Tallis' Responsory for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Giotto. Presentation of Jesus and Purification of Mary. Scrovegni Chapel/Arena Chapel. Padua, Italy

Thomas Tallis wrote his Videte Miraculum using the Liturgical Responsory used in the 1st Vespers of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the feast day called also Candlemas.

This masterpiece of adoration and mystery begins with a brief statement of the chant, moves subtly through a  slow revelation, using a combination of gentle repetition and musical stillness to draw us into  contemplation of this special moment for the Virgin and Christ Child.

Lyrics

Latin English

Videte miraculum matris Domini:
Concepit virgo virilis ignara consortii,
S
tans onerata nobili onere Maria;
E
t matrem se laetam cognosci,
Q
uae se nescit uxorem.
H
aec speciosum forma prae filiis hominum
C
astis concepit visceribus,
E
t benedicta in aeternum
D
eum nobis protulit et hominem.
G
loria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.

Behold the miracle of the mother of the Lord:
A virgin has conceived though she knows not a man,
Mary, who stands laden with her noble burden;
She rejoices to be a mother,
Yet k
nowing that she is not a wife.
She has conceived in her chaste womb
One who is beautiful beyond the sons of men,
And blessed forever,
She has brought forth God and man for us.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. 

Thomas Tallis was born toward the end of Henry VII’s reign (1505-1523).

He pursued his musical career during the most tumultuous times in service to successive monarchs, remaining all the while an unreformed Roman Catholic. He survived by adapting his composition style, Protestant or Catholic, to the current reigning monarch. He lived and wrote during a period of great religious, political and cultural upheaval.

His music reflects this in its diversity of older and newer styles. He is famous for his motet Spem in Alium for forty voices made up of eight, five-voice choirs. Though his contemporaries often exceeded his technical contrapuntal prowess, his insistent use of liturgical texts and melodies of simple expression create a wonderful aura of worshipful serenity.