33. Thomas Tallis [365 Composers for 2013]


2nd February – Thomas Tallis


Tallis (c. 1505 – c. 23th November 1585) is our composer for 2nd February, to mark the day of Candlemas, Feast of the Purification.
Nationality: English
Lifespan: 80 years
Genre: Renaissance
Education: St. James’ Palace (?)
Fame Ranking: 2

“Candlemas”, celebrated on the 2nd February, was one of the biggest church feasts during the medieval and renaissance times. Thomas Tallis was an English composer who specialised in writing church music, and we can be sure that on this day around 450 years ago his works for Candlemas day would have been performed.

Tallis lived a long life and during his career he served at the court of four monarchs – Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary and Elizabeth I. This was a troubled time in England with the country’s religion in a state of turmoil. Henry VIII cut England off from the Roman Catholic church and introduced the “Church of England”, a Protestant religion. Catholic places of worship were torn down and much bloodshed resulted. Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic and reinstated Catholicism in her reign, then Elizabeth I brought back Protestantism. Tallis somehow managed to write church music throughout all this flux and commotion, suiting whichever monarch was on the throne at the time. He was born and remained Catholic for his whole life, but was wise enough not to let his personal preferences interfere with his career. No doubt he would have lost his head along with his job, had he complained!

Queen Elizabeth I granted Tallis, and also William Byrd a music printing monopoly – something that is hard to fathom in modern times. Byrd and Tallis were the only English composers who were allowed to use musical manuscript paper for printing, and Elizabeth also banned any foreign music from being published.

Tallis’s day of death is uncertain, and his grave is lost. However, many of his works have survived over the centuries and are still very popular today.

Here is Tallis’ “Videte Miraculum” (“Behold the Miracle”), composed for Candelmas day.


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Listen to more works by Tallis – click the box!





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