Complete Encyclopaedia of Music/B/Bird, William
Bird, William, the worthy and admirable scholar of Tallis, is supposed to have been the son of Thomas Bird, one of the gentlemen of Edward VI. chapel, in which he was him-self a singing boy. By the great number of his ecclesiastical compositions to Latin words, and the several portions of the Romish ritual which he so frequently set to music, and published late in life, he seems to have been long a zealous adherent to that religion. He must, however, have conformed to the church establishments of Queen Elizabeth's reign, for, in 1563, he was chosen organist of Lincoln Cathedral, where he continued till 1569 ; when, upon the accidental death of Robert Parsons, who was drowned at Newark-upon?Trent, he was appointed gentleman of the Chapel Royal; notwithstanding which office, he seems to have composed the chief part of his choral music to Latin words, and to have published it in that language, as late as the middle of the reign of King James I. Bird composed a vast quantity of vocal music, chiefly sacred, between the years 1575 and 1611.
Dr. Tudway's collection, in the British Museum, contains a whole service in D minor, by Bird, with responses, and the anthems, Sing joyfully unto God," "O Lord, turn thy wrath," (all published in the second and third volumes of Dr. Boyce's Cathedral Music,) "O Lord, make thy servant," "Save me, 0 God," "Prevent us, O Lord," and "Civitas sancti tui." One of his sacrarum cantionum, or sacred songs, published in 1589, has been long sung in the cathedrals to the English words "Bow thine ear, 0 Lord," and is one of the admirable pieces of harmony in the second volume of Boyce's printed collection.
Dr. Aldrich was a great admirer and collector of the works of Bird, and adapted English words to most of his compositions, which were originally set to parts of the Romish service in Latin. He bequeathed to Christ Church, Oxford, beautiful and correct copies of these productions.
His pieces for the organ and virginals are almost innumerable. In a magnificent folio manuscript, curiously bound in red morocco, which is generally known by the name of Queen Elizabeth's virginal book, there are nearly seventy of his compositions.
It has been imagined that the rage for variations, that is, multiplying notes, and disguising the melody of an easy and generally well-known air, by every means that a note-splitter sees possible, was the contagion of the present century; but it appears from the virginal book, that this species of influenza, or corruption of air, was more excessive in the sixteenth century than at any other period of musical history. None of Bird's pieces for keyed instruments seem to have been printed, except eight movements in a thin folio book of lessons, that were engraved on copper, and published in the reign of King James I., under the following title : "Parthenia, or the Maidenhead of the first Musicke that ever was printed for the Virginals, composed by three famous Masters, William Byrd, Dr. John Bull, and Orlando Gibbons, Gentlemen of his Majestie's most illustrious Chapel." These lessons, though not equally difficult with some of those in the virginal books of Queen Elizabeth and Lady Nevill, are rather more dry and ungraceful.
The canon, "Non nobis, Domine," appears in none of his works published by himself, or collected by others, before the year 1652, when Hilton inserted and prefixed the name of Bird to it, in a collection of catches, rounds, and canons ; but as no claim was laid to it, by or in favor of any other composer before or since that time, till about the middle of the present century, when it was given to Palestrina by Carlo Ricotti, - who published, in Holland, among his concertos, a fugue in eight parts, on the same subject, - there seems no doubt remaining of Bird having been the author of that pleasing and popular composition.
Bird died in 1623, surviving his master, Tallis, thirty-eight years ; and if we suppose him to have been twenty in the year 1563, when he was chosen organist of Lincoln, he must have been eighty at his decease.
In a collection of music by this writer there are the following reasons why people should learn to sing : -
Reasons set down by th' auctor to persuade everie one to learn to sing:
1. It is a knowledge easlie taught and quicklie learned, when there Is a good master and an apt scholar.
2. The exercise of singing is delightful to nature, and good to pre-serve the health of man.
3. It do strengthen all parts of the heart, and doth open the pipes (sic).
4. It is a singular good comedic for a stuttering and stammering in the speech.
5. It is the beet means to preserve a perfect pronunciation, and to make a good orator.
6. It is the onlie way when nature hath bestowed the benefit of a good voyse ; which gift is so rare, as there is not one among a thou-sand that hath it; and in mannie that excellent gift is lost, because they want the art to express nature.
7. There is not any musicke of instruments whatsoever comparable to that which is made by the voyces of men, when the voyces are good, and the same well sorted and ordered.
8. The better the voyce is, the sweeter it is to honor and serve God therewith ; and the voyce of man is chiefly to be employed to that end - owns spiritus laudet Dominum.