Tallis, Blessed are those that be undefiled

This anthem by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) is a setting of Psalm 119:1-6. The translation is from the Coverdale Psalter (1535), which is the text used in the Book of Common Prayer.

Blessed are those that be undefiled in the way : and walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they that keep his testimonies : and seek him with their whole heart.
For they who do no wickedness : walk in his ways.
Thou hast charged us O Lord : that we shall diligently keep thy commandments.
O that our ways were made so direct : that we might keep thy statutes!
So shall we not be confounded : while we have respect unto all thy commandments.

This anthem is written for five vocal parts. The text is sometimes sung by two voices, sometimes by three, sometimes by all five. There is a frequent use of antiphonal alternation, with a phrase sung by the higher voices, then by the lower voices. Some scholars have suggested that Tallis may have adapted this piece from a Latin original (now lost), since its style is more like the music he wrote when working for a Roman Catholic monarch than the other work he composed during his Elizabethan period.


Here is a performance of Blessed are those that be undefiled
by the Tallis Scholars: