The Catholic Culture Podcast: 93 – An Introduction to Thomas Tallis


Dec 11, 2020

All music by Thomas Tallis used with permission of the artists
and labels listed below.

Watch on YouTube:

As a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)
composed sacred music for four successive English monarchs,
starting with Henry VIII and ending with Elizabeth. Those were
turbulent times in England, especially for a church musician.

Those were turbulent times in England, especially for a church
musician. Like his colleague (and probable pupil) William Byrd,
Tallis was able to adapt his compositional style to meet the
constantly shifting ideological demands of the regimes under which
he served. Unlike the combative Byrd, who in his later years
removed himself from court life and made a point of his loyalty to
Rome, Tallis may have simply gone with the flow.  We don’t
know for sure, because there is very little information about his

Here to tell us what we do know is singer and scholar Kerry
McCarthy, author of a concise new book on Tallis’s life and music
in Oxford University Press’s Master Musicians Series (which also
includes her book on Byrd previously discussed on this podcast).
She enthusiastically discusses his music, his times, the foundation
of polyphony in plainchant which was obliterated by the
Reformation, the various compositional techniques of the time, and
the nature of the medieval modes with which these composers


Kerry McCarthy, Tallis

Hear Kerry sing with Capella Romana in a groundbreaking
recreation of the acoustics of a sixth-century Byzantine cathedral!
Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia: Medieval Byzantine Chant

Kerry McCarthy discusses Byrd on this podcast:

Pt. 1

Pt. 2

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Music heard in this episode

Thomas Tallis:

“If ye love me” performed by The Gesualdo Six, c/o Hyperion

Video from their YouTube channel:

“Lesson Two Parts in One” performed by Matthieu Latreille

“Miserere nostri” (Tallis/Byrd), “In jejunio et fletu” performed
by Alamire, c/o Obsidian

“Puer natus est nobis: Agnus Dei”, “Psalm Tunes from Archbishop
Parker’s Psalter”, “Spem in alium” performed by Chapelle Du Roi,
from their Complete Works of Tallis c/o Signum Records UK

Chapelle’s Du Roi’s Complete Works of Tallis available
affordably in the US here

Ralph Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme from Thomas Tallis”
performed by Academy of Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, dir. Neville

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