Tallis, Thomas

, one of the greatest musicians of this country, or of Europe, in his time, flourished about the middle of the sixteenth century. He is said to have been organist of the royal chapel to king Henry VIII. king, | Edward VI. queen Mary, and queen Elizabeth; but the inscription on his grave-stone warrants no such assertion. In the two reigns of Edward VI. and queen Mary, he was simply a gentleman of the chapel, and served for sevenpence halfpenny a day; but under Elizabeth, he and Bird were gentlemen of the chapel and organists. The studies of Tall is seem to have been wholly devoted to the service of the church, for his name is not to be found to any musical compositions of songs, ballads, madrigals, or any of those lighter kigds of music framed with a view to private recreation. Of the many disciples who had profited by his instruction, Bird seems to have possessed the greatest share of his affection, one proof of which was a joint publication by them of one of the noblest collections of hymns and other compositions for the service of the church that ever appeared in any age or country. This was printed by Vautrollier in 1575, with the title of “Cantiones qua? ab argumento sacrae vocantur quinque et sex partium, Autoribus Thomas T-allisio et Gulielmo Birdo, Anglis, sefenissimse reginee majestati a privato sacello generosis et organistis,” and was published under the protection of a patent of queen Elizabeth, the first of the kind that had ever been granted.

Though it has been commonly said that Tallis was organist to Henry VIII. and the three succeeding princes his descendants, it may well be doubted whether any \-ayman were employed in that office till the beginning of the reign of queen Elizabeth, when Tallis and Bird were severally appointed organists of the royal chapel. Notwithstanding he was a diligent collector of musical antiquities, and a careful peruser of the works of other men, the compositions of Tallis, learned and elegant as they are, are so truly original, that he may justly be said to be the father of the cathedral style; and, though a like appellation is given by the Italians to Palestrina, it is much to be questioned, considering the time when Tallis flourished, whether he could derive the least advantage from the improvements of that great man. Perhaps he laid the foundation of his studies in the works of the old cathedralists of this kingdom, and probably in those of the German musicians, who in his time had the pre-eminence of the Italians; and that he had an emulation to excel even these, may be presumed from the following particular. John Okenheim, a native of the Low Countries, and a disciple of | Iodocus Pratensis, had made a composition for no fewer than thirty-six voices, which, Glareanus says, was greatly admired. Tallis composed a motet in forty parts, the history of which stupendous composition, as far as it can now be traced, i< ^iven by sir John Hawkins. Notwithstanding his supposed attachment to the Romish religion, it seems that Tallis accommodated himself and his studies to the alterations introduced at the reformation. With this view, he set to music those several parts of the English liturgy, which at that time were deemed the mojt proper to be sung, namely, the two morning services, the one comprehending the “Veriite Exultemus,” “Te Deum,” and “Benedictus” and the other, which is part of the communion-office, consisting of the “Kyrie Eleison,” “Nicene Creed,” and “Sanctus:” as also the evening service, containing the “Magnificat,” and “Nunc dimittis.” All these are comprehended in that which is called Tallis’s first service, as being the first of two composed by htm. He also set musical notes to the Preces ftnd Responses, and composed that Litany which for its excellence is sung on solemn occasions in all places where the choral service is performed. As to the Preces of Tallis in his first service, they are no other than those of Marbeck in his book of Common-prayer noted: the Responses are somewhat different in the tenor part, which is supposed to contain the melody; but Tallis has improved them by the addition of three parts, and has thus formed a judicious contrast between the supplications of the priest and the suffrages of the people as represented by the choir. The services of Tallis contain also chants for the “Venite Kxultemus,' 1 and the” Creed of St. Athanasius:" these are tunes that divide each verse of the psalm or hymn according to the pointing, to the end that the whole may be sung alternately by the choir, as distinguished by the two sides of the dean and thfe chanter. Two of these chants are published in Dr. Boyce’s Cathedral Music, vol. I. The care of selecting from the Common-prayer the offices most proper to be sung was a matter of some importance, especially as the rubric contains no directions about it; for this reason it is supposed that the musical part of queen Elizabeth’s liturgy was settled by Parker, archbishop of Canterbury, who was not only a great divine, an excellent canonlawyer and ritualist, and a general scholar, but also a skilful musician. Besides the offices above-mentioned, | constituting what are now termed the Morning, Communion, and Evening Services, in four parts, with the Preces, Responses, and Litany, Tailis composed many anthems. He died Nov. 23, 1585, and was buried in the parishchurch of Greenwich in Kent; where there is a brass plate for him in the chancel; the inscription on which was repaired by dean Aldrich, and may be seen in Strype’s Stow, but no memorial now remains, 1


Hawkins and Burney’s Histories of Music.