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Thomas Tallis – Lamentations of Jeremiah I – jj

Thomas Tallis – Lamentations of Jeremiah I

Thomas Tallis (c. 1505 – 1585):

Thomas Tallis was an English organist and composer whose career spanned the reigns of four monarchs and a long period of religious change. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the most talented of England’s early composers.

This is part one of his ‘lamentations of Jeremiah’, which sets to music verses 1-2 of Chapter 1 (Book of Lamentations).

0:06 Incipit lamentatio etc
1:13 Aleph. Quomodo sedet etc
3:24 Beth. Plorans ploravit etc
6:09 Ierusalem, convertere etc

Incipit lamentatio Ieremiae prophetae.

ALEPH. Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo! Facta est quasi vidua domina gentium; princeps provinciarum facta est sub tributo.

BETH. Plorans ploravit in nocte, et lacrimæ ejus in maxillis ejus: non est qui consoletur eam, ex omnibus caris ejus; omnes amici ejus spreverunt eam, et facti sunt ei inimici.

Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum.

(Book of Lamentations 1:1-2)

Here begins the lamentation of Jeremiah the prophet.

A. How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal.

B. She weeps bitterly in the night, tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.

Jerusalem, turn again to the Lord your God.

Link to part two of ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah’:

The Sixteen Choir
Conducted by Harry Christophers


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  1. My God…this music, and now imagine a man who saw everything he loved, respected, considered holy, destroyed, turned to rubble. That is what Jeremiah was looking at, that is what the lamentations are describing. Sometimes I wonder…are we heading to the same situation.

  2. 0:32 PARALLEL FIFTHS! Clearly Tallis has no musical training. Does he not know that parallel fifths are the devil? How does he expect to sound like Bach if he uses parallel fifths? And if he doesn't intend to sound like Bach then how does he intent to write counterpoint?

    Least favourite composer of all time 😉

  3. I will never forget this piece. My mother and I were driving in the night; it was Christmas. Moving from Minneapolis to Seattle over the holidays. Those eerie voices rising in the cab of the truck, in the night. I think I had the Deller Consort cd. An unforgettable experience.

  4. I always wondered why Tallis set the Hebrew letters. Yeah, they double as numbers of the verses but it seems out of proportion to their significance, until… I just read that the book of Lamentations is an acrostic such that each verse begins with the consecutive letter of the alphabet, albeit in Hebrew. So an English equivalent could be something like:
    "Ah, how lonely…!;
    Bitterly she weeps…;
    'Cuz she has suffered…;
    Dogging her footsteps, she is persued…;
    Enemies lord over her…"
    Of course, the refrain, "Jerusalem" by Tallis upsets this scheme, but is beautiful nonetheless. Anyway, would Tallis have known the added importance of the numbering system of Jeremiah? Enjoy!

  5. What a magnificent piece of medieval music.  I heard it for the first time in my life on the 31st of January 2016 in Västerås Cathedral. It even equals Allegris famous "Misereri" if you ask me. A must have on CD for every lover of church music!

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