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Thomas Tallis ( 1505 - 1585 )  Category ( Composers ) [suggest a correction]

Thomas TallisThomas Tallis is considered one of the best English early composers, particularly noted for his original voice. He was active during the reigns of Henry VII and those of Henry's children. The earliest portrait of Tallis was created more than one hundred years after his death, and so is not considered a true likeness.

Little information is available about Tallis' early life; however, it appears he was born in the early sixteenth century, near the end of Henry VII's reign. Nothing is known of his musical education. The first musical position he is known to have held was that of organist at Dover Priory, from 1530-31. He achieved enough success to venture to London to the Augustinian abbey of Holy Cross.

After that he held a position at Canterbury Cathedral. It was there that he was recognized as a potential court composer, and in 1543 he arrived at court as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. Here he composed and performed for Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, and Elizabeth I. Despite the fact that much of the music he composed was of a religious nature, somehow Tallis was able to avoid the complex, and often deadly, religious controversies that brewed in England for more than a century. Inwardly he remained a devoted Roman Catholic, but outwardly he adapted whatever style was preferred by each successive monarch.

Perhaps this was because Tallis was regarded as a standout composer and musician, prompting at least one contemporary to praise his exceptional talent and skill. One of those observed that Tallis "had more versatility of style [than others], and his general handling of his material was more consistently easy and certain. Tallis also provided music instruction, including to famed English composer, William Byrd and Elway Bevin. Tallis married c. 1522, to a woman named Joan, but the couple apparently had no children.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, Tallis, along with William Byrd, was granted a twenty-one year monopoly for polyhonic music as well as a valuable patent to print and publish music. According to the agreement, Tallis's monopoly covered 'set songe or songes in parts.'  He composed in English, Latin, French, Italian, and other languages used in sacred or chamber music. He and Byrd were the only individuals in the kingdom allowed to use the paper that was reserved for printing music. However, they were forbidden to sell any imported music. He died in his Greenwich home in 1585.

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