Detail of Oxford Corpus Christi College MS 566
Tallis work to receive first performance in over 450 years4:15, 22nd February 2017
Alamire is to perform a work by Thomas Tallis which has not been heard for over 450 years as part of its concert at St John’s Smith Square on 14 April.
Music from Thomas Tallis’s motet Gaude gloriosa with unidentified English words was discovered behind plasterwork in the walls of Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1978, but it was only recently that Alamire founder and conductor David Skinner identified the text as being by Henry VIII’s sixth and last queen Katherine Parr.
The words are from Parr’s psalm paraphrase ‘Against Enemies’ in her first publication Psalms or Prayers, published in London in 1544, and were set as a contrafact of Tallis’s Gaude gloriosa Dei mater.
Skinner also discovered that See, Lord, and behold (Parr’s text, set to music by Tallis) and the composer’s five-part Litany (using text by Thomas Cranmer, which was the first departure from the Roman rite in Henry’s reign) were first performed following an elaborately orchestrated series of events at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, which culminated on 23 May 1544 with a procession and sermon.
Skinner has suggested that this specific date, which significantly predates the introduction of the First Book of Common Prayer in 1549, marks the beginning of the English liturgical reformation.
The conductor said that the discoveries ‘fundamentally challenge our perceptions of Tallis’s music and chronology and open up many fascinating avenues for further research in the years to come.’