Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Thomas Tallis: Fading into History
Historical Period: Renaissance
Born: c. 1505
Died: November 23, 1585
Contemporaries: William Byrd, Giovanni Pierluigi de Palastrina, Orlande de Lassus, Andrea Gabrielli, Robert White
Work: Puer Natus Est Nobis, Lutheren chants, Mass for Four Voices
What's Happening in History:
Henry VIII is the king in England, Martin Luther posts his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of Castle Church in Germany, Copernicus publishes his theory that the earth orbits the sun.
Much of Thomas Tallis' early life is hidden from us, but he was one of the greatest composers of his time. Thomas Tallis was born circa (around) 1505 toward the end of the reign of Henry VII. It is thought that Tallis was part of the Chapel Royal St. James' Palace, because he joined it later as a man. The first place music took him was in 1532 when he became an organist of a Benedictine priory called Dover Priory in Kent, England. Tallis then went to London to an Augustinian monastery in Essex, England.
When the monastery broke up in 1540, Tallis went to Canterbury Cathedral, and then to the English royal Court, where he composed and performed for the monarchs Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I. As the monarchs changed, the country was torn between Catholic and Protestant monarchs seeking to force their religion on the rest of the nation while persecuting those on the other side. Tallis avoided the mess, even though both he and his friend/student William Byrd were ardent Roman Catholics. In these tumultuous years Tallis was able to switch his music style to fit the different monarchs' demands, showing his creativity and brilliance. Tallis was not only a composer, but as many musicians of his time, he was a music teacher as well. Two of his most renowned students include William Byrd, who was a composer, and Elway Bevin, who was an organist.
Amidst all his work, Tallis married Joan around 1552, who outlived him by four years. Unfortunately, Thomas and Joan were never able to have any children, so they did not experience the joys of parenthood. But this sadness did free Tallis up to focus on his music.