A veritable jeremiad

Ierusalem, Ierusalem convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum.
[Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God.]

The Clerks of New College, Oxford; Edward Higginbottom, Tallis: Lamentations

For some yet-to-be-fathomed reason there was a spate of settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah during the Tudor era; though, with state religion toggling back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism at an almost alarming rate, it is, I suppose, hardly surprising that composers should seize on the gloom and despondency of this plaint.

The most famous of these settings is by Tallis (there’s also one by Byrd, a seeming early work; written, it’s been suggested, under Tallis’s tutelage). The Tallis consists of two separate motets, perhaps intended for services on Maundy Thursday when the Lamentations formed part of the liturgy, or maybe – during periods of prohibition – for secret performance in Catholic households.

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