Thomas Tallis vs. Janani Luwuum

February 19, 2013
Tim Schenck

The (Lent) Madness continues with another surreal pairing -- this time between an influential 16th-century church musician and a 20th-century Ugandan archbishop and martyr. This match-up even has the holy odds-makers in Vegas shaking their collective heads.

Yesterday, Luke outpaced Absalom Jones by a wide margin, 61% to 39% with over 4,500 votes cast, though many commented on Jones' inspirational story in bidding him farewell. For some commentary on why these pairings are often so difficult, make sure to watch the most recent version of Monday Madness with Tim and Scott. This, along with many other mysteries such as where Scott likes to stay when in Silver Spring, Maryland, and how he copes without his trusty Lent Madness 2013 mug, will be revealed.

In other news, we passed the 4,000 "like" mark on our Facebook page. Don't forget to like us if you haven't yet done so and encourage your friends to go and do likewise. There's no finder's fee for getting people to join in the Madness; you'll just have to be content with the knowledge that your reward will be in heaven.

Finally, stay tuned for a major announcement on the whereabouts of Tim's missing Lent Madness mug sometime soon.

Thomas TallisThomas Tallis

Thomas Tallis is considered the father of English Church music. Little is known about his personal life. We don’t know when he was born, we don’t know if he did or didn’t sing with the Chapel Royal of St. James boys’ choir, we have no idea what he really looked like, and we don’t know how really how to spell his last name - the one copy of his signature we have shows Tallys.

What we do know is he forever changed church music with his compositions. His legacy sings to us in music glorifying God, expressing hope and lament, joy and veneration. He composed elegantly simple tunes that welcome the gracious light of dusk in Tallis’ Canon and intricately complex motets, like Spem in Alium, a 40-part motet expressing humanity’s eternal hope in God.

He and his contemporaries Merbecke and Byrd, lived and composed in a time of significant political and religious upheaval. The Tudor throne of England shifted British religion from Roman Catholic to English Protestant back to Roman Catholic and finally to Anglicanism. Throughout these massive shifts, all composed the music which allowed the words of the prayers to sing.

Tallis’ talent and political maneuvering brought him to the  personal choir for the British monarchy. During his adult life, Tallis taught, composed, and performed for Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth I and their courts and managed not to get himself executed.  Few musicians past or present have the ability to compose and perform in the style that suited the ever-changing tastes of religious folks, but Tallis did.     

Tallis and Byrd eventually became business partners and held the Crown Patent for the printing of music and lined music paper for 21 years, as well as a monopoly on polyphonic music, one of the first arrangements of this type in England. If composers of the day wanted to print music or get paper to write down compositions in Tudor England, they had to pay Tallis. While this sounds like Tallis and Byrd were the Cosa Nostra of the Tudor British Music world, they didn’t own a printing press. Thus, they didn’t make much money from their arrangement. Tallis, like many saints, was creative, passionate, and not so awesome in business.

He died at home in Greenwich in November 1585 and was buried in the chancel of St. Alfege Church. His remains were likely discarded in the early 18th century by laborers rebuilding the church. His music, however, is with us, sung almost every week in prayer and praise to God.

Collect for Thomas Tallis (and some others)
O God most glorious, whose praises are sung night and day by your saints and angels in heaven: We give you thanks for William Byrd, John Merbecke, and Thomas Tallis, whose music has enriched the praise that your Church offers you here on earth. Grant, we pray, to all who are touched by the power of music such glimpses of eternity that we may be made ready to join your saints in heaven and behold your glory unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 -- Laurie Brock

janani_luwumJanani Luwum

Above the Great West Doors of Westminster Abbey are ten statues of martyrs from the twentieth century. One of those statues depicts an African named Janani Luwum (1922-1977). He was a convert to Christianity and an Anglican priest. He eventually became the Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga-Zaire. And he died for his faith thirty-six years ago last Sunday because he spoke out on behalf of others in the name of Christ. He gave a voice to those who could not speak for themselves. In the midst of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s brutal regime, Luwum warned the Church not to conform to “the powers of darkness.”

The story of Luwum’s death was told to me in the sermon at my ordination to the priesthood by someone who knew him well. This is how his friend and former colleague described it:

“He was a tall and very taciturn man. And if it had not been for the twinkle in his eye, you would have thought him perhaps even mean. But he was a kindly, large, and very strong man. One morning he was awakened early in his house by soldiers, who accused him of storing arms – which they never found – the purpose of which was to overthrow General Amin’s government.

“He was taken to a large amphitheatre in the middle of Kampala, where Amin had assembled his private guard, and where he was jeered. He was then taken by automobile to Luzira Prison, some five miles outside the city. And there he was tortured, and he was asked to confess his crime. His only response was to pray, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done…’ He prayed this prayer constantly for some time under the leader. And finally, in a rage, Amin pulled out a pistol and shot him twice – once in the head and once in the chest.

“Surely here is a witness to Christ’s suffering. And surely here even more is a life that partakes of the glory that is to be revealed. And here is the shadow of what we hope for. And surely here is a life in which we can recognize the suffering and the glory which belong to God’s entire flock. Here is a life in which we can see ourselves as we are destined by grace to be.”

That is the story of Janani Luwum as it was told to me. It reminds me that in every time and place there are people like him – people empowered by the Holy Spirit – who would be willing to speak on our behalf if we were in need and could not speak for ourselves.

Collect for Janani Luwum
O God, whose Son the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep: We give you thanks for your faithful shepherd Janani Luwum, who after his Savior’s example, gave up his life for the people of Uganda. Grant us to be so inspired by his witness that we make no peace with oppression, but live as those who are sealed with the cross of Christ, who died and rose again, and now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Neil Alan Willard


Thomas Tallis vs. Janani Luwuum

  • Janani Luwuum (69%, 3,028 Votes)
  • Thomas Tallis (31%, 1,339 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,362

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139 comments on “Thomas Tallis vs. Janani Luwuum”

  1. What a match-up - Musician who forever changed the sound of our prayer and song and a Martyr who lived and died his faith. Vote!

    1. Indeed! I voted for Tallis. The only catch is that Tallis and Byrd remained Roman Catholic throught--a real feat in that time and testimony to a certain religious tolerance, at least on the part of Elizabeth I. However, Tallis, along with his fellows Merbecke and Byrd changed the tones of English sacred music forever, and, though it was a very hard choice, it as for Tallis that I had to cast my vote.

    1. I had never heard of the Archbishop until today. (Never heard of Tallis till the play-in round). What an incredible story. Why is there not a movie about this guy? Hello! Hollywood! Get with it!

      1. I went online to see if he was a character in The Last King of Scotland; he wasn't. I'd need more information but I do feel my screenwriting side coming out...

    2. Yes. His is such a powerful witness. I remember Idi Amin, and I also remember how many people did not stand up to him. I doubt I would have been able to do it. The Archbishop was amazing.

  2. I love Tallis' music, and was in fact, all set to vote for him without reading Archbishop Luwuum's story too closely. But I decided to read, as I didn't know much about him. Even as I listened to a recording of Spem in Alium, which I hope Tallis and company sing to Luwuum upon his entrance into Paradise, the Archbishop's story worked on me. Tallis' music is such an inspiration to me, but I could never aspire to be a musician of his caliber. Could I, if called upon, give up my life for faith in Jesus Christ? I don't know, but I hope that I could follow the Archbishop's example. My vote goes to Luwuum, which was a surprise to me.

    1. I too voted for Archbishop Luwuum -- what faith! But it was a hard choice, given my gratitude for Thomas Tallis. I also fervently hope that, unlike some current clergy, Archbishop Luwuum was not virulently anti-gay.

  3. I love music, including Tallis, but Janani Luwuum? Wow! His is a truly inspiring story of trust in God. I had never heard of him until Lent Madness. We live amidst a truly great cloud of witnesses. I look forward to meeting them all one day.

  4. As a singer, Thomas Tallis has fed my soul many times...but I am truly inspired by the story of Janani Luwuum. Oh that my faith would be that strong. But Thomas still gets my vote. If you've ever been lucky enough to sing his Spem in Alium, you'll understand why.

  5. Tallis is in my heart...his music moves me so. But anyone who stood up to the Ugandan dictator and was executed personally by the mad Idi Amin while reciting the Lord's Prayer will get my vote today.

  6. I need to be a celebrity blogger for more martyrs next year. All of my saints this round died sans lions and gunshots, but did manage to leave a life legacy that impacts the Church to this very day in very real ways in the music they composed, the creeds they helped form, the poetry they wrote, and the faith they helped mold. So give Tallis some love!

    1. Thank you, Laurie, for expressing just what I have been feeling, but not yet put into words. While I have great admiration for the martyrs, it is the gifted musicians, writers, storytellers and theologians who have given form to this Church I love and so I now reward them --in a small way -- by my votes.

    2. Fair point. Courage in the face of evil to the point of self-sacrifice is admirable. So is the skill to navigate tricksy religio-political waters and work to keep the message alive in creative and beautiful ways. Need both witnesses.

  7. Led a class on janani lawum in my Tucson parish a few weeks ago. Christ church,Istanbul, has him in the .iconostasis. All praise to thee,my lord this night, for all the blessings of the light. Keep him o keep him ,king of kings, beneath thine own eternal wings.

  8. I love Tallis - the canon was one thing that strongly attracted me and made me aware how beautiful worship could be when I first came to the church - but Janani Luwuum definitely has my vote today.

    How great a cloud of witnesses, indeed!

  9. As a Lutheran who fancies himself an ecumenical, I had to go with Tallis. To be able to jump about, as he did, with great success gives hope to a person with roots in a denomination that seems to have issues in group prayer with a community in suffering.

  10. I am torn, as a long-time public servant working for elected officials, by this match-up. I have fortunately never fallen on my sword like the Archbishop and surely admire his witness against evil, but am ultimately swayed as a choirster by Tallis' gifts in helping us all glorify God to this day and sometimes walk a fine line in our respective professions.

  11. I love Tallis's music and can't imagine worshiping without it. After reading about the faithfulness, steadfastness, and courage of Janini Kuwuum, I vote for Janini Kuwuum.
    Thank you Lent Madness for introduing me to this man.

  12. I have known Christians whose faith is as strong and incredible as Archbishop Luwum's. I met them in Sudan when I served there. I always prayed that if the day ever came, I would be half as brave, half as faithful as them. So of course I voted for him. But watch what will happen in the Saintly Sixteen if, as I expect, the Archbishop triumphs today: he will be up against Jonathan Daniels. Martyr vs. martyr. Not an easy choice - except to emulate them in their faith.

  13. We speculate about martyrdom by death via lion maceration but there is only mad, insane brutality when an Idi Amin takes a gun and shoots point-blank at a man praying to his God. May he rest in peace and God have mercy on the soul of Archbishop Luwuum.

    1. Thomas Tallis has long been important to my own sense of worship and being in the presence of God in community. But when I was in seminary, one of my classmates was a priest from Uganda, sent there by Archbishop Luwum to be safe from the fearsome dictator. We were all greatly saddened when the archbishop was murdered but grateful that John was safely with us, able to return after graduation to continue the archbishop's healing work among his suffering people. So Luwum is firmly fixed in my personal calendar of saints.

    1. Yes, I was sure Thomas Tallis was getting my vote, I had not heard the archbishop's story. I will continue to sing, and with gratitude for the assistance that musicians of past times give me, but my vote goes elsewhere today.

  14. What a difficult choice. I heard Luwum preach in 1975, and was moved by his presence and preaching. I appreciate Tallis' music, which I have also heard. All that I had to choose between them was that I actually saw Archbishop Luwum in the flesh, and remember well the shock of his martyrdom two years later.

  15. I voted for Tallis in the play in round. His music is beautiful and brings so many people to God in prayer. But I am in awe of Janani Luwuum. He has my vote today. I hadn't heard of him before. Glad to know his story.

  16. The contributions of church musicians are wonderful and do so much to make the liturgy transformative. But Archbishop Luwum stood for justice against oppression, a model we should all follow. And the collect sealed the deal for me.

  17. For those who are curious, the preacher whom I quoted was the Very Rev. Philip W. Turner III. At the time he was the Dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. His ordained ministry began as a missionary from 1961 to 1971 in Uganda, where he came to know Janani Luwum.

  18. I also planned to vote for "music" until I read the amazing story that happend in our own time and with such little fanfare....I am thankful to know his story now and give thanks for his amazing witness and faith. May we all take joy in his willingness to live for God's glory....
    Thanks be to God!

  19. Would you forgive voting 'irregularities' today and allow one each???


  20. Two more interesting dudes, both teaching us ways to glorify God, one through art, the other through prayer, one dedicating a lifetime, the other a sacrifice in the act of prayer. Recent history in Uganda continues to be a lesson to the world, and to Anglicans, that justice and mercy is still what it boils down to. Thanks be to God for Tallis, but my heart (and vote) belongs to Janani.

  21. I too thought I'd be voting for Tallis, since his music is both foundational and transformative, and even though I've known and taught Janani Luwum's story for many years. But today I must honor the martyr even while I hum the Tallis canon.