William Byrd

William Byrd

Overview
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

, keyboard (the so-called Virginalist
Virginalist
Virginalist denotes a composer of the so-called virginalist school, and usually refers to the English keyboard composers of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods. The term does not appear to have been applied earlier than the 19th century...

 school) and consort
Consort of instruments
A consort of instruments was a phrase used in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to indicate an instrumental ensemble. These could be of the same or a variety of instruments. Consort music enjoyed considerable popularity at court and in households of the wealthy in the...

 music.

Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely to the research of John Harley (Harley, 1997). Following the discovery of a document dated 2 October 1598 in which Byrd's age is given as "58 years or there abouts," it now appears that he was born in 1540.
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Encyclopedia
William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance
Renaissance music
Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given that its defining characteristics were adopted only gradually; musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.Literally meaning...

. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

, keyboard (the so-called Virginalist
Virginalist
Virginalist denotes a composer of the so-called virginalist school, and usually refers to the English keyboard composers of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods. The term does not appear to have been applied earlier than the 19th century...

 school) and consort
Consort of instruments
A consort of instruments was a phrase used in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to indicate an instrumental ensemble. These could be of the same or a variety of instruments. Consort music enjoyed considerable popularity at court and in households of the wealthy in the...

 music.

Provenance


Knowledge of Byrd's biography expanded in the late 20th century, thanks largely to the research of John Harley (Harley, 1997). Following the discovery of a document dated 2 October 1598 in which Byrd's age is given as "58 years or there abouts," it now appears that he was born in 1540. The older dating 1542–3 is derived from Byrd's will (endorsed on 22 November 1622) which describes him as 'in the 80th year of my age'. It now becomes clear that it must have been drafted about three years earlier than the date of endorsement. Byrd was born in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, the son of a Thomas Byrd (not Thomas Byrd of the Chapel Royal) about whom little is known. Byrd had two brothers, Symon'd and John, and four sisters. It is clear from a reference in the prefatory material in the Tallis/Byrd Cantiones of 1575 that Byrd was a pupil of Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century Tudor England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English...

, then the leading composing member of the Chapel Royal
Chapel Royal
A Chapel Royal is a body of priests and singers who serve the spiritual needs of their sovereign wherever they are called upon to do so.-Austria:...

 Choir. Byrd also worked in collaboration with two other Chapel Royal singing-men, John Sheppard and William Mundy, on one of his earliest compositions, a contribution to a joint setting of the alternatim
Alternatim
Alternatim refers to a technique of liturgical musical performance. A specific part of the ordinary of the Mass would be divided into versets. Each verset would be performed antiphonally by two groups of singers, giving rise to polyphonic settings of half of the text. One of these groups may...

 psalm In exitu Israel composed for the procession to the font at the Paschal Vigil. As an item for the Sarum liturgy
Sarum Rite
The Sarum Rite was a variant of the Roman Rite widely used for the ordering of Christian public worship, including the Mass and the Divine Office...

 this was presumably composed near the end of the reign of Mary Tudor
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

 (1553–1558), whose Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 beliefs impelled her to revive Sarum liturgical practices during her brief reign. In view of these contacts it is reasonable to speculate that Byrd was a Chapel Royal choirboy, though the surviving records do not name the choristers individually.

Early years


A few other compositions by Byrd should probably be assigned to his teenage years. Apart from his contribution to In exitu Israel (Similes illis fiant a4), these include his setting of the Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 responsory
Responsory
-Definition:The most general of a responsory is any psalm, canticle, or other sacred musical work sung responsorially, that is, with a cantor or small group singing verses while the whole choir or congregation respond with a refrain. However, this article focuses on those chants of the western...

 Christus resurgens (a4) which was not published until 1605, but which as another Sarum liturgical unit could also have been composed during Mary's reign. Some of the hymns and antiphons for keyboard and for consort
Consort of instruments
A consort of instruments was a phrase used in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to indicate an instrumental ensemble. These could be of the same or a variety of instruments. Consort music enjoyed considerable popularity at court and in households of the wealthy in the...

 may also date from this period, though it is also possible that the consort pieces may have been composed in Lincoln
Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Lincoln is a cathedral city and county town of Lincolnshire, England.The non-metropolitan district of Lincoln has a population of 85,595; the 2001 census gave the entire area of Lincoln a population of 120,779....

 for the musical training of choirboys.

Byrd's first known professional employment was as organist and choirmaster of Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral is a historic Anglican cathedral in Lincoln in England and seat of the Bishop of Lincoln in the Church of England. It was reputedly the tallest building in the world for 249 years . The central spire collapsed in 1549 and was not rebuilt...

, a post which he held from 25 March 1563. Residing at 6 Minster Yard Lincoln, he remained in post until 1572. His period at Lincoln was not entirely trouble-free, for on 19 November 1569 the Dean and Chapter cited him for ‘certain matters alleged against him’ as the result of which his salary was suspended. Since Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

ism was influential at Lincoln, it is possible that the allegations were connected with over-elaborate choral polyphony
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

 or organ playing. A second directive dated 29 November issued detailed instructions regarding Byrd's use of the organ in the liturgy. On 14 September 1568 Byrd married Julian Birley, a long-lasting and fruitful union which produced at least seven children.

The 1560s were also important formative years for Byrd the composer. The Short Service, an unpretentious setting of items for the Anglican Matins
Matins
Matins is the early morning or night prayer service in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox liturgies of the canonical hours. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe morning services.The name "Matins" originally referred to the morning office also...

, Communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 and Evensong
Evening Prayer (Anglican)
Evening Prayer is a liturgy in use in the Anglican Communion and celebrated in the late afternoon or evening...

 services, which seems to designed to comply with the Protestant reformers’ demand for clear words and simple musical textures, may well have been composed during the Lincoln years. 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 (a5), at least one of the consort fantasia
Fantasia (music)
The fantasia is a musical composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. Because of this, it seldom approximates the textbook rules of any strict musical form ....

s (Neighbour F1 a6) and a number of important keyboard works have been assigned to the Lincoln years. The latter include the Ground in Gamut (described as 'Mr Byrd's old ground') by his future pupil Thomas Tomkins
Thomas Tomkins
Thomas Tomkins was an English composer of the late Tudor and early Stuart period. In addition to being one of the prominent members of the English madrigal school, he was a skilled composer of keyboard and consort music, and the last member of the English virginalist school.-Life:Tomkins was born...

, the A minor fantasia and probably the first of Byrd's great series of keyboard pavans and galliards, a 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.

Some sets of keyboard variations, such as The Hunt's Up and the imperfectly preserved set on Gypsies’ Round also seem to be early works. 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 motet
Motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...

s, Ad Dominum cum tribularer (a8) and Domine quis habitabit (a9), are Byrd's contribution to a genre cultivated by Robert White
Robert White (composer)
Robert White probably born in Holborn, a district of London, was a catholic English composer whose liturgical music to Latin texts is considered particularly fine...

 and Robert Parsons
Robert Parsons (composer)
Robert Parsons was an English composer.Although little is known about the life of Robert Parsons, it is likely that in his youth he was a choir boy, as until 1561 he was an assistant to Richard Bower, Master of the Children Choristers of the Chapel Royal.Parsons was appointed Gentleman of the...

. De lamentatione, another early work, is a contribution to the Elizabethan practice of setting groups of verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiah following the format of the Tenebrae
Tenebrae
Tenebrae may refer to:* Tenebrae, a Christian worship service held during Holy Week * Tenebrae , a horror film by Dario Argento* Tenebrae , soundtrack album for the Dario Argento film...

 lessons sung in the Catholic rite during the last three days of Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

, other contributors including Tallis, White, Parsley and the elder Ferrabosco
Alfonso Ferrabosco (I)
Alfonso Ferrabosco was an Italian composer. While mostly famous as the solitary Italian madrigalist working in England, and the one mainly responsible for the growth of the madrigal there, he also composed much sacred music...

. It is likely that this practice was an expression of Elizabethan Catholic nostalgia, as a number of the texts suggest.

The Chapel Royal


Byrd obtained the prestigious post of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal
Chapel Royal
A Chapel Royal is a body of priests and singers who serve the spiritual needs of their sovereign wherever they are called upon to do so.-Austria:...

 in 1572 following the death of Robert Parsons, a gifted composer who drowned in the Trent
River Trent
The River Trent is one of the major rivers of England. Its source is in Staffordshire on the southern edge of Biddulph Moor. It flows through the Midlands until it joins the River Ouse at Trent Falls to form the Humber Estuary, which empties into the North Sea below Hull and Immingham.The Trent...

 near Newark
Newark-on-Trent
Newark-on-Trent is a market town in Nottinghamshire in the East Midlands region of England. It stands on the River Trent, the A1 , and the East Coast Main Line railway. The origins of the town are possibly Roman as it lies on an important Roman road, the Fosse Way...

 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 of 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
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 (1558–1603) 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.

Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur (1575)


In 1575 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 musicians used the services of the French Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

 printer Thomas Vautrollier
Thomas Vautrollier
Thomas Vautrollier was a French Huguenot refugee who became a printer in England. He was fined for printing unlicensed books in 1578-9 and then continued this in Edinburgh.-References:Dictionary of National Biography Thomas Vautrollier...

, who had settled in England and previously produced an edition of a collection of Lassus chansons in London (Receuil du mellange, 1570). The two monopolists took advantage of the patent to produce a grandiose joint publication under the title Cantiones que ab argumento sacrae vocantur consisting of 34 Latin motets dedicated to the Queen herself and accompanied by elaborate prefatory matter including poems in Latin elegiac
Elegiac
Elegiac refers either to those compositions that are like elegies or to a specific poetic meter used in Classical elegies. The Classical elegiac meter has two lines, making it a couplet: a line of dactylic hexameter, followed by a line of dactylic pentameter...

s by the schoolmaster Richard Mulcaster
Richard Mulcaster
Richard Mulcaster , is known best for his headmasterships and pedagogic writings. He is often regarded as the founder of English language lexicography.-Educational achievements:...

 and the young courtier Ferdinand Heybourne
Ferdinando Richardson
Ferdinando Richardson was an English courtier and musician.He was a pupil of Thomas Tallis; various works for the keyboard by him survive. He also held the post of Groom of the Privy Chamber under both Elizabeth I of England and James I of England.-References:*Richard Marlow, Sir Ferdinando...

 (aka Richardson). There are 17 motets each by Tallis and Byrd, one for each year of the Queen's reign.

Byrd's contribution to the Cantiones is highly variegated in character. 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 (a8), which may also originally have been untexted, is an eight-in-four retrograde canon
Canon (music)
In music, a canon is a contrapuntal composition that employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a given duration . The initial melody is called the leader , while the imitative melody, which is played in a different voice, is called the follower...

 of little musical interest. Also belonging to the more archaic stratum of motets is Libera me Domine (a5), a cantus firmus
Cantus firmus
In music, a cantus firmus is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphonic composition.The plural of this Latin term is , though the corrupt form canti firmi is also attested...

 setting of the ninth responsory at Matins for the Office for the Dead, which takes its point of departure from the setting by Robert Parsons, while Miserere mihi (a6), a setting of a Compline
Compline
Compline is the final church service of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours. The English word Compline is derived from the Latin completorium, as Compline is the completion of the working day. The word was first used in this sense about the beginning of the 6th century by St...

 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 a from a medieval collection of Meditationes which was commonly attributed to St Augustine, composed in a style which owes much to earlier Tudor
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

 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 forwards to his motets of the 1580s. Some of them show the influence of the motets of Alfonso Ferrabosco I (1543–1588), a Bolognese musician who worked in the Tudor court at intervals between 1562 and 1578. Ferrabosco's motets provided direct models for Byrd's Emendemus in melius (a5), O lux beata Trinitas (a6), Domine secundum actum meum (a6) and Siderum rector (a5) as well as a more generalized paradigm for what Joseph Kerman
Joseph Kerman
Joseph Wilfred Kerman is an American critic and musicologist. One of the leading musicologists of his generation, his 1985 book Contemplating Music: Challenges to Musicology was described by Philip Brett in The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians as "a defining moment in the field." He is...

 has called Byrd's 'affective-imitative' style, a method of setting pathetic texts in extended paragraphs based on subjects employing curving lines in fluid rhythm and contrapuntal techniques which Byrd learnt from his study of Ferrabosco.

The Cantiones were a financial failure. In 1577 Byrd and Tallis were forced to 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
East Anglia
East Anglia is a traditional name for a region of eastern England, named after an ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom, the Kingdom of the East Angles. The Angles took their name from their homeland Angeln, in northern Germany. East Anglia initially consisted of Norfolk and Suffolk, but upon the marriage of...

 and the West Country
West Country
The West Country is an informal term for the area of south western England roughly corresponding to the modern South West England government region. It is often defined to encompass the historic counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset and the City of Bristol, while the counties of...

 for a period of 21 years.

Catholicism


From the early 1570s onwards Byrd became increasingly involved with Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

, 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 Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

's hymn Erhalt uns, Herr, bei Deinem Wort, which bears an attribution to 'Birde' includes the line 'From Turk and Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 defend us Lord'. However, from the 1570s onwards he is found associating with known Catholics, including Lord Thomas Paget, to whom he wrote a petitionary letter on behalf of an unnamed friend in 1573. Byrd's wife Julian was first cited for recusancy
Recusancy
In the history of England and Wales, the recusancy was the state of those who refused to attend Anglican services. The individuals were known as "recusants"...

 (refusing to attend Anglican services) at Harlington
Harlington, London
Harlington is a suburban area in the London Borough of Hillingdon, on the northern perimeter of London Heathrow Airport. It is situated west of Charing Cross.-Etymology:...

 in Middlesex
Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

, where the family now lived, in 1577. Byrd himself appears in the recusancy lists from 1584.

His involvement with Catholicism took on a new dimension in the 1580s. Following Pius V's Papal Bull
Papal bull
A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it....

 of 1570, which absolved Elizabeth's subjects from allegiance to her and effectively made her an outlaw in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Catholicism became increasingly identified with sedition in the eyes of the Tudor
Tudor dynasty
The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a European royal house of Welsh origin that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including the Lordship of Ireland, later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1485 until 1603. Its first monarch was Henry Tudor, a descendant through his mother of a legitimised...

 authorities. With the influx of missionary priests trained in the English Colleges
College (canon law)
A college, in the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, is a collection of persons united together for a common object so as to form one body. The members are consequently said to be incorporated, or to form a corporation.-History:...

 in Douai
Douai
-Main sights:Douai's ornate Gothic style belfry was begun in 1380, on the site of an earlier tower. The 80 m high structure includes an impressive carillon, consisting of 62 bells spanning 5 octaves. The originals, some dating from 1391 were removed in 1917 during World War I by the occupying...

 and Rome from the 1570s 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 1583 he got into serious trouble because of his association with Lord Thomas Paget, who was suspected of involvement in the Throckmorton Plot
Throckmorton Plot
The Throckmorton Plot was an attempt by English Roman Catholics in 1583 to murder Queen Elizabeth I of England and replace her with her second cousin Mary, Queen of Scots...

, and for sending money to Catholics abroad. As a result of this Byrd's membership of the Chapel Royal was suspended for a time, restrictions were placed on his movements and his house was placed on the search list. In 1586 he attended a gathering at a country house in the company of Father Henry Garnett (later executed for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot
Gunpowder Plot
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.The plan was to blow up the House of...

) 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 1575 and 1591. While the texts of the motets included by Byrd and Tallis in the 1575 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 1580s. In particular there is a persistent emphasis on themes such as the persecution of the chosen people (Domine praestolamur a5) the Babylonian or Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian captivity (Domine tu iurasti) and the long-awaited coming of deliverance (Laetentur caeli, Circumspice Jerusalem). 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 cruel execution of Fr Edmund Campion
Edmund Campion
Saint Edmund Campion, S.J. was an English Roman Catholic martyr and Jesuit priest. While conducting an underground ministry in officially Protestant England, Campion was arrested by priest hunters. Convicted of high treason by a kangaroo court, he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn...

 in 1581, an event that caused widespread revulsion on the Continent as well as in England. Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, Byrd's Quomodo cantabimus is the result of a motet exchange between Byrd and Philippe de Monte
Philippe de Monte
Philippe de Monte , sometimes known as Philippus de Monte, was a Flemish composer of the late Renaissance. He was a member of the 3rd generation madrigalists and wrote more madrigals than any other composer of the time...

, who was director of music to the Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

, Rudolf II, in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

. In 1583 De Monte sent Byrd his setting of verses 1–4 of Psalm 136 (Super flumina Babylonis), including the pointed question ’How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?’ Byrd replied the following year with a setting of the defiant continuation, set, like de Monte's piece, in eight parts and incorporating a three-part canon by inversion.

Cantiones sacrae (1589 and 1591)


Thirty-seven of Byrd's motets were published in two sets of Cantiones sacrae, which appeared in 1589 and 1591. Together with two sets of English songs, discussed below, these collections, dedicated to powerful Elizabethan lords (Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester
Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester
Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester, KG, Earl Marshal was an English aristocrat. He was an important advisor to King James I, serving as Lord Privy Seal....

 and John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley
John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley
John Lumley, 1st Baron Lumley was an English aristocrat.- Early life :John Lumley was born about 1533, was grandson and heir of John, Lord Lumley, being son and heir of his only son and heir apparent George Lumley by Jane second daughter and coheir of Sir Richard Knightly of Upton,...

), probably formed part of Byrd's campaign to re-establish himself in Court circles after the reverses of the 1580s. 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 1589 and 1591 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 1570s, though in a more concise and concentrated form. Domine praestolamur (1589) is a good example of this style, laid out in imitative paragraphs based on subjects which characteristically emphasize 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 (1589) and the multi-sectional Infelix ego (1591), a large-scale motet which takes its point of departure from Tribue Domine of 1575.

There are also a number of compositions which fail to 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 1589 collection, Ne irascaris Domine the second part of which is closely modelled on Philip van Wilder
Philip van Wilder
Philip van Wilder, was a South Netherlandish lutenist and composer, active in England....

's popular Aspice Domine. A few motets, especially in the 1591 set, abandon traditional motet style and resort to vivid word-painting which reflects the growing popularity of the madrigal
Madrigal (music)
A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six....

 (Haec dies, 1591). A famous passage from Thomas Morley
Thomas Morley
Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, editor and organist of the Renaissance, and the foremost member of the English Madrigal School. He was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England and an organist at St Paul's Cathedral...

's A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597) supports the view that the madrigal had superseded the motet in the favour of Catholic patrons, a fact which may explain why Byrd largely abandoned the composition of non-liturgical motets after 1591.

The English song-books of 1588 and 1589


In 1588 and 1589 Byrd also published two collections of English songs. The first, Psalms, Sonnets and Songs of Sadness and Pietie (1588) consists mainly of adapted consort songs, which Byrd, probably guided by commercial instincts, had turned into vocal part-songs by adding words to the accompanying instrumental parts and labelling the original solo voice as ‘the first singing part’. 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.g. Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter, 1562) with each line prefigured by imitation in the accompanying instruments. Others are dramatic elegies, intended to be performed in the boy-plays which were popular in Tudor London.

Byrd's 1588 collection, which complicates the form as he inherited it from Robert Parsons, Richard Farrant
Richard Farrant
Richard Farrant was a composer of English church music, also a choirmaster, playwright and theatrical producer noted for creating the Blackfriars Theatre that hosted children's companies.Very little is known about him...

 and others, reflects this tradition. The ‘psalms’ section sets texts drawn from Sternhold's psalter of 1549 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). Poetically, the set (together with other evidence) reflects Byrd's involvement with the literary circle surrounding Sir Philip Sidney, whose influence at Court was at its height in the early 1580s. Byrd set three of the songs from Sidney's sonnet
Sonnet
A sonnet is one of several forms of poetry that originate in Europe, mainly Provence and Italy. A sonnet commonly has 14 lines. The term "sonnet" derives from the Occitan word sonet and the Italian word sonetto, both meaning "little song" or "little sound"...

 sequence Astrophel and Stella
Astrophel and Stella
Likely composed in the 1580s, Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella is an English sonnet sequence containing 108 sonnets and 11 songs. The name derives from the two Greek words, 'aster' and 'phil' , and the Latin word 'stella' meaning star. Thus Astrophel is the star lover, and Stella is his star...

, as well as poems by other members of the Sidney circle, and also included two elegies on Sidney's death in the Battle of Zutphen
Battle of Zutphen
The Battle of Zutphen was a confrontation of the Eighty Years' War on 22 September 1586, near Zutphen , the Netherlands. It was fought between forces of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, aided by the English, against the Spanish, who sought to regain the northern Netherlands.Important...

 in 1586. But the most popular item in the set was the Lullaby
Lullaby
A lullaby is a soothing song, usually sung to young children before they go to sleep, with the intention of speeding that process. As a result they are often simple and repetitive. Lullabies can be found in every culture and since the ancient period....

 (Lullay lullaby) which blends the tradition of the dramatic lament with the cradle-songs found in some early boy-plays and medieval mystery plays. It long retained its popularity. In 1602 Byrd's patron Edward Somerset, 4th 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’.

The Songs of Sundrie Natures (1589) 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 transalpina, which 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 psalms
Penitential Psalms
The Penitential Psalms or Psalms of Confession, so named in Cassiodorus's commentary of the 6th century AD, are the Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143 . These are specially expressive of sorrow for sin. Four were known as 'penitential psalms' by St. Augustine of Hippo in the early 5th century...

, in 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 five-part section includes vocal part-songs which show the influence of the ‘adapted consort song’ style of the 1588 set but which seem to have been conceived as all-vocal part-songs. Byrd also bowed to tradition by setting two carols in the traditional form with alternating verses and burdens, and even included an anthem, a setting of the Easter prose Christ rising again which also circulated in church choir manuscripts with organ accompaniment.

My Ladye Nevells Booke


The 1580s were also a productive decade for Byrd as a composer of instrumental music. On 11 September 1591 John Baldwin, a 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 Booke
My Ladye Nevells Booke
My Ladye Nevells Booke is a music manuscript containing keyboard pieces by the English composer William Byrd, and, together with the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, one of the most important collections of keyboard music of the renaissance.-Description:My Ladye Nevells Booke consists of 42 pieces for...

, a collection 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. Byrd would almost certainly have published it if the technical means had been available to do so. The dedicatee long remained unidentified, but John Harley's researches into the heraldic design on the fly-leaf have shown that she was Lady Elizabeth Neville, the third wife of Sir Henry Neville (Gentleman of the Privy Chamber)
Henry Neville (Gentleman of the Privy Chamber)
Sir Henry Neville was Gentleman of the Privy chamber to King Edward VI.-Family background:Sir Henry Neville's father was Sir Edward Neville Sir Henry Neville (ca. 1520 – 1593) was Gentleman of the Privy chamber to King Edward VI.-Family background:Sir Henry Neville's father was Sir Edward...

 of Billingbear
Billingbear
Billingbear is a village in Berkshire, England, within the civil parish of Binfield. Billingbear House was in the adjoining parish of Waltham St Lawrence....

 in Berkshire
Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

, who was a Justice of the Peace
Justice of the Peace
A justice of the peace is a puisne judicial officer elected or appointed by means of a commission to keep the peace. Depending on the jurisdiction, they might dispense summary justice or merely deal with local administrative applications in common law jurisdictions...

 and a warden of Windsor Great Park
Windsor Great Park
Windsor Great Park is a large deer park of , to the south of the town of Windsor on the border of Berkshire and Surrey in England. The park was, for many centuries, the private hunting ground of Windsor Castle and dates primarily from the mid-13th century...

. Under her third married name, Lady Periam, she also received the dedication of Thomas Morley's two-part canzonets of 1595. The contents show Byrd's mastery of a wide variety of keyboard forms, though liturgical compositions based on plainsong are not represented. The collection includes a series of ten pavans and galliards in the usual three-strain form with embellished repeats of each strain. (The only exception is the Ninth Pavan, which is a set of variations on the passamezzo antico
Passamezzo antico
The passamezzo antico was a ground bass or chord progression popular during the Italian Renaissance and known throughout Europe in the 16th century...

 bass)

There are indications that the sequence may be a chronological one, for the first pavan is labelled 'the first that ever hee made' in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book and the Tenth Pavan, which is separated from the others, evidently became available at a late stage before the completion date. It is dedicated to William Petre
William Petre, 2nd Baron Petre
William Petre, 2nd Baron Petre was educated at Oxford, was elected MP for Essex, knighted in 1603 and acceded to the Barony in 1613...

 (the son of Byrd's patron John Petre, 1st Baron Petre
John Petre, 1st Baron Petre
John Petre, 1st Baron Petre was an English peer.-Biography:John was the only surviving son of the statesman Sir William Petre by his second wife Anne, daughter of William Browne...

) who was only 15 years old in 1591 and could hardly have played it if it had been composed much earlier. The collection also includes two famous pieces of programme music. The Battle, which was apparently inspired by an unidentified skirmish in Elizabeth's Irish wars
Irish wars
This is a list of wars and other armed conflicts that have taken place in Ireland.-See also:*List of Irish battles*List of Irish uprisings*Military history of Ireland*Ireland...

, is a sequence of movements bearing titles such as 'The marche to fight', 'The battells be joyned' and 'The Galliarde for the victorie'. Although not representing Byrd at his most profound, it achieved great popularity and is of incidental interest for the information which it gives on sixteenth-century English military calls. It is followed by The Barley Break (a mock-battle follows a real one), a light-hearted piece which follows the progress of a game of barley-break, a version of the game now known as ‘piggy in the middle’ played by three couples with a ball. My Ladye Nevells Booke also contains two monumental Grounds, and sets of keyboard variations of variegated character, notably the huge set on Walsingham and the popular variations on Sellinger's Round, Carman's Whistle and Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home. The fantasias and voluntaries in Nevell also cover a wide stylistic range, some being austerely contrapuntal (A voluntarie, no. 42)) and others lighter and more Italianate in tone. Like the five-and six-part consort fantasias, they sometimes feature a gradual increase in momentum after an imitative opening paragraph.

Consort music


The period up to 1591 also saw important additions to Byrd's output of consort
Consort of instruments
A consort of instruments was a phrase used in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to indicate an instrumental ensemble. These could be of the same or a variety of instruments. Consort music enjoyed considerable popularity at court and in households of the wealthy in the...

 music, some of which has probably been lost. Two magnificent large-sale compositions are the Browning, a set of 20 variations on a popular melody (also known as The leaves be green) which evidently originated as a celebration of the ripening of nuts in autumn, and an elaborate ground on the formula known as the Goodnight Ground. The smaller-scale fantasias (those a3 and a4) use a light-textured imitative style which owes something to Continental models, while the five and six-part fantasias employ large-scale cumulative construction and allusions to snatches of popular songs. A good example of the last type is the Fantasia a6 (No 2) which begins with a sober imitative paragraph before progressively more fragmented textures (working in a quotation from Greensleeves at one point). It even includes a complete three-strain galliard, followed by an expansive coda (for a performance on Youtube, see under 'External links' below).

Stondon Massey


In about 1594 Byrd's career entered a new phase. He was now in his early fifties, and as a far as the Chapel Royal is concerned he seems to have gone into semi-retirement. He moved with his family from Harlington to Stondon Massey
Stondon Massey
Stondon Massey is a village in south Essex. It is situated to the north of Brentwood, between Blackmore and Doddinghurst. The village possesses a rural feel to it, and in its first entry to the 'Best kept village in Essex' competition, won 'Best New Entry'....

, a small village near Chipping Ongar
Chipping Ongar
Chipping Ongar is a small market town, and a civil parish called Ongar, in the Epping Forest district of the county of Essex, England. It is located East of Epping, South-East of Harlow and North-West of Brentwood.-Geography:...

 in Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

. His ownership of Stondon Place, where he lived for the rest of his life, was bitterly contested by Joanna Shelley, with whom he engaged in a protracted and unedifying legal dispute lasting about a decade and a half. The main reason for the move was apparently the proximity of Byrd's patron Sir John Petre (the son of the former Secretary of State
Secretary of State
Secretary of State or State Secretary is a commonly used title for a senior or mid-level post in governments around the world. The role varies between countries, and in some cases there are multiple Secretaries of State in the Government....

 Sir William Petre
William Petre
Sir William Petre was a secretary of state to Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.Educated as a lawyer at Oxford, he became a public servant, probably through the influence of the Boleyns, one of whom, George, he had tutored at Oxford and another of whom, Anne, was married to the king...

). A wealthy local landowner, Petre was a discreet Catholic who maintained two local manor houses, Ingatestone Hall
Ingatestone Hall
Ingatestone Hall is a sixteenth century manor house in Essex, England. It was built by Sir William Petre, and his descendants live in the House to this day.Queen Elizabeth I of England spent several nights at the hall on her royal progress of 1561....

 and Thorndon Hall
Thorndon Hall
Thorndon Hall is a Georgian Palladian country house within Thorndon Park, Ingrave, Essex, England, approximately two miles south of Brentwood and from central London....

, the first of which still survives in a much-altered state. Petre held clandestine Mass
Mass
Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

 celebrations, with music provided by his servants, which were subject to the unwelcome attention of spies and paid informers working for the Crown.

Byrd's acquaintance with the Petre family extended back at least to 1581 (as his surviving autograph letter of that year shows) and he spent two weeks at the Petre household over Christmas in 1589. He was ideally equipped to provide elaborate polyphony to adorn the music making at the Catholic country houses of the time. The continued adherence of Byrd and his family to Catholicism continued to cause him difficulties, though one surviving petition suggests that he was granted permission to practise his religion under licence during the reign of Elizabeth. Nevertheless, he regularly appeared in the quarterly local assizes to pay heavy fines for recusancy. No doubt his wide circle of friends and patrons among the nobility and gentry were able to ensure that he escaped more severe penalties.

Masses


It was evidently at the behest of this circle of friends that Byrd now embarked on a grandiose programme to provide a cycle of liturgical music covering all the principal feasts of the Catholic Church calendar. The first stage in this undertaking comprised the three Ordinary of the Mass
Ordinary of the Mass
The ordinary, in Roman Catholic and other Western Christian liturgies, refers to the part of the Eucharist or of the canonical hours that is reasonably constant without regard to the date on which the service is performed...

 cycles (in four, three and five parts), which were published by Thomas East
Thomas East
Thomas East , was an English printer and music publisher.East was made a freeman of the Stationers' Company on 6 December 1565...

 between 1592 and 1595. The editions are undated (dates can be established only by close bibliographic analysis) do not name the printer and consist of only one bifolium per partbook to aid concealment, all signs of secrecy: reminders that the possession of heterodox books was still highly dangerous. All three works contain retrospective features harking back to the earlier Tudor tradition of Mass settings which had lapsed after 1558, along with others which reflect Continental influence and the liturgical practices of the foreign-trained incoming missionary priests. The Four-Part Mass, which according to Joseph Kerman, was probably the first to be composed, is partly modelled on John Taverner
John Taverner
John Taverner was an English composer and organist, regarded as the most important English composer of his era.- Career :...

's Mean Mass, a highly regarded early Tudor setting which Byrd would probably have sung as a choirboy. Taverner's influence is particularly clear in the scale figures rising successively through a fifth, a sixth and a seventh in Byrd's setting of the Sanctus
Sanctus
The Sanctus is a hymn from Christian liturgy, forming part of the Order of Mass. In Western Christianity, the Sanctus is sung as the final words of the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, the prayer of consecration of the bread and wine...

.

All three Mass cycles employ other early Tudor features, notably the mosaic of semichoir sections alternating with full sections in the four-part and five-part Masses, the use of a semichoir section to open the Gloria
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
"Gloria in excelsis Deo" is the title and beginning of a hymn known also as the Greater Doxology and the Angelic Hymn. The name is often abbreviated to Gloria in Excelsis or simply Gloria.It is an example of the psalmi idiotici "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (Latin for "Glory to God in the highest")...

, Credo
Credo
A credo |Latin]] for "I Believe") is a statement of belief, commonly used for religious belief, such as the Apostles' Creed. The term especially refers to the use of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in the Mass, either as text, Gregorian chant, or other musical settings of the...

 and Agnus Dei, and the head-motif
Head-motif
Head-motif refers to an opening musical idea of a set of movements which serves to unite those movements. It may also be called a motto, and is a frequent device in cyclic masses....

 which links the openings of all the movements of a cycle. However, all three cycles also include Kyrie
Kyrie
Kyrie, a transliteration of Greek κύριε , vocative case of κύριος , meaning "Lord", is the common name of an important prayer of Christian liturgy, which is also called the Kýrie, eléison ....

s, a rare feature in Sarum Rite
Sarum Rite
The Sarum Rite was a variant of the Roman Rite widely used for the ordering of Christian public worship, including the Mass and the Divine Office...

 mass settings which usually omitted it because of the use of tropes on festal occasions in the Sarum Rite. The Kyrie of the three-part Mass is set in a simple litany
Litany
A litany, in Christian worship and some forms of Jewish worship, is a form of prayer used in services and processions, and consisting of a number of petitions...

-like style, but the other Kyrie settings employ dense imitative polyphony. A special feature of the four-part and five-part Masses is Byrd's treatment of the Agnus Dei, which employ the technique which Byrd had previously applied to the petitionary clauses from the motets of the 1589 and 1591 Cantiones sacrae. The final words dona nobis pacem ('grant us peace'), which are set to chains of anguished suspensions in the Four-Part Mass and expressive block homophony
Homophony
In music, homophony is a texture in which two or more parts move together in harmony, the relationship between them creating chords. This is distinct from polyphony, in which parts move with rhythmic independence, and monophony, in which all parts move in parallel rhythm and pitch. A homophonic...

 in the five-part setting almost certainly reflect the aspirations of the troubled Catholic community of the 1590s.

Gradualia


The second stage in Byrd's programme of liturgical polyphony is formed by the Gradualia, two cycles of motets containing 109 items and published in 1605 and 1607. They are dedicated to two members of the Catholic nobility, Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton
Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton
Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton was a significant English aristocrat and courtier. He was suspect as a crypto-Catholic throughout his life, and went through periods of royal disfavour, in which his reputation suffered greatly. He was distinguished for learning, artistic culture and his...

 and Byrd's own patron Sir John Petre, who had been elevated to the peerage in 1603 under the title Lord Petre of Writtle. The appearance of these two monumental collections of Catholic polyphony reflects the hopes which the recusant community must have harboured for an easier life under the new king James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

, who came from a Catholic background himself. Addressing Petre (who is known to have lent him money to advance the printing of the collection), Byrd describes the contents of the 1607 set as ‘blooms collected in your own garden and rightfully due to you as tithes’, thus making explicit the fact that they had formed part of Catholic religious observances in the Petre household.

The greater part of the two collections consists of settings of the Proprium Missae
Proper (liturgy)
The Proper is a part of the Christian liturgy that varies according to the date, either representing an observance within the Liturgical Year, or of a particular saint or significant event...

 for the major feasts of the church calendar
Liturgical year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches which determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in...

, thus supplementing the Mass Ordinary cycles which Byrd had published in the 1590s. Normally, Byrd includes the Introit
Introit
The Introit is part of the opening of the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist for many Christian denominations. In its most complete version, it consists of an antiphon, psalm verse and Gloria Patri that is spoken or sung at the beginning of the celebration...

, the Gradual
Gradual
The Gradual is a chant or hymn in the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist for many Christian denominations. In the Tridentine Mass it was and is sung after the reading or chanting of the Epistle and before the Alleluia, or, during penitential seasons, before the Tract. In the Mass of Paul VI...

, the Alleluia
Alleluia
The word "Alleluia" or "Hallelujah" , which at its most literal means "Praise Yah", is used in different ways in Christian liturgies....

 (or Tract
Tract (liturgy)
The tract is part of the proper of the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist for many Christian denominations, which is used instead of the Alleluia during Lenten or pre-Lenten seasons, in a Requiem Mass, and on a few other penitential occasions, when the joyousness of an Alleluia is deemed...

 in Lent if needed), the Offertory
Offertory
The Offertory is the portion of a Eucharistic service when bread and wine are brought to the altar. The offertory exists in many liturgical Christian denominations, though the Eucharistic theology varies among celebrations conducted by these denominations....

 and Communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

. The feasts covered include the major feasts of the Virgin Mary (including the votive mass
Votive Mass
In the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, a votive Mass is a Mass offered for a votum, a special intention.The Mass does not correspond to the Divine Office for the day on which it is celebrated...

es for the Virgin for the four seasons of the church year), All Saints
All Saints
All Saints' Day , often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown...

 and Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi (feast)
Corpus Christi is a Latin Rite solemnity, now designated the solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ . It is also celebrated in some Anglican, Lutheran and Old Catholic Churches. Like Trinity Sunday and the Solemnity of Christ the King, it does not commemorate a particular event in...

 (1605) followed by the feasts of the Temporale (Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

, Epiphany, Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

, Ascension, Whitsun
Whitsun
Whitsun is the name used in the UK for the Christian festival of Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples...

 and Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, or the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, is a liturgical feast in honour of the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which is observed on 29 June...

 (with additional items for St Peter's Chains and the Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament) in 1607. The verse of the introit is normally set as a semichoir section, returning to full choir scoring for the Gloria Patri. Similar treatment applies to the Gradual verse, which is normally attached to the opening Alleluia to form a single item. The liturgy requires repeated settings of the word ‘Alleluia’, and Byrd provides a wide variety of different settings forming brilliantly conceived miniature fantasias which are one of the most striking features of the two sets. The Alleluia verse, together with the closing Alleluia, normally form an item in themselves, while the Offertory and the Communion are set as they stand.

In the Roman liturgy there are many texts which appear repeatedly in different liturgical contexts. To avoid having to set the same text twice, Byrd often resorted to a cross-reference or ‘transfer’ system which allowed a single setting to be slotted into a different place in the liturgy. Unfortunately, this practice sometimes causes confusion, partly because normally no rubrics are printed to make the required transfer clear and partly because there are some errors which complicate matters still further. A good example of the transfer system in operation is provided by the first motet from the 1605 set (Suscepimus Deus a5) in which the text used for the Introit has to be reused in a shortened form for the Gradual. Byrd provides a cadential break at the cut-off point.

The 1605 set also contains a number of miscellaneous items which fall outside the liturgical scheme of the main body of the set. As Philip Brett
Philip Brett
Philip Brett was a British-born American musicologist, musician and conductor. He was particularly known for his scholarly studies on Benjamin Britten and William Byrd and for his contributions to the development of lesbian and gay musicology...

 has pointed out, most of the items from the four- and three-part sections were taken from the Primer (the English name for the Book of hours
Book of Hours
The book of hours was a devotional book popular in the later Middle Ages. It is the most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript. Like every manuscript, each manuscript book of hours is unique in one way or another, but most contain a similar collection of texts, prayers and...

) thus falling within the sphere of private devotions rather than public worship. These include, inter alia, settings of the four Marian antiphons from the Roman Rite
Roman Rite
The Roman Rite is the liturgical rite used in the Diocese of Rome in the Catholic Church. It is by far the most widespread of the Latin liturgical rites used within the Western or Latin autonomous particular Church, the particular Church that itself is also called the Latin Rite, and that is one of...

, four Marian hymns set a3, a version of the Litany
Litany
A litany, in Christian worship and some forms of Jewish worship, is a form of prayer used in services and processions, and consisting of a number of petitions...

, the gem-like setting of the Eucharistic hymn Ave verum Corpus, and the Turbarum voces from the St John Passion, as well as a series of miscellaneous items.

In stylistic terms the motets of the Gradualia form a sharp contrast to those of the Cantiones sacrae publications. The vast majority are shorter, with the discursive imitative paragraphs of the earlier motets giving place to double phrases in which the counterpoint, though intricate and concentrated, assumes a secondary level of importance. Long imitative paragraphs are the exception, often kept for final climactic sections in the minority of extended motets. The melodic writing often breaks into quaver (eighth-note) motion, tending to undermine the minim (half-note) pulse with surface detail. Some of the more festive items, especially in the 1607 set, feature vivid madrigalesque word-painting. The Marian hymns from the 1605 Gradualia are set in a light line-by-line imitative counterpoint with crotchet pulse which recalls the three-part English songs from Songs of sundrie natures (1589). For obvious reasons, the Gradualia never achieved the popularity of Byrd's earlier works. The 1607 set omits several texts, which were evidently too sensitive for publication in the light of the renewed anti-Catholic persecution which followed the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. A contemporary account which sheds light on the circulation of the music between Catholic country houses, refers to the arrest of a French Jesuit named De Noiriche, who was followed from an unidentified country house by spies, apprehended, searched and found to be carrying a copy of the 1605 set. Nevertheless, Byrd felt safe enough to reissue both sets with new title pages in 1610.

Anglican church music



Byrd's staunch adherence to Catholicism did not prevent him from contributing memorably to the repertory of Anglican church music. Byrd's small output of church anthems ranges in style from relatively sober early examples (O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our queen (a6) and How long shall mine enemies (a5) ) to other, evidently late works such as Sing joyfully (a6) which is close in style to the English motets of Byrd's 1611 set, discussed below. Byrd also played a role in the emergence of the new verse anthem
Verse anthem
In religious music, the verse anthem is a species of choral music, or song, distinct from the motet or 'full' anthem . In the 'verse' anthem the music alternates between sections for a solo voice or voices and the full choir. The organ provided accompaniment in liturgical settings, but viols took...

, which seems to have evolved in part from the practice of adding vocal refrains to consort songs. Byrd's four Anglican service settings range in style from the unpretentious Short Service, already discussed, to the magnificent so-called Great Service, a grandiose work which continues a tradition of opulent settings by Richard Farrant, William Mundy and Robert Parsons. Byrd's setting is on a massive scale, requiring five-part Decani
Decani
Decani is the side of a church choir occupied by the Dean. In English churches this is typically the choir stalls on the south side of the chancel, although there are some notable exceptions, such as Durham Cathedral and Southwell Minster...

 and Cantoris
Cantoris
Cantoris is the side of a church choir occupied by the Cantor. In English churches this is typically the choir stalls on the north side of the chancel, although there are some notable exceptions, such as Durham Cathedral and Southwell Minster...

 groupings in antiphony, block homophony
Homophony
In music, homophony is a texture in which two or more parts move together in harmony, the relationship between them creating chords. This is distinct from polyphony, in which parts move with rhythmic independence, and monophony, in which all parts move in parallel rhythm and pitch. A homophonic...

 and five, six and eight-part counterpoint with verse (solo) sections for added variety. This service setting, which includes an organ part, must have been sung by the Chapel Royal Choir on major liturgical occasions in the early seventeenth century, though its limited circulation suggests that many other cathedral choirs must have found it beyond them. Nevertheless, the source material shows that it was sung in York Minster
York Minster
York Minster is a Gothic cathedral in York, England and is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe alongside Cologne Cathedral. The minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second-highest office of the Church of England, and is the cathedral for the Diocese of York; it is run by...

 from c. 1618. The Great Service was in existence by 1606 (the last copying date entered in the earliest surviving manuscript source) and may date back as far as the 1590s.

Psalms, songs and sonnets (1611)


Byrd's last collection of English songs was Psalms, Songs and Sonnets, published in 1611 (when Byrd was over 70) and dedicated to Francis Clifford, 4th Earl of Cumberland
Francis Clifford, 4th Earl of Cumberland
Francis Clifford, 4th Earl of Cumberland was a member of the Clifford family which held the seat of Skipton from 1310 to 1676....

, who later also received the dedication of Thomas Campion
Thomas Campion
Thomas Campion was an English composer, poet and physician. He wrote over a hundred lute songs; masques for dancing, and an authoritative technical treatise on music.-Life:...

's First Book of Songs in 1615. The layout of the set broadly follows the pattern of Byrd's 1589 set, being laid out in sections for three, four, five and six parts like its predecessor and embracing an even wider miscellany of styles (perhaps reflecting the influence of another Jacobean
Jacobean era
The Jacobean era refers to the period in English and Scottish history that coincides with the reign of King James VI of Scotland, who also inherited the crown of England in 1603 as James I...

 publication, Michael East
Michael East (composer)
Michael East was an English organist and composer. He was a nephew of London music publisher Thomas East , although, once it was thought that he was his son....

's Third Set of Books (1610). Byrd's set includes two consort fantasias (a4 and a6) as well as eleven English motets, most of them setting prose texts from the Bible. These include some of his most famous compositions, notably Praise our Lord, all ye Gentiles (a6) This day Christ was born (a6) and Have mercy upon me (a6) which employs alternating phrases with verse and full scoring and also circulated as a church anthem. There are more carols set in verse and burden form as in the 1589 set as well as lighter three and four-part songs in Byrd's ‘sonnets and pastorals’ style. Some items are, however, more tinged with madrigalian influence than their counterparts in the earlier set, making clear that the short-lived madrigal vogue of the 1590s had not completely passed Byrd by.

Last works


Byrd also contributed eight keyboard pieces to Parthenia (winter 1612–13), a collection of 21 keyboard pieces engraved by William Hole
William Hole (engraver)
William Hole was a skilled English engraver who died in 1624 though the date of his birth is uncertain. In 1607 he engraved the title page for a London edition of the Breeches Bible. Hole’s work suggests French influence, he engraved for music by composers, Dr John Bull, William Byrd and Orlando...

 and containing music by Byrd, John Bull
John Bull (composer)
John Bull was an English composer, musician, and organ builder. He was a renowned keyboard performer of the virginalist school and most of his compositions were written for this medium.-Life:...

 and Orlando Gibbons
Orlando Gibbons
Orlando Gibbons was an English composer, virginalist and organist of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods...

. It was issued in celebration of the forthcoming marriage of James I's daughter Princess Elizabeth
Elizabeth of Bohemia
Elizabeth of Bohemia was the eldest daughter of King James VI and I, King of Scotland, England, Ireland, and Anne of Denmark. As the wife of Frederick V, Elector Palatine, she was Electress Palatine and briefly Queen of Bohemia...

 to Frederick V, Elector Palatine
Frederick V, Elector Palatine
Frederick V was Elector Palatine , and, as Frederick I , King of Bohemia ....

, which took place on 14 February 1613. The three composers are nicely differentiated by seniority, with Byrd, Bull and Gibbons represented respectively by eight, seven and six items. Byrd's contribution includes the famous Earl of Salisbury Pavan, composed in memory of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, KG, PC was an English administrator and politician.-Life:He was the son of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and Mildred Cooke...

, who had died on 24 May 1612, and its two accompanying galliards. Byrd's last published compositions are four English anthems printed in William Leighton's ' Teares or Lamentacions of a Sorrowfull Soule (1614).

Byrd remained in Stondon Massey
Stondon Massey
Stondon Massey is a village in south Essex. It is situated to the north of Brentwood, between Blackmore and Doddinghurst. The village possesses a rural feel to it, and in its first entry to the 'Best kept village in Essex' competition, won 'Best New Entry'....

 until his death on 4 July 1623, which was noted in the Chapel Royal Check Book in a unique entry describing him as ‘a Father of Musick’. Despite repeated citations for recusancy and swingeing fines, he died a rich man, having rooms at the time of his death at the London home of the Earl of Worcester.

Reputation and reception


Byrd's output of about 470 compositions amply justifies his reputation as one of the great masters of European Renaissance music. Perhaps his most impressive achievement as a composer was his ability to transform so many of the main musical forms of his day and stamp them with his own identity. Having grown up in an age in which Latin polyphony was largely confined to liturgical items for the Sarum rite, he assimilated and mastered the Continental motet form of his day, employing a highly personal synthesis of English and continental models. He virtually created the Tudor consort and keyboard fantasia, having only the most primitive models to follow. He also raised the consort song, the church anthem and the Anglican service setting to new heights. Finally, despite a general aversion to the madrigal, he succeeded in cultivating secular vocal music in an impressive variety of forms in his three sets of 1588, 1589 and 1611.

Byrd enjoyed a high reputation among English musicians, especially in the earlier stages of his career. Despite the failure of the Cantiones of 1575 some of his other collections sold well, while Elizabethan scribes such as the Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 academic Robert Dow, the Windsor lay clerk John Baldwin
John Baldwin
John Baldwin may refer to:*Sir John Baldwin , Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, 1535–1545*John Baldwin , Olympic boxer*John Baldwin , U.S...

 and a school of scribes working for the Norfolk country gentleman Sir Edward Paston copied his music extensively. Dow included Latin distichs and quotations in praise of Byrd in his manuscript collection of music (GB Och 984-8) while Baldwin included a long doggerel poem in his commonplace book (GB Lbm Roy App 24 d 2) ranking Byrd at the head of the musicians of his day:
Yet let not straingers bragg, nor they these soe commende,
For they may now geve place and sett themselves behynde,
An Englishman, by name, William BIRDE for his skill
Which I shoulde heve sett first, for soe it was my will,
Whose greater skill and knowledge dothe excelle all at this time
And far to strange countries abrode his skill dothe shyne...


In 1597 Byrd's pupil Thomas Morley dedicated his treatise A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke to Byrd in flattering terms, though he may have intended to counterbalance this in the main text by some sharply satirical references to a mysterious ‘Master Bold’. In The Compleat Gentleman (1622) Henry Peacham
Henry Peacham
Henry Peacham is the name shared by two English Renaissance writers who were father and son.The elder Henry Peacham was an English curate, best known for his treatise on rhetoric titled The Garden of Eloquence first published in 1577....

 (1576–1643) praised Byrd in lavish terms as a composer of sacred music:
‘For Motets and musick of piety and devotion, as well as for the honour of our Nation, as the merit of the man, I prefer above all our Phoenix M[aster] William Byrd, whom in that kind, I know not whether any may equall, I am sure none excel, even by the judgement of France and Italy, who are very sparing in the commendation of strangers, in regard of that conceipt they hold of themselves. His Cantiones Sacrae, as also his Gradualia, are mere Angelicall and Divine; and being of himself naturally disposed to Gravity and Piety, his vein is not so much for leight Madrigals or Canzonets, yet his Virginella and some others in his first Set, cannot be mended by the best Italian of them all.’


Finally, and most intriguingly, it has been argued that a reference to ‘the bird of loudest lay’ in Shakespeare's mysterious allegorical poem The Phoenix and the Turtle
The Phoenix and the Turtle
The Phoenix and the Turtle is an allegorical poem about the death of ideal love by William Shakespeare. It is widely considered to be one of his most obscure works and has led to many conflicting interpretations. It has also been called "the first great published metaphysical poem". The title "The...

 may be to the composer. The poem as a whole has been interpreted as an elegy for the Catholic martyr Saint Anne Line
Anne Line
Saint Anne Line was an English martyr who was executed during the reign of Elizabeth I for harbouring a priest. She was born in 1567, the second daughter of Heigham, Esq., of Essex, a strict Calvinist, and was, together with her brother William, disinherited for converting to Catholicism...

, who was executed on 27 February 1601 for harbouring priests.

Although Byrd had a major reputation in England during his lifetime, his music was in many respects curiously uninfluential. Although his pupils included Peter Philips
Peter Philips
Peter Philips was an eminent English composer, organist, and Catholic priest exiled to Flanders...

 and Thomas Tomkins
Thomas Tomkins
Thomas Tomkins was an English composer of the late Tudor and early Stuart period. In addition to being one of the prominent members of the English madrigal school, he was a skilled composer of keyboard and consort music, and the last member of the English virginalist school.-Life:Tomkins was born...

, both of whom were active as keyboard composers, the native virginal school to which he had contributed so much went into sharp decline with a number of deaths in the 1620s and never recovered. Thomas Morley, Byrd's other major composing pupil, devoted himself to the cultivation of the madrigal, a form in which Byrd himself took little interest. The native tradition of Latin music which Byrd had done so much to keep alive more or less died with him, while consort music underwent a huge change of character at the hands of a new generation of professional musicians at the Jacobean and Caroline
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 courts. Ironically in view of Byrd's own religious beliefs, it was his Anglican church music which came closest to establishing a continuous tradition, at least in the sense that some of it continued to be performed in choral foundations after the Restoration and into the eighteenth century. Byrd's exceptionally long lifespan meant that he lived into an age in which many of the forms of vocal and instrumental music which he had made his own had lost their appeal to most musicians. Despite the efforts of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century antiquarians, the reversal of this judgement had to wait for the pioneering work of twentieth-century scholars from E. H. Fellowes onwards. In more recent times Joseph Kerman, Oliver Neighbour, Philip Brett, John Harley, Richard Turbet, Alan Brown and others have made major contributions to increasing our understanding of Byrd's life and music. In 2010, The Cardinall's Musick
The Cardinall's Musick
The Cardinall's Musick is a United Kingdom-based vocal ensemble specialising in music of the 16th and 17th centuries and contemporary music. They have earned themselves an enviable reputation around the world both for the excellence of their voices and the way in which they work together as a...

 under the direction of Andrew Carwood
Andrew Carwood
Andrew Carwood is the Director of Music at St Paul's Cathedral in London and director of his own group, The Cardinall's Musick.-Biography:He was educated at The John Lyon School, Harrow and was a choral scholar in the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge under Dr George Guest, a lay clerk at...

 completed their recorded survey of Byrd's Latin church music. This series of thirteen recordings is the first time that all Byrd's Latin music is available on disc.

Veneration


Byrd is honored together with John Merbecke and Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century Tudor England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English...

 with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA)
Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church in the United States of America)
The veneration of saints in the Episcopal Church is a continuation of an ancient tradition from the early Church which honors important people of the Christian faith. The usage of the term "saint" is similar to Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Those in the Anglo-Catholic tradition may...

 on November 21.

Media



See also


  • List of compositions by William Byrd
  • Orlando Gibbons
    Orlando Gibbons
    Orlando Gibbons was an English composer, virginalist and organist of the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods...

  • John Bull (composer)
    John Bull (composer)
    John Bull was an English composer, musician, and organ builder. He was a renowned keyboard performer of the virginalist school and most of his compositions were written for this medium.-Life:...


Editions of Byrd's works

  • The Byrd Edition (gen. ed. P. Brett), Vols 1–17 (London, 1977–2004)
  • A. Brown (ed.) William Byrd, Keyboard Music (Musica Britannica 27–28, London, 1971)

External links



Scores and recordings

  • William Byrd - Fantasia #2 - Viol Consort on YouTube
  • Free recordings of Madrigals, Latin Church Music
  • Free recordings of Byrd's Ave verum corpus
  • Free recordings of Mass for four voices and some Christmas motets
  • Motet Ave Verum Corpus as interactive hypermedia at the BinAural Collaborative Hypertext
  • Kunst der Fuge: William Byrd – Free MIDI files
  • William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, In Chains of Gold. Dunedin Consort, DCD34008
  • Ceremony & Devotion - Music for the Tudors Harry Christophers
    Harry Christophers
    Harry Christophers is an English conductor. He attended the King's School, Canterbury and was a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral under choirmaster Allan Wicks and played clarinet in the school orchestra alongside Andrew Marriner...

    , The Sixteen
    The Sixteen
    The Sixteen are a choir and period instrument orchestra; founded by Harry Christophers in 1979.The group's special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music and a diversity of 20th century...

     (CORO)
  • Complete Byrd Edition Andrew Carwood
    Andrew Carwood
    Andrew Carwood is the Director of Music at St Paul's Cathedral in London and director of his own group, The Cardinall's Musick.-Biography:He was educated at The John Lyon School, Harrow and was a choral scholar in the Choir of St John's College, Cambridge under Dr George Guest, a lay clerk at...

    , The Cardinall's Musick
    The Cardinall's Musick
    The Cardinall's Musick is a United Kingdom-based vocal ensemble specialising in music of the 16th and 17th centuries and contemporary music. They have earned themselves an enviable reputation around the world both for the excellence of their voices and the way in which they work together as a...

    (ASV / Hyperion)