Tallis, Thomas


Tallis variously spelt, b 15—, d Greenwich, SE London (Kent) 1585. No records of his childhood survive, and he is first heard of c1530–31 as organist of a small Priory at Dover, which was dissolved 5 years later. By 1537 he was playing at St Mary-at-Hill Ch at Eastcheap in the City of London, after which he probably held the post of organist at Waltham Abbey, Essex, the last monastic foundation to be closed, in 1540. He then (again probably) moved to Canterbury Cathedral, 1540–42. Known as ‘the father of English cathedral music’, a master of church choral composition and polyphony excelling in all the current musical genres, who ‘combined pragmatism with perfectionism’, he served under 4 monarchs setting Lat and English texts for Protestant and RC royal courts, probably preferring the latter, until the dissolution of all the monastic foundations. Together with William Byrd he was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, holding that post under both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. In 1575 he was granted with Byrd a monopoly (or duopoly?) of music printing by Queen Elizabeth, the earliest known example. His later years were spent in Greenwich. He harmonised Merbecke’s plainchant music for some of the earliest English liturgies, composed for vernacular and Latin anthems and other church texts, and wrote tunes for Archbp Matthew Parker’s The Whole Psalter translated into English Metre (c1560), which included his celebrated CANON. See the full account in Grove. No.223.

Tunes and arrangements by Tallis, Thomas

Tune Name
Tallis’ Canon