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He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphonykeyboard the so-called Virginalist schooland consort music. Although he produced sacred music for Anglican services, sometime during the s he became a Roman Catholic and wrote Catholic sacred music later in his life.
Thanks largely to the research of John Harley, knowledge of Byrd's biography has expanded in recent years. Thereafter succeeding generations of the family are described as gentlemen. William Byrd was born in London,  the son of another Thomas Byrd about whom nothing further is known, and his wife, Margery. The specific year of Byrd's birth is uncertain. In his will, dated 15 Novemberhe describes himself as "in the 80th year of [his] age", suggesting a birthdate of or There is no documentary evidence concerning Byrd's early musical training.
His two brothers were choristers at St. Paul's Cathedraland Byrd may Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IV been a chorister there as well under Simon Westcote, although it is possible that he was a chorister with the Chapel Royal. A reference in the prefatory material to the Cantiones sacrae published by Byrd and Thomas Tallis in tends to confirm that Byrd was a 315 - Various - Rock Sound Volume 26 of Tallis in the Chapel Royal.
It was probably composed near the end of the reign of Queen Mary Tudor — who revived Sarum liturgical practices. A few other compositions by Byrd also probably date from his teenage years. These include his setting of the Easter responsory Christus resurgens a4 which was not published untilbut which as part of the Sarum liturgy could also have been composed during Mary 's reign, as well as Alleluia confitemini a3 which combines two liturgical items for Easter week.
Some of the hymns and antiphons for keyboard and for consort may also date from this period, though it is also possible that the consort pieces may have been composed in Lincoln for the musical training of choirboys. Byrd's first known professional employment was his appointment in as organist and master of the choristers at Lincoln Cathedral. Residing at what is now 6 Minster Yard Lincoln, he remained in post until Since Puritanism was influential at Lincoln, it is possible that the allegations were connected with over-elaborate choral polyphony or organ playing.
A second directive, dated 29 November, issued detailed instructions regarding Byrd's use of Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IV organ in the liturgy. The s were also important formative years for Byrd the composer. It is at any rate clear that Byrd was composing Anglican church music, for when he left Lincoln the Dean and Chapter continued to pay him at a reduced rate on condition that he would send the cathedral his compositions.
Byrd had also taken serious strides with instrumental music. The seven In Nomine settings for consort two a4 and five a5at least one of the consort fantasias Neighbour F1 a6 and a number of important keyboard works were apparently composed during the Lincoln years. The latter include the Ground in Gamut described as "Mr Byrd's old ground" by his future pupil Thomas Tomkinsthe A minor Fantasia, and probably the first of Byrd's great series of keyboard pavanes and galliardsa composition which was transcribed by Byrd from an original for five-part consort.
All these show Byrd gradually emerging as a major figure on the Elizabethan musical landscape. As we have seen, Byrd had begun setting Latin liturgical texts as a teenager, and he seems to have continued to do so at Lincoln. Two exceptional large-scale psalm motetsAd Dominum cum tribularer a8 and Domine quis habitabit a9are Byrd's contribution to a paraliturgicall form cultivated by Robert White and Robert Parsons. De lamentationeanother early work, is a contribution to the Elizabethan practice of setting groups of verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiahfollowing the format of the Tenebrae lessons sung in the Catholic rite during the last three days of Holy Week.
Other contributors in this form include Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IVWhite, Parsley and the elder Ferrabosco. It is likely that this practice was an expression of Elizabethan Catholic nostalgia, as a number of the texts suggest. Byrd obtained the prestigious post of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in following the death of Robert Parsonsa gifted composer who drowned in the Trent near Newark on 25 January of that year. Almost from the outset Byrd is named as 'organist', which however was not a designated post but an occupation for any Chapel Royal member capable Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IV filling it.
This career move vastly increased Byrd's opportunities to widen his scope as a composer and also to make contacts at Court. Queen Elizabeth — was a moderate Protestant who eschewed the more extreme forms of Puritanism and retained a fondness for elaborate ritual, besides being a music lover and keyboard player herself.
Byrd's output of Anglican church music defined in the strictest sense as sacred music designed for performance in church is surprisingly small, but it stretches the limits of elaboration then regarded as acceptable by some reforming Protestants who regarded highly wrought music as a distraction from the Word of God. Shortly afterwards Byrd and Tallis were jointly granted a patent for the printing of music and ruled music paper for 21 years, one of a number of patents issued by the Crown for the printing of books on various subjects.
The two monopolists took advantage of the patent to produce a grandiose joint publication under the title Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur.
It was a collection of 34 Latin motets dedicated to the Queen herself, accompanied by elaborate prefatory matter including poems in Latin elegiacs by the schoolmaster Richard Mulcaster and the young courtier Ferdinand Heybourne aka Richardson.
There are 17 motets each by Tallis and Byrd, one for each year of the Queen's reign. Byrd's contributions to the Cantiones are in various different styles, although his forceful musical personality is stamped on all of them. The inclusion of Laudate pueri a6 which proves to be an instrumental fantasia with words added after composition,  is one sign that Byrd had some difficulty in assembling enough material for the collection.
Diliges Dominum a8which may also originally have been untexted, is an eight-in-four retrograde canon of little musical interest. Also belonging to the more archaic stratum of motets is Libera me Domine a5a cantus firmus setting of the ninth responsory at Matins for the Office for the Deadwhich takes its point of departure from the setting by Robert Parsons, while Miserere mihi a6a setting of a Compline antiphon often used by Tudor composers for didactic cantus firmus exercises, incorporates a four-in-two canon.
Tribue Domine a6 is a large-scale sectional composition setting from a medieval collection of Meditationes which was Le Mauvais Matelot - Edith Piaf - La Vie En Rose attributed to St Augustine composed in a style which owes much to earlier Tudor settings of votive antiphons as a mosaic of full and semichoir passages.
Byrd sets it in three sections, each beginning with a semichoir passage in archaic style. Byrd's contribution to the Cantiones also includes compositions in a more forward-looking manner which point the way to his motets of the s.
Some of them show the influence of the motets of Alfonso Ferrabosco I —a Bolognese musician Girl Of My Dreams - Various - New Wave - Gold worked in the Tudor court at intervals between and The Cantiones were a financial failure. In Byrd and Tallis were forced Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IV petition Queen Elizabeth for financial help, pleading that the publication had "fallen oute to oure greate losse" and that Tallis was now "verie aged".
They were subsequently granted the leasehold on various lands in East Anglia and the West Country for a period of 21 years. From the early s onwards Byrd became increasingly involved with Catholicism, which, as the scholarship of the last half-century has demonstrated, became a major factor in his personal and creative life. As John Harley has shown, it is probable that Byrd's parental family were Protestants, though whether by deeply felt conviction or nominal conformism is not clear.
Byrd himself may have held Protestant beliefs in his youth, for a recently discovered fragment of a setting of an English translation of Martin Luther 's hymn " Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort ", which bears an attribution to "Birde" includes the line "From Turk and Pope defend us Lord". Byrd himself appears in the recusancy lists from His involvement with Catholicism took on a new dimension in the s.
Following Pope Pius V 's papal bull Regnans in Excelsisinwhich absolved Elizabeth's subjects from allegiance to her and effectively Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IV her an outlaw in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Catholicism became increasingly identified with sedition in the eyes of the Tudor authorities.
With the influx of missionary priests trained at the English College, Douainow in France but then part of the Spanish Netherlands and in Rome from the s onwards, relations between the authorities and the Catholic community took a further turn for the worse.
Byrd himself is found in the company of prominent Catholics. In he got into serious trouble because of his association with Paget, who was suspected of involvement in the Throckmorton Plotand for sending money to Catholics abroad. As a result of this, Byrd's membership of the Chapel Royal was apparently suspended for a time, restrictions were placed on his movements, and his house was placed on the search list.
In he attended a gathering at a country house in the company of Father Henry Garnett later executed for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot and the Catholic poet Robert Southwell. Byrd's commitment to the Catholic cause found expression in his motets, of which he composed about 50 between and While the texts of the motets included by Byrd and Tallis in the Cantiones have a High Anglican doctrinal tone, scholars such as Joseph Kerman have detected a profound change of direction in the texts which Byrd set in the motets of the s.
This has led scholars from Kerman onwards to believe that Byrd was reinterpreting biblical and liturgical texts in a contemporary context and writing laments and petitions on behalf of the persecuted Catholic community, which seems to have adopted Byrd as a kind of 'house' composer.
Some texts should probably be interpreted as warnings against spies Vigilate, nescitis enim or lying tongues Quis est homo or celebration of the memory of martyred priests O quam gloriosum. Byrd's setting of the first four verses of Psalm 78 Deus venerunt gentes is widely believed to refer to the brutal execution of Fr Edmund Campion in an event that caused widespread revulsion on the Continent as well as in England.
In De Monte sent Byrd his setting of verses 1—4 of Vulgate Psalm Super flumina Babylonisincluding the pointed question "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? Thirty-seven of Byrd's motets were published in two sets of Cantiones sacraewhich appeared in and Together with two sets of English songs, discussed below, these collections, dedicated to powerful Elizabethan lords Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester and John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumleyprobably formed part of Byrd's campaign to re-establish himself in Court circles after the reverses of the s.
They may also reflect the fact that Byrd's fellow monopolist Tallis and his printer Thomas Vautrollier had died, thus creating a more propitious climate for publishing ventures. Since many of the motet texts of the and sets are pathetic in tone, it is not surprising that many of them continue and develop the 'affective-imitative' vein found in some motets from the s, though in a more concise and concentrated form.
Domine praestolamur is a good example of this style, laid out in imitative paragraphs based on subjects which characteristically emphasise the expressive minor second and minor sixth, with continuations which subsequently break off and are heard separately another technique which Byrd had learnt from his study of Ferrabosco. Byrd evolved a special "cell" technique for setting the petitionary clauses such as miserere mei or libera nos Domine which form the focal point for a number of the texts.
Particularly striking examples of these are the final section of Tribulatio proxima est and the multi-sectional Infelix egoa large-scale motet which takes Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IV point of departure from Tribue Domine of There are also Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IV number of compositions which do not conform to this stylistic pattern.
They include three motets which employ the old-fashioned cantus firmus technique as well as the most famous item in the collection, Ne irascaris Domine. A few motets, especially in the set, abandon traditional motet style and resort to vivid word painting which reflects the growing popularity of the madrigal Haec dies A famous passage from Thomas Morley 's A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke supports the view that the madrigal had superseded the motet in the favour of Catholic patrons, a fact which may explain why Byrd composed few non-liturgical motets after In and Byrd also published two collections of English songs.
The consort song, which was the most popular form of vernacular polyphony in England in the third quarter of the sixteenth century, was a solo song for a high voice often sung by a boy accompanied by a consort of four consort instruments normally viols. As the title of Byrd's collection implies, consort songs varied widely in character. Many were settings of metrical psalms, in which the solo voice sings a melody in the manner of the numerous metrical psalm collections of the day e.
Sternhold and Hopkins Psalterwith each line prefigured by imitation in the accompanying instruments. Others are dramatic elegies, intended to be Devils Answer - Various - Iron & Metal (The Hard And Heavy Rock Collection) in the boy-plays which were popular in Tudor London.
A popular source for song settings was Richard Edwards' The paradyse of dainty devices of which seven settings in consort song form survive. Byrd's collection, which complicates the form as he inherited it from Robert Parsons, Richard Farrant and others, reflects this tradition. The "psalms" section sets texts drawn from Sternhold's psalter of in the traditional manner, while the 'sonnets and pastorals' section employs lighter, more rapid motion with crotchet quarter-note pulse, and sometimes triple metre Though Amaryllis dance in green, If women could be fair.
Poetically, the set together with other evidence reflects Byrd's involvement with the literary circle surrounding Sir Philip Sidneywhose influence at Court was at its height in the early s. Byrd set three of the songs from Sidney's sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stellaas well as poems by other members of Vicio - Capitán Entresijos - Deprisa!
Deprisa! Sidney circle, and also included two elegies on Sidney's death in the Battle of Zutphen in It long retained its popularity. InByrd's patron Edward Somerset, Générique - Miles Davis - The Columbia Years 1955-1985 Earl of Worcester, discussing Court fashions in music, predicted that "in winter lullaby, an owld song of Mr Birde, wylbee more in request as I thinke.
What Crisis? Songs of Sundrie Natures contain sections in three, four, five and six parts, a format which follows the plan of many Tudor manuscript collections of household music and was probably intended to emulate the madrigal collection Musica transalpinawhich had appeared in print the previous year.
Byrd's set contains compositions in a wide variety of musical styles, reflecting the variegated character of the texts which he was setting.
The three-part section includes settings of metrical versions of the seven penitential psalmsin an archaic style which reflects the influence of the psalm collections. Other items from the three-part and four-part section are in a lighter vein, employing a line-by-line imitative technique and a predominant crotchet pulse The nightingale so pleasant a3Is love a boy? The five-part section includes vocal part-songs which show the influence of the "adapted consort song" style of the set but which seem to have been conceived as all-vocal Byrd Plays - Various - Music At Moonlight IV.
Byrd also bowed to tradition by setting two carols in the traditional form with alternating verses and burdens, From Virgin's womb this day did spring, An earthly tree, a heavenly fruit, both a6 and even included an anthema setting of the Easter prose Christ rising again which also circulated in church choir manuscripts with Chapter VI - Last Minute To Jaffna - Volume III accompaniment.
The s were also a productive decade for Byrd as a composer of instrumental music. On 11 September John Baldwina tenor lay-clerk at St George's Chapel, Windsor and later a colleague of Byrd in the Chapel Royal, completed the copying of My Ladye Nevells Bookea A Heavy Wieght - Precursor - Miles & Miles Apart of 42 of Byrd's keyboard pieces, which was probably produced under Byrd's supervision and includes corrections which are thought to be in the composer's hand.
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