Circa 1505, Leicestershire, England.
November 23, 1585, Greenwich, England.
St. Alphege Parish Church, Greenwich, England. The church was torn down and rebuilt, 1712–14.
Tallis has been called England’s leading composer of sacred music in the Tudor era. In 1532, he became organist in Dover; from 1537–38 he was an organist in London; and 1540–42 at Canterbury Cathedral.
He became a
Gentleman of the Chapel Royal around 1543 and probably worked there, playing the organ and composing, the rest of his life. He composed Roman Catholic liturgical works in Latin, and Anglican works in English. Tallis himself remained Catholic.
Tallis was one of the first composers of Anglican sacred music to write in English. He composed only a few instrumental works, exclusively for keyboard instruments, most of them for use in sacred service. In 1575, he and William Byrd (ca. 1543–1623) jointly published Cantiones Sacrae.
Enterred here doth ly a worthy wyght,
Who for long time in musick bore the bell:
His name to shew was Thomas Tallis hyght;
In honest vertuous lyff he did excell.
He served long tyme in chappel with grete prayse,
Fower sovereygnes reignes, (a thing not often seene);
I mean King Henry and Prince Edward’s dayes,
Queene Marie, and Elizabeth our quene.
He maryed was, though children he had none,
And lyv’d in love full three and thirty yeres,
With loyal spowse, whose name yclept was Jone,
Who, here entombed, him company now bears.
Ad he dyd lyve, so also dyd 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.