Tallis, Thomas



One of the greatest musicians of the Sixteenth Century; the father of English church-music; probably was born sometime during the second decade of that century. He is supposed to have received his education under Thomas Mulliner in the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral, then to have sung in the choir of the Chapel Royal. He was gentleman of the Chapel Royal to Henry VIII., James VI. and Queen Mary and organist to Queen Elizabeth. He was organist at Waltham Abbey until its abolishment in 1540. The Second Prayer Book of Edward VI. appeared in 1552, and soon after this Tallis composed his Service in the Dorian Mode. In 1560 he added eight tunes to Day's Psalter, and in 1575, in conjunction with his talented pupil, William Byrd, he published a collection of hymns and motets, entitled Cantiones Sacrae. About this time, with Byrd, he received letters patent, which granted them the exclusive right of printing music and ruled music paper for twenty-one years. The first thing they printed was their Cantiones quae ab argumento Sacra vocantur, quinque et sex partium, which contains sixteen motets by Tallis and eighteen by Byrd, and a quaint introductory poem by the two. About this time he wrote the remarkable Song of Forty Parts to be sung by eight choirs of five voices each. The score of this work is arranged in eight trebles placed one above the other namely, mezzosoprano, counter-tenor, tenor, and bass, with one line for organ, and ends in a universal chorus in quadragintesimal harmony. Tallis died in 1585 and was buried in the chancel of the old Parish Church of Greenwich, Kent, where a plate bearing his epitaph was inserted in a stone before the altarrail. Manuscripts by Tallis may be found in the library of Christ's Church, Oxford; Queen Elizabeth's Virginal Book in the British Museum; in the Fitzwilliam Museum; in the Library of the Royal College of Music, and in several other English Museums. He wrote a large number of church compositions of every variety, set mostly to Latin words. Among his writings are The Church of England Service; a motet in forty parts, beginning, Spem in alium non habui: and the anthems, litanies and prayers for the Daily Service of the United Church of England.