He is considered to be one of England’s greatest composers. He may not have looked much like this picture, the engraving being taken from a painting made 159 years after Tallis’s death.
Little is known of his early life. Tallis served at court as a composer and performer for Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. He was first designated as an organist at the chapel after 1570, although he would have been employed as an organist throughout his career. His value and status as a court musician meant that he avoided the religious controversies that raged around him throughout his service to successive monarchs, though he remained a Roman Catholic.
He also wrote the famous Tallis's canon Glory to thee, my God, this night.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. She wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs for women choirs to sing, and poems.
She is commemorated on 17 September in the calendar of saints of the Church of England.
This poem of hers was translated by Revd Frederick Littledale.
Her words are here coupled with Third Mode Melody, which was contributed by Tallis to Archbishop *Parker’s The Whole Psalter of 1567. The ancient rhythm and chords of the tune seem to fit well with the even more ancient words. The tune is the one used by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.
*Matthew Parker was Archbishop of Canterbury 1559–1575. He made a substantial contribution to the Book of Common Prayer. Some people think he was the original “nosey Parker”.
O FIRE of God, the Comforter, O life of all that live.
Holy art thou to quicken us, and holy, strength to give:
To heal the broken-hearted ones, their sorest wounds to bind,
O Spirit of all holiness, O Lover of mankind!
O sweetest taste within the breast, O grace upon us poured.
That saintly hearts may give again their perfume to the Lord.
O purest fountain! we can see, clear mirrored in thy streams.
That God brings home the wanderers, that God the lost redeems.
O breastplate strong to guard our life, O bond of unity,
O dwelling-place of righteousness, save all who trust in thee:
Defend those who in dungeon dark are prisoned by the foe.
And, for thy will is aye to save, let thou the captives go.
O surest way, that through the height and through the lowest deep
And through the earth dost pass, and all in firmest union keep;
From thee the clouds and ether move, from thee the moisture flows.
From thee the waters draw their rills, and earth with verdure glows.
And thou dost ever teach the wise, and freely on them pour
The inspiration of thy gifts, the gladness of thy lore.
All praise to thee, O joy of life, O hope and strength, we raise.
Who givest us the prize of light, who art thyself all praise.
Third Mode Melody
A short hymn by Charles Coffin, translated by Revd John Chandler. You can read more about these two men here.
The tune is Tallis's Ordinal, also from Parker's Psalter.
O Holy Spirit, Lord of grace,
eternal fount of love,
inflame, we pray, our inmost hearts
with fire from heaven above.
As thou in bond of love dost join
the Father and the Son,
so fill us all with mutual love,
and knit our hearts in one.
All glory to the Father be,
all glory to the Son,
all glory, Holy Ghost, to thee,
while endless ages run.
For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.
The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.
In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.
Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.
This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).
When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.
The picture of the chalice is symbolic of:
"A joyful image of a Eucharistic community which knows how to celebrate God's goodness to us but also how to reach out to the community and connect with those in need, in pain, in difficulty, who feel lost or neglected, or that they don't belong."
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