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. Driving home just now, an NPR news story about militants in an African country outlawing music had me ready to give my vote to Tallis, for the importance of music in our lives, but Luwum giving his life in a manner reminding me of what the early Christians experienced, I had to put my vote down for him.

  2. I, like others this morning, love Tallis' music while I am deeply touched by Archbishop Luwuum's message to contemporary Christians. I will continue to listen to Tallis even as I ponder and act upon how I and others should authentically live into our Lord's Prayer and confront evil in our own places.

  3. Love Tallis, but I became an Episcopalian shortly before the Archbishop's martyrdom, and his witness in the face of dark powers made a profound impression on me. Blessed Janani Luwum, pray for us...

  4. Idi Amin, you jerk. Is there a place we can vote to have him expunged from human record? #notverychristian #meaningme I'm voting for Bishop Luwuum for his immense courage and faith.

  5. Tallis, like the Vicar of Bray, lived through terrifying times. The Archbishop spoke truth to power. We need both. Since I know a priest who served with Luwum, I voted for him.

  6. I'm just being perverse. I have voted for Thomas, but I'm sure Archbishop Luwuum will win. Thus my vote. There will be many martyrs before the throne of grace, but among the praises they sing will be the music of Thomas Tallis.

  7. I am old enough to remember Luwuum's death and Idi Amin. Both of these men gave greatly to not only the church, but all humanity. I find my spiritual center when I listen to Tallis, but this day, though, my vote goes to Luwuum for what he did to bring Christ's sovereign reign to earth.

    1. Choking on my tea...on first reading it looked like you were including the dictator with the Archbishop as a benefactor to the church and humanity, which I was going to take serious umbrage with! The rest of your post better clarified your position. : )

      (The final disposition of Idi Amin's soul is God's business, but what he "gave" the earth, the church, and humanity we do not need any more of.)

  8. The Bishop has my vote but he is illuminated by the music we sing-Tallis pays himhonor--as does Byrd and Gibbons and countless others--"For all the Saints who from their labors rest-----"

  9. Oh, this is tough!!! I love the music of Thomas Tallis, and that of other composers he inspired. Hearing his compositions inspires me, and helps me feel closer to God. But...can that contend with martyrdom?! Shoot. I love you anyway, Thomas Tallis!

  10. I’m a composer. Gotta go with Tallis because of his dedication to his craft and because his contributions made "Master & Commander”. (Tho Bishop Luwuum’s story is more compelling.)

  11. Janani Luwum gets my vote, of course. In Tanzania I met many people with this kind of faith and devotion. Some of them are leaders and some are lay people. Bp. Luwum warned against "the powers of darkness" knowing they would kill, but kill only his body. His words and holy example are alive and well in Africa and the rest of the world. He is in (with) Christ now.

  12. I intended to vote for Tallis, as I did in the play-in round. I'm busting my own brackets today--the Archbishop's witness tears at my heart. I agree with the LM commentator above who says that Tallis and Byrd will be among those singing Spem in Alium when Luwum comes into God's presence

  13. I have to agree with so many of the previous posts. I almost didn't read about Luwum. I figured I would have to vote for Tallis because of my musical heritage. What an amazing man the ARchbishop was. This powerful bio you've shared with us is truly humbling. I did read and pray for his soul. Wondering of Tallis and Luwum are laughing at us from their perch in heaven?

    1. I love that image of Tallis and Luwum laughing together in heaven. It reminds me of a favorite quote from the German Protestant theologian Jürgen Moltmann that summarizes human history, past, present, and future, in a single sentence: "God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him."

  14. Where would be be without the Tallis Canon? It's almost as famous as the OTHER canon. What would our church be without its music? Music is the language of God...

  15. I am going with Thomas Tallis, today. If there ever was a great name for a power forward
    it has to be Thomas Tallis. Also, my father was an organist at the Episcopal Church I still attend.

  16. Help, I cast my vote and see only the annoying spinning circle and a loading message. I too struggled with this match-up, loving church music as I do, but I ultimately went with the brave archbishop, Janani Luwum, [if the spinning circle evver allows my vote to be cast].

  17. Could it be that one of my picks (Janani Luwum) might actually advance to the next round? Most of my choices have lost. Boo! But this is still fun!

  18. My admiration of Janani Luwum is immense, but I have to vote for the glorious beauty of Tallis today. Suffering is not the only way to witness to our faith.

  19. Is it because his death was so dramatic that there is so little information here about Luwum's life? I guess we can assume he rose to a position of such authority because of wonderful pastoral skills.

  20. Had to vote for Janani Luwuum. What a witness! I need a witness every day, reminding me that I am able to face oppression, injustice, hatred with hope and faith. To pray in the face of the dictator!

  21. My vote goes to the archbishop! What an inspiring example in our modern times. Now I love me some polyphonic tunes, but my convictions and vote lie with Janani Luwum. #ThxB2God!

  22. I'm torn. Part of my heart urges the martyr, but the other yearns for the music. And I have to wonder as a scholar of myth what it is that draws me so strongly to the martyrs and their narratives, especially since my goal is to teach about living for God.

  23. Thank you for introducing me to Janani Luwum. This is why I like Lent Madness. Tallis' music, while the language of God ( thank you Lisa Fry) it was Archbishop Luwum who is a testiment to our faith.

  24. Two worthy contenders but only one vote to cast. I had to go with the Archbishop who at this time looks like he is heading to the next round.

    However like others I am eagerly waiting to find out what happened to Tim's missing mug? Answers please! Inquiring minds are waiting.

  25. At first glance I thought this would be difficult - because I love Tallis' music, and find Luwum's story so compelling. But I have to admit that - inasmuch as I think "Spem in alium" is one of the most remarkable feats in the history of music - Tallis is one of those additions in "Holy Women, Holy Men" that give me pause. "Little is known about his personal life," Laurie wrote. What happened to models of heroic faith? Can we really extrapolate from his extraordinary music anything about the holiness of his life? I've known a few composers and musicians in my day (read: lots), and I don't think so! On the other hand... the Archbishop - no doubts or questions there! Voting done.

  26. I surprised myself and just voted for the Archbishop. While I was a priest in the Diocese of Iowa, I had an opportunity to visit our companion diocese of Swaziland and help build a house for one of their priests. Two years after that trip the priest was executed as he walked along the road near his parish. He was killed because he also spoke truth to power. I LOVE Tallis' music but my heart and soul sings for those with enough courage to witness to God's love in this way.

  27. The musical gifts of Tallis can only be given by God. The faith of Luwum, though, won me over. I question whether or not I'd be able to do the same. I pray that I would be able to live my faith till the end. I guess one does not truly know until they are tested.

  28. The spiral of learning on Lent Madness runs deep. Given the beauty of music in my church, I was excited to vote for Tallis. Then I read about Janani Luwuum, bearing witness to our shared faith in the face of 'dark powers'. Inspiring, and the music of Tallis continues to inspire and nurture our faith, that we may go forth and do likewise, bearing witness to contemporary evil.

  29. There are many ways of giving one's life to God and the church, and I am proud to vote for Tallis, whose music has shaped and inspired generations of faith and worship.

  30. I didn't know anything about the Archbishop until today. I've experienced the music of Tallis many times. There is something about the simplicity of the Archbishop's actions--his choice to rise above the terror and pray a prayer that is so familiar--I think it's an example I could at least try to follow in extreme circumstances. I vote for him not because of how he died but because of how he lived those final moments. I love Martha and Neil's comments about the saints laughing with God as we ponder all this. I bet they sing, too.