Monday, May 9, 2016

If Ye Love Me - Thomas Tallis

Score Study Project

Keelan Freitag


Thomas Tallis was a 16th century English Renaissance composer under King Edward the Sixth, who controlled his harmonic choices very carefully.  Despite this Tallis became cherished composer by creating simplistic and harmonically safe choral motets. Tallis adhered to the Kings rules, however leaned more toward a Catholic belief system. He worked in Dover Priory in England as an organist and composer for most of his life and died in 1585 at the age of 80 years old.  Fun fact: his family name 'Tallis' is derived from the French word for thicket and  Thomas spelled it differently than it is remembered: 'Tallys'.

This hymn style motet, If Ye Love Me, is among his most famous.  Tallis composed this piece in for four voices: two countertenors, a tenor and bass. He set the text from the biblical verse John 14:15-17. It should be noted that he sets the text in English, rather than Latin, at was King Edwards insistence.The piece is syllabic and uses strophic form.  Each voice stays within a single octave and at no point the voices cross. The piece emits a relaxing and calm nature, making the listener comfortable while preaching the love and truth of God. 
Fun fact, this piece is also often recorded on classical guitar.

Score Analysis


Meter: 4/4 cut time

Tempo: slow andante; about 75 bpm

Key: C maj.

Harmony: 4-part male chorus
Lyrics : If ye love me, 
keep my commandments, 
and I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter, 
that he may bide with you for ever, 
ev’n the spirit of truth,
ev’n the spirit of truth.

(John 14: 15-17)


mm. 1-4 All four voices begin with a C maj chord establishing the tonic
First phrase begins
Pass through vi to get to V - I in mm. 2 with two half notes
Then a quarter note sequence in mm. 3 landing on a IV - I in mm. 4
mm. 5-8 Round begins on second beat of mm. 5 in the sopranos
Main motif starts on E; jumps a minor third before using passing motion back down over 3 measures
Response by Tenors 2 beats later
Tenors response also begins on an E but jumps a fourth before returning down
Altos sing motif in mm. 7
Basses sing response on beat 2 of mm. 7

mm. 9-13 Second part of round
Soprano and Alto begin on beat two of mm. 9 with quarter notes moving 
into a IV and then jumping a fifth
I chord at mm. 11
mm. 12 beat 2 we hear a V chord before a weak cadence on I in mm. 13

mm. 14-19 Start B section
Also in round
Tenors start with pickup on sol to do before falling along the scale in quarter notes
Other voices have similar rhythmic idea but start on do, jump a fourth and then fall in quarter notes
Half cadence on V7 at mm. 18

mm. 19-23 Second line of the round, begins in alto
Dropping a fifth then back, outlining the V chord, alto tenor and bass begin one beat apart
Passing to I chord at mm. 21 where the soprano joins in
Also outline I chord by jumping down a 5th then back, creating gravity
Quarter note passing motion in sopranos to IV chord at the end of mm. 23

mm. 24-26 Final motif
Similar to mm. 19-23 harmonically, however we start on a I chord
Prolong the I chord to mm. 26
Repeat markings back to mm. 14

Final mm. Second ending
Cadence on I chord held with fermata

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