their...

 in 1540. Tallis acquired a volume at the dissolution of the monastery of Waltham Holy Cross and preserved it; one of the treatises in it was by Leonel Power
Leonel Power
Leonel Power was an English composer of the late Medieval and early Renaissance eras. Along with John Dunstaple, he was one of the major figures in English music in the early 15th century.-Life:...

, and the treatise itself prohibits consecutive unisons, fifths, and octaves.

Tallis's next post was at Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and forms part of a World Heritage Site....

. He was next sent to Court as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal
Chapel Royal
A Chapel Royal is a body of priests and singers who serve the spiritual needs of their sovereign wherever they are called upon to do so.-Austria:...

 in 1543 (which later became a Protestant establishment), where he composed and performed for Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

, Edward VI
Edward VI of England
Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch who was raised as a Protestant...

 (1547–1553), Queen Mary
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

 (1553–1558), and Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 (1558 until Tallis died in 1585). Throughout his service to successive monarchs as organist and composer, Tallis avoided the religious controversies that raged around him, though, like William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

, he stayed an "unreformed Roman Catholic." Tallis was capable of switching the style of his compositions to suit the different monarchs' vastly different demands. Among other important composers of the time, including Christopher Tye
Christopher Tye
Christopher Tye was an English composer and organist, who studied at Cambridge University and in 1545 became a Doctor of Music both there and at Oxford.He was choirmaster of Ely Cathedral from about 1543 and also organist there from 1559...

 and Robert White
Robert White (composer)
Robert White probably born in Holborn, a district of London, was a catholic English composer whose liturgical music to Latin texts is considered particularly fine...

, Tallis stood out. Walker observes, "He had more versatility of style than either, and his general handling of his material was more consistently easy and certain." Tallis was also a teacher, not only of William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

, but also of Elway Bevin, an organist of Bristol Cathedral
Bristol Cathedral
The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity is the Church of England cathedral in the city of Bristol, England, and is commonly known as Bristol Cathedral...

 and gentleman of the Chapel Royal.

Tallis married around 1552; his wife, Joan, outlived him by four years. They apparently had no children. Late in his life he lived in Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

, possibly close to the royal palace: a local tradition holds that he lived on Stockwell Street.

Work with William Byrd


Queen Mary granted Tallis a lease on a manor in Kent that provided a comfortable annual income. In 1575, Queen Elizabeth granted to him and William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

 a 21-year monopoly for polyphonic music
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

 and a patent to print and publish music, which was one of the first arrangements of that type in the country. Tallis's monopoly covered 'set songe or songes in parts', and he composed in English, Latin, French, Italian, or other tongues as long as they served for music in the Church or chamber. Tallis had exclusive rights to print any music, in any language. He and William Byrd were the only ones allowed to use the paper that was used in printing music. Tallis and Byrd used their monopoly to produce Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur but the piece did not sell well and they appealed to Queen Elizabeth for her support. People were naturally wary of their new publications, and it certainly did not help their case that they were both avowed Roman Catholics. Not only that, they were strictly forbidden to sell any imported music. "We straightly by the same forbid...to be brought out of any forren Realmes...any songe or songes made and printed in any foreen countrie." Also, Byrd and Tallis were not given "the rights to music type fonts, printing patents were not under their command, and they didn't actually own a printing press."

Tallis retained respect during a succession of opposing religious movements and deflected the violence that claimed Catholics and Protestants alike.

Death


Thomas Tallis died peacefully in his house in Greenwich in November 1585. Most historians agree that he died on the twenty-third. He was buried in the chancel of the parish of St Alfege's Church
St Alfege's Church, Greenwich
St Alfege Church is a Church of England place of worship in the town centre of Greenwich in the eponymous London Borough.-History:The church is dedicated to, and reputedly marks the place where Alfege , Archbishop of Canterbury, was killed by Viking raiders on 19 April 1012.The second church built...

 in Greenwich
Greenwich
Greenwich is a district of south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.Greenwich is best known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time...

. The chancel was torn down in 1720, and none of the memorials remain. Strype claims to have found a brass plate with an engraving on it, which reads:

“Entered here doth ly a worthy wyght,
Who for long tyme in musick bore the bell:
His name to shew, was THOMAS TALLYS hyght,
In honest virtuous lyff he dyd excell.

“He serv’d long tyme in chappel with grete prayse
Fower sovereygnes reygnes (a thing not often seen);
I meane Kyng Henry and Prynce Edward’s dayes,
Quene Mary, and Elizabeth oure Quene.

“He mary’d was, though children he had none,
And lyv’d in love full thre and thirty yeres
Wyth loyal spowse, whose name yclypt was JONE,
Who here entomb’d him company now beares.

“As he dyd lyve, so also did he dy,
In myld and quyet sort (O happy man!)
To God ful oft for mercy did he cry,
Wherefore he lyves, let deth do what he can.”


Byrd wrote the musical elegy Ye Sacred Muses
Ye Sacred Muses
Ye Sacred Muses is William Byrd's Musical elegy on the death of his colleague and sometime mentor, Thomas Tallis. It is scored for 5 vv .The words are:-...

 on Tallis's death.

Veneration


Tallis is honoured together with William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

 and John Merbecke with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA)
Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church in the United States of America)
The veneration of saints in the Episcopal Church is a continuation of an ancient tradition from the early Church which honors important people of the Christian faith. The usage of the term "saint" is similar to Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Those in the Anglo-Catholic tradition may...

 on 21 November.

Works


See List of compositions by Thomas Tallis

Early works


The earliest surviving works by Tallis, Salve intemerata virgo, Ave rosa sine spinis and Ave Dei patris filia are devotional antiphons to the Virgin Mary, which were used outside the liturgy and were cultivated in England until the fall of Cardinal Wolsey. Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

's break with Roman Catholicism in 1534 and the rise of Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

 noticeably influenced the style of music written. Texts became largely confined to the liturgy. The writing of Tallis and his contemporaries became less florid. Tallis's Mass for four voices is marked with tendencies toward a syllabic (which is a setting of text where each syllable is sung to one pitch) and chordal (consisting of or emphasising chords) style and a diminished use of melisma
Melisma
Melisma, in music, is the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic, where each syllable of text is matched to a single note.-History:Music of ancient cultures used...

. Tallis provides a rhythmic variety and differentiation of moods depending on the meaning of his texts. Tallis helped found a relationship that was specific to the combining of words and music. He also wrote several excellent Lutheran chorales.

The reformed Anglican liturgy was inaugurated during the short reign of Edward VI (1547–53), and Tallis was one of the first church musicians to write anthems set to English words, although Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 continued to be used. The Catholic Mary Tudor
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

 set about undoing the religious reforms of the preceding decades. Following her accession in 1553, the Roman Rite
Roman Rite
The Roman Rite is the liturgical rite used in the Diocese of Rome in the Catholic Church. It is by far the most widespread of the Latin liturgical rites used within the Western or Latin autonomous particular Church, the particular Church that itself is also called the Latin Rite, and that is one of...

 was restored and compositional style reverted to the elaborate writing prevalent early in the century. Two of Tallis's major works, Gaude gloriosa Dei Mater and the Christmas Mass Puer natus est nobis are believed to be from this period. Only Puer natus est nobis can be accurately dated to 1554. As was the prevailing practice, these pieces were intended to exalt the image of the Queen
Queen regnant
A queen regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire....

 as well as to praise the Mother of God.

Some of Tallis's works were compiled and printed in the Mulliner Book
The Mulliner Book
The Mulliner Book is a historically important musical commonplace book compiled, probably between about 1545 and 1570, by Thomas Mulliner, about whom practically nothing is known, except that he figures in 1563 as modulator organorum of Corpus Christi College, Oxford...

 by Thomas Mulliner before Queen Elizabeth's reign, and may have been used by the Queen herself when she was younger. Elizabeth succeeded her half-sister in 1558, and the Act of Settlement
Act of Settlement
Act of Settlement may refer to:*Statute of Legal Settlement 1547, legislation regarding the settlement of the poor*Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652, in response to the Irish Rebellion of 1641...

 in the following year abolished the Roman Liturgy and firmly established the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

. Composers at court resumed writing English anthems, although the practice of setting Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 texts continued, growing more peripheral over time.

The mood of the country in the beginning of Elizabeth's reign leant toward the puritan, which discouraged the liturgical polyphony
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

. Tallis wrote nine psalm chant tunes
Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter
In 1567 the English composer Thomas Tallis contributed nine tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter, vernacular psalm settings intended for publication in a metrical psalter then being compiled for the first Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker:...

 for four voices for Archbishop Parker
Matthew Parker
Matthew Parker was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 until his death in 1575. He was also an influential theologian and arguably the co-founder of Anglican theological thought....

's Psalter, published in 1567. One of the nine tunes, the "Third Mode Melody", inspired the composition of Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, also known as the Tallis Fantasia, is a work for string orchestra by the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was composed in 1910, and performed for the first time in September of that year at Gloucester Cathedral for the Three Choirs Festival...

by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

 in 1910. Tallis's better-known works from the Elizabethan years include his settings of the Lamentations
Lamentations (music)
The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet have been set by various composers.-England:Thomas Tallis made two famous sets of the Lamentations. Scored for five voices , they show a sophisticated use of imitation, and are noted for their expressiveness. The settings are of the first two lessons for...

 (of Jeremiah the Prophet)
for the Holy Week services and the unique motet Spem in alium
Spem in alium
Spem in alium is a forty-part Renaissance motet by Thomas Tallis, composed circa 1570 for eight choirs of five voices each. The sacred text has been used as a basis for other choral settings, such as and the...

written for eight five-voice choirs. Tallis is mostly remembered for his role in composing office hymns and this motet, Spem in alium
Spem in alium
Spem in alium is a forty-part Renaissance motet by Thomas Tallis, composed circa 1570 for eight choirs of five voices each. The sacred text has been used as a basis for other choral settings, such as and the...

. Too often we forget to look at his compositions for other monarchs; several of Tallis's anthems written in Edward's reign such as his If ye love me, ought to be considered on the same level as his Elizabethan works. This is partially because we do not have all of his works from previous periods; eleven of eighteen Latin-texted pieces by Tallis from Elizabeth's reign were published, "which ensured their survival in a way not available to the earlier material."

Later works


Toward the end of his life, Tallis resisted the musical development seen in his younger contemporaries such as William Byrd
William Byrd
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.-Provenance:Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely...

, who embraced compositional complexity and adopted texts built by combining disparate biblical extracts. Tallis's experiments during this time period were considered rather unusual. Tallis was content to draw his texts from the Liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

 and wrote for the worship services in the Chapel Royal
Chapel Royal
A Chapel Royal is a body of priests and singers who serve the spiritual needs of their sovereign wherever they are called upon to do so.-Austria:...

. Tallis composed during a difficult period during the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism, and his music often displays characteristics of the turmoil.

Fictional portrayals


A fictionalised Thomas Tallis was portrayed by Joe Van Moyland
Joe Van Moyland
Joe Van Moyland is a singer, drummer and actor. He was frontman in the band Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong and has previously drummed for the Pipettes.-Acting career:...

 in 2007 on the Showtime television series The Tudors
The Tudors
The Tudors is a Canadian produced historical fiction television series filmed in Ireland, created by Michael Hirst and produced for the American premium cable television channel Showtime...

, loosely based upon the early reign of Henry VIII.

External links



Recordings

  • Ceremony & Devotion Harry Christophers
    Harry Christophers
    Harry Christophers is an English conductor. He attended the King's School, Canterbury and was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral under choirmaster Allan Wicks and played clarinet in the school orchestra alongside Andrew Marriner...

    , The Sixteen
    The Sixteen
    The Sixteen are a choir and period instrument orchestra; founded by Harry Christophers in 1979.The group's special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music and a diversity of 20th century...

     (CORO)
  • Tallis, Byrd and Guerrero, The Flowering of Genius The Sixteen
    The Sixteen
    The Sixteen are a choir and period instrument orchestra; founded by Harry Christophers in 1979.The group's special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music and a diversity of 20th century...

    (CORO16001)
  • William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, In Chains of Gold. Dunedin Consort, DCD34008
  • Herald AV Publications – HAVPCD305: Thomas Tallis