If Ye Love Me

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"If Ye Love Me"
Motet by Thomas Tallis
Music score of If Ye Love Me
The beginning in modern notation
Genre Sacred choral music
Text The Bible, John 14:15–17
Language English
Published 1565 (1565)
Scoring SATB choir

"If Ye Love Me" is a four-part motet or anthem by the English composer Thomas Tallis, a setting of a passage from the Gospel of John. First published in 1565 during the reign of Elizabeth I, it is an example of Tudor music and is part of the repertoire of Anglican church music. An early homophonic motet in English, it is frequently performed today, and has been sung at special occasions including a papal visit and a royal wedding.


The text is taken from William Tyndale's 1539 translation of the Bible (known as the Great Bible), which was in common use in the Church of England during the English Reformation.[1] It uses verses from the Gospel of John, words spoken by Jesus to his disciples foretelling his own death and promising that God the Father will send to them the Holy Spirit (a "Comforter"):[2]

If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter,
that he may 'bide with you forever;
E'en the sp'rit of truth.

— John 14:15–17

This text was appointed to be the Gospel reading for Whit Sunday in the lectionary of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, although it is possible that Tallis's composition is earlier than that. Another setting of the same verses by an unknown composer exists, which is thought to have been written in the reign of King Henry VIII.[3]


If Ye Love Me in the Wanley Partbooks of c. 1548–1550 (staves 3–5, what is now the alto part)

Prior to the English Reformation, English church music consisted mainly of settings of texts in Latin, such as the Latin Mass. As the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, its Latin liturgy was replaced with scripture and prayers in English, notably with the publication of the Great Bible in English in 1539.[4][5][6]

These changes were reflected in church music, and during the reign of King Edward VI, church composers who had previously written vocal music in Latin were required to use English texts and to write in a simple style, "to each syllable a plain and distinct note". Thomas Tallis, a prominent musician of the Chapel Royal at the time, was among the first to write sacred music in English.[7]

"If Ye Love Me" is a setting for an a cappella choir of four voice parts, and it is a noted example of this Reformation compositional style, essentially homophonic but with some elaboration and imitation. Typically for Anglican motets of this period, it is written in an ABB form, with the second section repeated.[8]

The anthem is included in the Wanley Partbooks, a small set of partbooks dating from c. 1548–1550 which are a major source of Tudor church music. The partbooks were once owned by the scholar Humphrey Wanley and are now held by the Bodleian Library, Oxford. "If Ye Love Me" was first published in 1565 by John Day in the collection Certaine notes set forthe in foure and three partes.[notes 1][10][11][12] The piece was largely forgotten during the religious turmoil of the 17th century and only two examples of it are known to have been reproduced after the Restoration in 1660. However, "If Ye Love Me" was published in 1847 by the Motett Society and it quickly became the most performed of Tallis's works.[13] Today the anthem is a popular choice for church choirs and has been included in various modern music publications such as The Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems.[14]

The anthem was chosen to be sung when Pope Benedict XVI attended Evensong at Westminster Abbey during his 2010 visit to the United Kingdom,[15] and also at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle in 2018.[16]


  1. ^ The anthem was first published in 1565 by John Day in Certaine notes set forthe in foure and three partes ( OCLC 79617658). Parts of this publication were printed earlier and bear the date 1560.[9]


  1. ^ Jolly, James (26 May 2011). "Celebrating the King James Bible at 400". Gramophone. Archived from the original on 22 May 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  2. ^ Stallings, Jack Wilson (1989). Randall House Bible Commentary: The Gospel of John. Randall House Publications. p. 206. ISBN 9780892651375. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  3. ^ Harley, John (2015). Thomas Tallis. Routledge. p. 70. ISBN 978-1472428066.
  4. ^ Unger, Melvin P. (2010). Historical Dictionary of Choral Music. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 116. ISBN 9780810873926. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  5. ^ Procter, F.; Frere, W. H. (1905). A New History of the Book of Common Prayer. Macmillan. p. 31.
  6. ^ Hoch, Matthew (2015). Welcome to Church Music & The Hymnal 1982. Church Publishing, Inc. pp. 2–11. ISBN 9780819229427. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  7. ^ Turner, Ryan. "If Ye Love Me: Thomas Tallis (1505–1585)". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Thomas Tallis / If ye love me". Carus. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  9. ^ Nixon, Howard M. (1984). "Day's Service Book, 1560–1565" (PDF). British Library Journal. London. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  10. ^ Le Huray, Peter, ed. (1965). The Treasury of English Church Music 1545–1650. Cambridge University Press. p. xix. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  11. ^ Harley, John (24 February 2016). Thomas Tallis. Routledge. pp. 63–64. ISBN 978-1-317-01036-4.
  12. ^ "The Wanley Partbooks". Digital Bodleian. Oxford: Bodlean Library.
  13. ^ Cole, Suzanne (2008). Thomas Tallis and His Music in Victorian England. Boydell Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-1843833802.
  14. ^ Christopher, Morris, ed. (1978). The Oxford Book of Tudor Anthems : 34 Anthems for Mixed Voices ([Partitur] ed.). London: Music Department, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0193533257.
  15. ^ Hall, Jane. "Ch.7". Queen Elizabeth II and Her Church: Royal Service at Westminster Abbey. Continuum. ISBN 978-1441120724.
  16. ^ "The Marriage of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales with Ms Meghan Markle – Order of Service" (PDF). St.George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 May 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.

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