Thomas Tallis, classical music composer

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Thomas Tallis


Thomas Tallis, like his pupil William Byrd, was a devout Catholic during the great religious upheaval in England during the 16th century. Likely due to his notable skill and fame as a composer, he largely avoided the violence that often erupted between Catholics and Protestants during that period. As a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, he served as organist and composer to four successive monarchs—Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I. Quite remarkably, Tallis was able to adjust his compositional style to the greatly varying demands of each monarch. Thus, during the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I, his music reflected the Anglican and Puritan moods, respectively. When Mary assumed the throne after Edward's brief reign, and sought to undo the reformations of the preceding decades, Tallis embraced the elaborate and complex style prevalent during the early part of the century.

Little is known of Tallis's early life, or his musical training. It is generally accepted that he was born during the early part of the 16th century, likely towards the end of the reign of Henry VII. His first known musical appointment was as organist of the Dover Priory (now Dover College) in 1532. By way of London, he then moved on to the Augustinian monastery, Waltham Abbey, in Essex. Following the dissolution of the abbey in 1540, Tallis held a post at Canterbury Cathedral, but in 1543, was named a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.

Tallis stood out among his contemporaries. Queen Mary granted him a lease on a manor in Kent, which provided a comfortable, annual income. In 1575, he and William Byrd were granted a patent by Queen Elizabeth to print and publish music, as well as a 21-year monopoly on polyphonic music. The venture, however, was not particularly successful, and the pair was eventually forced to appeal to the Queen for help. At some point in his later life, Tallis took up residence in Greenwich, traditionally believed to have been on Stockwell Street. It is there he died in November 1585. The exact date is unknown, though the 23rd is generally agreed on.

Composer Title Date Action
Thomas Tallis The lamentations of Jeremiah (I) 06/09/2013 Play Add to playlist
Thomas Tallis Miserere Nostri 06/09/2013 Play Add to playlist
Thomas Tallis Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter 06/09/2013 Play Add to playlist
Thomas Tallis Spem in alium 06/09/2013 Play Add to playlist