Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Here's a post from my old blog that was focused on music. 
Originally posted on December 22, 2009

This song is beautiful, and it works for me as a musical allegory of God’s plan for the happiness and eventual salvation of His children.
The score includes parts for two string orchestras and a quartet. The song begins with a lengthy and nebulous introduction. Think of it as the creation, think of it as a description of the eternal realms of pre-mortal life, think of it as what you will. Think of it perhaps as an overture to our mortal experiences on Earth. Or maybe these are the sounds that accompanied God’s explanation of the plan, coming to a climax as He explained the offering of His Son as our Savior (starting right around 3:05). If I had to pick a moment that describes when we accepted the plan, it would be the phrases beginning at 4:00.
At 4:10 we begin our entrance into mortal life, complete with its struggles. The next section features themes presented by the second, smaller orchestra (seated on the back row). These soft, quiet, tender themes represent the whisperings of Heaven, reminding us of our heavenly home and beckoning us to ways that will lead us back there. These soft melodies are interrupted repeatedly and loudly by the bigger orchestra, representing the powerful, overwhelming, distracting influences of the world. This dialog continues from 4:38 until about 6:40.
Having established the presence of these opposing forces, the piece now moves to the experiences we face as individuals during this mortal life. The quartet represents individuals striving to find their way and to choose between the opposing forces of heaven and earth. The viola solo at 6:44 reminds me of times when I’ve felt lost, unsure, or scared about life. As the quartet continues, it paints a picture of people everywhere, all on the same planet, perhaps in the same community, but lost and alone. Notice that the dialog between the two orchestras (heaven and earth) continues throughout.  Each influence entices us to follow them. The quartet really picks up at 9:00, and from here until much later in the piece, we are presented with the emotion and intensity of a struggle we all face every day. The struggle to find out who we are, where we are going, and whose side we are on. The struggle to find meaning, the struggle to do what’s right.
The struggle, intensity, and confusion increase until, in a shining moment (11:53), we have an experience like the one described in Alma 36:18. We find, remember, or otherwise are healed and rescued by our Savior Jesus Christ. Triumph over the world and over evil! This realization brings the orchestra into powerful unison. The solemn passage that follows represents to me gratitude, reverence, and awe at God’s plan. At 13:35, the violin and viola (individuals) take flight in a song of redemption, having been set free from the chains and confusion of the world. Then, at 14:21, they are joined by hosts of others who have found and experienced this joy.
The section beginning just before 15:00 marks the autumn of our lives, accented by stirring bursts of hope for eternal life. We take our last mortal breath at 15:49, then slowly, surely, and with poise, the individual ascends into an endless sunset, into the loving arms of a waiting Eternal Father, leaving this world with the peaceful strains of a life well lived and greeted in heaven by a big “Wel-come home!” (the last three notes).
This is the best recording I could find on YouTube, but if you really want to experience it, buy the song and enjoy a professional recording.


  1. Tyler, that was incredible. I thought of your interpretation throughout the piece, and I got chills. Thank you for posting that. It has me thinking of more spiritual things and in the eternal perspective now.


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