1505–1585

Circa 1505, Lei­ces­ter­shire, Eng­land.

No­vem­ber 23, 1585, Green­wich, Eng­land.

St. Al­phe­ge Par­ish Church, Green­wich, Eng­land. The church was torn down and re­built, 1712–14.

portrait

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.

His ep­i­taph:

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.

  1. First Mode Mel­o­dy
  2. Second Mode Mel­o­dy
  3. Tallis’ Can­on
  4. Tallis’ Ev­en­ing Hymn
  5. Tallis’ Ord­in­al
  6. Third Mode Mel­o­dy