Friday, March 5, 2010

Fridays in Lent: Thomas Tallis' Spem in Alium

I'm willing to wager that most of you have not heard of the sixteenth century English composer Thomas Tallis. During his life, he composed a number of works for the Church, but his crowning piece is the beautiful Spem in alium. In this composition, Tallis' work exhibits an interesting dichotomy. The volume of the piece does not diminish, instead it increases but still manages to remain profoundly contemplative.

I hope this analogy doesn't sound too silly, but you can think of Spem in alium as a massive fire, not so much in size as in intensity, which musically evokes a state of consummate contemplation. It's another jewel from my favorite musical period.

Latin Text:

Spem in alium nunquam habui praeter in te
Deus Israel
qui irasceris
et propitius eris
et omnia peccata hominum in tribulatione dimittis
Domine Deus
Creator coeli et terrae
respice humilitatem nostram

English Translation:

I have never put my hope in any other but in you,
O God of Israel
who can show both
and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins of suffering man
Lord God,
Creator of Heaven and Earth
be mindful of our lowliness