Thomas Tallis (c. 1505 – 23 November 1585) was an English composer who occupies a primary place in anthologies of English choral music and is considered one of England's greatest composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English musicianship. No contemporaneous portrait of Tallis survives; the one painted by Gerard Vandergucht (illustration) dates from 150 years after Tallis died, and there is no reason to suppose that it is a likeness. In a rare existing copy of his blackletter signature, the composer spelled his last name "Tallys".
Little is known about Tallis's early life. He was born in the early 16th century, toward the close of the reign of Henry VII. The name "Tallis" is derived from the French word taillis, which means a "thicket." There are suggestions that he was a Children of the Chapel (boy chorister) of the Chapel Royal, the same singing establishment which he joined as an adult.
His first known musical appointment was in 1532 as organist of Dover Priory (now Dover College), a Benedictine priory in Kent. His career took him to London, then to Waltham Abbey in the autumn of 1538, a large Augustinian monastery in Essex which was dissolved in 1540. Tallis was paid off and acquired a book about music which contained a treatis by Leonel Power that prohibits consecutive unisons, fifths, and octaves.
Tallis's next post was at Canterbury Cathedral. He was sent to Court as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1543, where he composed and performed for Henry VIII, Edward VI (1547–53), Mary I (1553–58), and Elizabeth I (1558 until he died in 1585).
Throughout his service to successive monarchs as organist and composer, Tallis avoided the religious controversies that raged around him, though he stayed an "unreformed Roman Catholic" in the words of Peter Ackroyd. Tallis was capable of switching the style of his compositions to suit the different monarchs' vastly different demands.
Tallis stood out among other important composers of the time, including Christopher Tye and Robert White. 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 of William Byrd and of Elway Bevin, an organist of 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, possibly close to the royal palace; tradition holds that he lived on Stockwell Street.
Queen Mary granted Tallis a lease on a manor in Kent which provided a comfortable annual income. In 1575, Queen Elizabeth granted to him and William Byrd a 21-year monopoly for polyphonic music 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, and 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, and he and Byrd were the only ones allowed to use the paper that was used in printing music. They used their monopoly to produce Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur in 1575, but the collection 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. They were also forbidden to sell any imported music. Lord points out that they also 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 avoided the violence which claimed Catholics and Protestants alike.
Tallis died in his house in Greenwich in November 1585; most historians agree that he died on 23 November, though one source gives the date as 20 November. He was buried in the chancel of the parish of St Alfege Church, Greenwich, though the exact location in the church is unknown. His remains may have been discarded by labourers between 1712 and 1714 when the church was rebuilt, and nothing remains of Tallis's original memorial in the church. John Strype is said to have found a brass plate in 1720 which read:
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 on Tallis's death.
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 sung in the evening after the last service of the day and were cultivated in England until at least the early 1540s. Henry VIII's break repudiation of the authority of the Pope over the Catholic Church in 1534 (Henry did not repudiate the doctrines of the Church) and the rise of Thomas Cranmer noticeably influenced the style of music written. Cranmer recommended a syllabic style of music (which is a setting of text where each syllable is sung to one pitch), as his instructions for the setting of the 1544 English Litany make clear. As a result, the writing of Tallis and his contemporaries became less florid. Tallis's Mass for Four Voices is marked with tendencies toward a syllabic and chordal (consisting of or emphasising chords) style and a diminished use of melisma. 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.
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 continued to be used alongside the vernacular. The Catholic Mary Tudor set about undoing some of the religious reforms of the preceding decades. Following her accession in 1553, the Roman Rite 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. Puer natus est nobis, based on the Introit for the third Mass for Christmas Day, was perhaps sung at Christmas 1554 when Mary believed she was expecting a male heir. As was the prevailing practice, these pieces were intended to exalt the image of the Queen as well as to praise the Mother of God.
Some of Tallis's works were compiled by Thomas Mulliner in a manuscript copybook called Mulliner Book 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 Uniformity, actually passed in the following year, abolished the Roman Liturgy and firmly established the Book of Common Prayer. Composers resumed writing English anthems, although the practice of setting Latin texts continued among composers employed by Elizabeth's Chapel Royal.
The religious authorities at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign inclined towards Calvinism, which tended to discourage polyphony in church unless the words were clearly audible, or as the 1559 Injunctions stated, 'playnelye understanded, as if it were read without singing'. Tallis wrote nine psalm chant tunes for four voices for Archbishop Parker'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 by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1910. His setting of Psalm 67 became known as "Tallis's Canon" and the setting by Thomas Ravenscroft is an adaptation for the hymn "All praise to thee, my God, this night" (1709) by Thomas Ken. As a result of its widespread use in church services, it has become his best-known composition. Meanwhile, however, the Injunctions also allowed a more elaborate piece of music to be sung in church at certain times of the day, and many of Tallis's more complex Elizabethan anthems may have been sung in this context, or alternatively by the many families that sang sacred polyphony at home. Tallis's better-known works from the Elizabethan years include his settings of the Lamentations (of Jeremiah the Prophet) for the Holy Week services and the unique motet Spem in alium written for eight five-voice choirs, for which he is mostly remembered. Though they are often overlooked, he also produced compositions for other monarchs, and several of Tallis's anthems written in Edward's reign, such as his "If Ye Love Me", are judged to be on the same level as his Elizabethan works. This oversight stems in part from our incomplete records 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".
Toward the end of his life, Tallis resisted the musical development seen in his younger contemporaries such as William Byrd, 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 and wrote for the worship services in the Chapel Royal. Tallis composed during a difficult period during the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism, and his music often displays characteristics of the turmoil.
The Dow Partbooks (Christ Church, Mus. MSS 984–988) are a collection of five partbooks compiled by Robert Dow in Oxford around 1581–88. The collection includes mostly choral but also some instrumental pieces. At the end is an instrumental La gamba and a canon, both a 3 and apparently copied from Vincenzo Ruffo's book printed in Milan in 1564.
The partbooks are an important source for Tudor music, and the sole known source for some of the pieces. Robert Dow was a trained calligrapher and the books are unusually easy to read among manuscripts of the Tudor period. All works were copied by him, with the exception of numbers 53-4, which were copied by John Baldwin (a singing-man at St George's Chapel), and nos. 99-100, which were copied by an unidentified person. The numberings following no. 54 were added by several other people at a later time (19th century), in sequences that do not coincide perfectly.
The collection was acquired by Henry Aldrich and donated to Christ Church, Oxford as part of his bequest to the college following his death in 1710.Fantasia on a Theme by 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 on 10 September that year at Gloucester Cathedral for the Three Choirs Festival. Vaughan Williams himself conducted and the composition proved to be a major success. He revised the work twice, in 1913 and 1919. Performances generally run between 14 and 16 minutes.
The work takes its name from the original composer of the melody, Thomas Tallis (c. 1505 – 1585). Many of Vaughan Williams' works are associated with or inspired by the music of the English Renaissance. In 1906 Vaughan Williams included Tallis's Third Mode Melody in the English Hymnal, which he was then editing, as the melody for Joseph Addison's hymn When Rising from the Bed of Death. The tune is in Double Common Meter (D.C.M. or C.M.D.).Gyffard partbooks
The Gyffard Partbooks (British Library Add. MSS 17802-5) (also spelled Giffard) are an important set of English Renaissance choral partbooks, containing pieces by composers such as Thomas Tallis and John Sheppard, as well as additional unnamed composers, which are not found in other sources.
This set of four partbooks were probably mostly copied during the reign of Mary I for use at St. Paul's Cathedral, but copying continued to c.1580. They are named after one of their early owners, Philip Gyffard.If Ye Love Me
"If Ye Love Me" is a four-part motet or anthem by the English composer Thomas Tallis, a setting of a passage from the Gospel of John. First published in 1565 during the reign of Elizabeth I, it is an example of Tudor music and is part of the repertoire of Anglican church music. An early homophonic motet in English, it is frequently performed today, and has been sung at special occasions including a papal visit and a royal wedding.Kate Tempest
Kate Tempest (born Kate Esther Calvert, 22 December 1985) is an English spoken word performer, poet, recording artist, novelist and playwright. In 2013, she won the Ted Hughes Award for her work Brand New Ancients. She was named a Next Generation Poet by the Poetry Book Society, a once-a-decade accolade. Her albums Everybody Down and Let Them Eat Chaos have been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. The latter's accompanying poetry book (also titled Let Them Eat Chaos) was nominated for the Costa Book of the Year in the Poetry Category. Her debut novel The Bricks That Built the Houses was a Sunday Times bestseller and won the 2017 Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Breakthrough Author. She was nominated as Best Female Solo Performer at the 2018 Brit Awards.Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet
The Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet have been set by various composers.List of compositions by Thomas Tallis
This is a list of compositions by the English composer Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585).Puer natus est nobis
"Puer natus est nobis" (A boy is born for us) is a Gregorian chant, the introit for Christmas Day. Thomas Tallis wrote a Christmas mass on the chant.Richard Reid
Richard Colvin Reid (born 12 August 1973), also known as the Shoe Bomber, is a British terrorist who attempted to detonate an explosive device packed into his shoes while on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami in 2001. Born to a father who was a career criminal, Reid converted to Islam as a young man in prison after years as a petty criminal. Later he became radicalized and went to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he trained and became a member of al-Qaeda.
On 22 December 2001, he boarded American Airlines Flight 63 between Paris and Miami, wearing shoes packed with explosives, which he unsuccessfully tried to detonate. Passengers subdued him on the plane, which landed at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, the closest US airport. He was subsequently arrested and indicted. In 2002, Reid pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to eight federal criminal counts of terrorism, based on his attempt to destroy a commercial aircraft in flight. He was sentenced to 3 life terms plus 110 years in prison without parole and is currently being held at ADX Florence, a super maximum security prison in the United States.Signum Records
Signum Records, also known as Signum Classics, is a classical musical record label in the UK founded in 1997.
The label began with a project to make the first complete recording of the works of Thomas Tallis.
The artists for the Tallis recording were the Chapelle du Roi, an ensemble of ten singers founded in 1994 by Alistair Dixon, also co-founder of the record label. The other fifty percent of the company was held by Floating Earth sound engineers. Since the Tallis project the label has grown to host many well known UK ensembles, including The Kings Singers, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge, Huddersfield Choral Society, Charivari Agreable, Tenebrae directed by Nigel Short, Voces8, Cantabile and the choir of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, who record at St James’s Palace, London.
In 2017 they were named Gramophone Magazine's Label of the Year.Spem in alium
Spem in alium (Latin for "Hope in any other") is a 40-part Renaissance motet by Thomas Tallis, composed in c. 1570 for eight choirs of five voices each. It is considered by some critics to be the greatest piece of English early music. H. B. Collins described it in 1929 as Tallis's "crowning achievement", along with his Lamentations.String orchestra
A string orchestra is an orchestra consisting solely of a string section made up of the bowed strings used in Western Classical music. The instruments of such an orchestra are most often the following: the violin, which is divided into first and second violin players (each usually playing different parts), the viola, the cello, and usually, but not always, the double bass.
String orchestras can be of chamber orchestra size ranging from between 12 (4 first violins, 3 second violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos and 1 bass = 12) and 21 musicians (6 first violins, 5 second violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos and 2 double basses= 21) sometimes performing without a conductor. It could also consist of the entire string section of a large symphony orchestra which could have 60 musicians (16 first violins, 14 second violins, 12 violas, 10 cellos and 8 double basses = 60; Gurre-Lieder calls for 84: 184.108.40.206.12).Tallis Festival
The Tallis Festival is a music festival based on the work of the composer Thomas Tallis. It is hosted by Exmoor Singers of London, which forms the Tallis Festival Choir for just one weekend every 12 to 18 months. The Festival always includes Thomas Tallis' Spem in alium for 40-part choir, but in addition has commissioned new 40-part works by modern composers, as companion pieces to Spem in alium. In 2007 the Festival was recognised by the BBC for its contribution to new music and highlights from the Festival were broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 28 October 2007.
The Festival originated from Tallis Performance Weekends, held periodically over a number of years. The original concept was to bring choral friends together for intense rehearsals from a Friday evening through to a public concert on the Sunday evening. Choirs of between 100 and 160 singers are formed with choral singers from around London and further afield (including France, Hungary, Finland and Japan).The Cardinall's Musick
The Cardinall's Musick is a United Kingdom-based vocal ensemble specialising in music of the 16th and 17th centuries and contemporary music.Taking its name from the 16th-century English cardinal, Thomas Wolsey, the group’s reputation grew through its extensive study of music from the English Renaissance. Originally an a cappella vocal group founded in 1989, The Cardinall's Musick embraces a wide range of styles and periods: from a complete reconstruction of a Tudor mass in Hampton Court to the world premieres of commissions from composers Michael Finnissy, Matthew Martin, Judith Weir and Simon Whalley. Their repertoire has grown to include music from many different countries.
Founded by the scholar and musicologist David Skinner and the singer / director Andrew Carwood.
The Cardinall’s Musick has produced over 25 CDs on the ASV/Gaudeamus label: they are now exclusive artists with Hyperion Records. Their discography includes compositions by Nicholas Ludford, William Cornysh, Robert Fayrfax, John Merbecke, John Sheppard, Thomas Tallis and most recently by Robert Parsons, and by the continental greats Lassus, Palestrina, Victoria and Hieronymus Praetorius. In 2010 they completed their survey of the Latin Church Music of the English composer, William Byrd: the 13th and final volume was released on the Hyperion label in February 2010, and won the Gramophone Award for Early Music, and the 2010 'Recording of the Year'.The Tudors
The Tudors is a historical fiction television series set primarily in the 16th-century Kingdom of England, created and entirely written by Michael Hirst and produced for the American premium cable television channel Showtime. The series was a collaboration between American, British, and Canadian producers, and was filmed mostly in Ireland. Although named after the Tudor dynasty as a whole, it is based specifically upon the reign of King Henry VIII.Thomas Tallis School
Thomas Tallis School is a large mixed comprehensive school for pupils aged 11–19, located in Kidbrooke in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, London, England. It opened in 1971, and was named after the composer Thomas Tallis, who lived in Greenwich. The school was completely rebuilt 40 years later as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme. It now has 1657 students.Treble voice
A treble voice is a voice which takes the treble part. In the absence of a separate descant part, this is normally the highest-pitched part, and otherwise the second highest. The term is most often used today within the context of choral music in reference to youthful singers. The American Choral Directors Association defines a treble as "a singer, both male and female, ages eight to sixteen".While the term treble is gender neutral, the term is widely used in place of the term boy soprano within the United Kingdom. The term became widely used by English composers of polyphonic choral music during the English pre-Reformation and Reformation eras. At this time choral music written for the Church of England was often voiced in 5 parts with TrMATB (Treble, Meane, Alto, Tenor, Bass) being one of the most common voicings utilized by Thomas Tallis and his contemporaries.In the Baroque era the term treble was used differently than it is today. The term was used in operas, cantatas, choral works, and other compositions to refer to three different kinds of singers: adult women, boy sopranos, and castrati. The term is still used by opera composers today when a role requires a child vocalist.Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter
In 1567 English composer Thomas Tallis contributed nine tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter, a collection of vernacular psalm settings intended for publication in a metrical psalter then being compiled for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker. They are:
Man blest no doubt (Psalm 1)
Let God arise in majesty (Psalm 68)
Why fum'th in sight (Psalm 2)
O come in one to praise the Lord (Psalm 95)
E'en like the hunted hind (Psalm 42)
Expend, O Lord, my plaint (Psalm 5)
Why brag'st in malice high (Psalm 52)
God grant with grace (Psalm 67, tune known as Tallis' Canon)
Come Holy Ghost, eternal God (Veni Creator, tune known as Tallis' Ordinal)The eight psalm tunes as printed in Parker's Psalter included symbols showing how they could be applied throughout the book. They were not separately named and appear to have become obscure for some centuries following the death of Tallis, but the set includes some of his most famous melodies: the third, "Why fum'th in sight", in the third or Phrygian mode, was used by Ralph Vaughan Williams as the basis of his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis and became known as the "third mode melody"; the eighth is known as Tallis' Canon; and the last, Tallis' Ordinal, is still included in numerous hymnals.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 (usually four viols and countertenor).
The words are:-
Ye sacred Muses, race of Jove,
whom Music's lore delighteth,
Come down from crystal heav'ns above
to earth where sorrow dwelleth,
In mourning weeds, with tears in eyes:
Tallis is dead, and Music dies.The concluding lines are particularly effective and are repeated.