William Byrd – Father of Music

Died 4th July 1623

William Byrd was born in 1543 and probably studied music under Thomas Tallis. He was appointed organist of Lincoln Cathedral in 1563; about ten years later he moved to London to take up his duties as a member of the Chapel Royal, which post he held until the end of his life. He became a Roman Catholic at a time when it was against the law and he must have practised his religion secretly. Despite that he wrote music for the Anglican Church along with madrigals and keyboard pieces but undoubtedly his best compositions are his Latin Masses and motets. His setting of the Ave Verum Corpus is probably the most popular. Latin Church music was not allowed to be sung in public services in England after the Reformation so in all probability they were written for recusant catholic gatherings.

Byrd died at his home in Stondon Massey on 4th July 1623, which was noted in the Chapel Royal Check Book describing him as “a Father of Musick”. Despite a number of heavy fines for recusancy, he died a rich man, having rooms at the time of his death at the London home of the Earl of Worcester. Considered among the greatest composers of the Renaissance, he had a profound influence on composers both from his native England and on the continent.

Christopher Jobson

The feature image for this post is “William Byrd (1543-1623)”, Wikicommons (P.D.)

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