Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/299
sacrae vocantur, quinque et sex partium (jointly with Tallis), 1575; (2) Psalmes, Sonets and Songs of Sadnes and Pietie, made into musicke of five parts ; (3) Songs of Sundrie Natures, some of Gravitie and others of Myrth (for 3, 4, 5 and 6 voices), 1589; (4) Liber Primus Sacrarum Cantionum quinque vocum, 1589; (5) Liber Secundus Sacrarum Cantionum, etc. 1591; (6) Gradiialia, ac Cantiones Sacrae lab. Primus (for 3, 4 and 5 voices'), 1607; (7) Gradualia, etc. Lib. Secundus, 1610; (8) Psalmes, Songs and Sonnets (for 3, 4, 5 and 6 voices or instruments) 1611. In addition to these works, Byrd printed three masses (probably composed between the years 1553 and 1558), without date or the name of printer. He also contributed to the following works:—(i) Musica Transalpina, Madrigales translated, of foure, five and six parts, 1588; (2) Watson's First Sett of Italian Madrigalls Englished, 1590; (3) Parthenia, or the Maiden-head of the first Musick that ever was printed for the Virginalls ; (4) Leighton's Teares or Lamentacions of a Sorrowful Soule (a collection of part-songs, by the principal composers of the day), 1614. A large number of his virginal compositions are contained in the so-called 'Virginal Book of Queen Elizabeth,' in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and in Lady Nevills 'Virginal Book,' in the possession of the Earl of Abergavenny. Besides the services and anthems printed in Barnard's 'Selected Church Musick,' 1641, and Boyce's 'Cathedral Music,' many others are to be found in MS. in the Aldrich, the Hawkins, and the Tudway Collections. A mass in D minor, edited by the writer, and Book I. of Cantiones Sacrae, edited by the late W. Horsley, were published by the Musical Antiquarian Society. The well-known canon, 'Non nobis Domine,' is traditionally said to be the composition of Byrd, but it is not found in any of his works. A poem in Blow's 'Amphion Anglicus,' 1700, speaks of 'Bird's Anthem in golden notes,' preserved in the Vatican, which may have some reference to the canon in question.
Byrd lived on terms of intimacy with the elder Ferrabosco, and more than once was his rival in trials of skill and ingenuity in Counterpoint. Morley (Introd. 1597), speaks of one of these 'virtuous contentions'; and Peacham, in his 'Compleat Gentleman' (ed. 1622, p. 100), says, 'for motets and musicke of pietie and devotion, as well for the honour of our nation as the merit of the man, I preferre above all other our Phoenix, Mr. William Byrd, whom in that kind, I know not whether any may equal.' In a letter from the Earl of Worcester to the Earl of Shrewsbury, September 19, 1602 (preserved among the Talbot Papers in the Heralds' College), we have an interesting passage respecting one of Byrd's part-songs. The writer says: 'We are frolic here in Court; much dancing in the Privy Chamber of country dances before the Queen's Majesty, who is exceedingly pleased therewith. Irish tunes are at this time most pleasing, but in winter, Lullaby, an old song of Mr. Bird's, will be more in request as I think.' The 'Lullaby Song' is printed in the author's 'Psalmes, Sonets and Songs of Sadnes and Pietie,' 1588.
From the Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal we learn that Byrd died July 4, 1623; and in the record of the event he is styled 'A Father of Musicke,' probably in allusion to his age and his length of service. If he was sixteen when his name appears as senior chorister of St. Paul's, he must have been eighty-five years old when he died. Thomas Tomkins (who was his scholar), in his 'Songs of 3, 4, 5 and 6 Parts,' 1622, speaks of his ‘ancient and much reverenced master.’
Byrd resided, at the end of the 16th century, in the parish of St. Helen, Bishopsgate. He was married, and had a family, as we learn from the registers of that church. One son, Thomas, was educated to the profession, for in 1601 he acted as substitute for Dr. John Bull as Gresham Professor.
Notwithstanding his conformity to the established religion, Byrd is supposed to have been at heart a Romanist. Some very curious particulars bearing upon this point have lately come to light. In a list of places frequented by certain recusants in and about London, under date 1581, is the following entry: 'Wyll'm Byred of the Chappele, at his house in p'rshe of Harlington, in com. Midds.' In another entry he is set down as a friend and abettor of those beyond the sea, and is said to be residing 'with Mr. Lister, over against St. Dunstan's, or at the Lord Padgette's house at Draighton.' In the 'Proceedings in the Archdeaconry of Essex,' May 11, 1605, 'William Birde, Gentleman of the King's Majestie's Chapell,' is 'presented' for 'popish practices,' but what was his sentence does not appear, as he was hiding at the time.There is a portrait of William Byrd—an oval, in the same print with Tallis. It was engraved by Vandergucht for N. Haym's 'History of Music,' which never appeared. One impression only is known to exist. (Life of Byrd, Mus. Ant. Soc.; Cheque-Book of Chapel Royal, Camd. Soc.; Rimbault, Bibl. Madrigaliana.)
[ E. F. R. ]
[App. pp.571– "BYRD, William, is generally said to have been the son of Thomas Byrd, a member of the Chapels Royal of Edward VI. and Mary; but this statement is purely conjectural, the only evidence upon which it rests—viz. that Byrd's second son was named Thomas, as it was supposed, after his grandfather having been disproved by the recent discovery that he was named after his godfather Thomas Tallis. The date (1538) usually given as that of his birth is conjectured from a statement that he was the senior chorister in St. Paul's Cathedral in 1554, when his name was alleged to appear in a petition of the choristers for the restoration of certain benefactions to which they were entitled. This petition cannot be found among the public records of the year, though documents relating to the restoration of the payments in question are in existence, and in these William Byrd's name does not occur, though two other choristers, named John and Simon Byrd, are mentioned. It seems most likely that the composer was a native of Lincoln, where a Henry Byrde, formerly mayor of Newcastle, died on July 13, 1512, and was buried in the Cathedral. According to Anthony à Wood, William Byrd was 'bred up to musick under Thomas Tallis,' but the first authentic fact in his biography is his appointment as organist of Lincoln Cathedral, which took place probably about 1563. He remained at Lincoln for some years, but no trace of his residence there has been found in the Chapter Records, except the appointment of his successor, Thomas Butler, who on Dec. 7, 1572, was elected master of the choristers and organist 'on ye nomination and commendation of Mr. William Byrd.' From this it would seem that Byrd retained his post of organist at Lincoln until 1572, although on Feb. 22, 1569, he had been elected a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. It was probably during this part of his life that he was married to Julian or Ellen Birley, a native of Lincolnshire. On Jan. 22, 1575, Tallis and Byrd obtained a patent from Elizabeth for printing and selling music and music paper, English and foreign, for 21 years, the penalty for the infringement of which was 40 shillings. This monopoly does not seem to have been very valuable, as a petition preserved in the Stationers' Registers, in which a list of restrictions upon printing is given, records that 'Bird and Tallys … haue musike bokes with note, which the complainantes confesse they wold not print nor be furnished to print though there were no priuilege.' In 1575 Byrd and Tallis published a collection of motets, 'Cantiones, quæ ab argumento sacræ vocantur, quinque et sex partium,' of which 18 were the composition of Byrd. The work was printed by Thomas Vautrollier, and was dedicated to the Queen. It contains eulogistic Latin verses by Richard Mulcaster and Ferdinando Richardson, an anonymous Latin poem 'De Anglorum Musica,' a short Latin poem by the composers, and an epitome of their patent. In 1578 he was living at Harlington in Middlesex. The parish records prove that he had a house here as late as 1588, and he probably remained here until his removal to Stondon, in Essex. A glimpse of Byrd is obtained in 1579 in a recently discovered letter preserved in the British Museum (Lansd. 29, No. 38) from the Earl of Northumberland to Lord Burghley, which runs as follows: 'My dere good lorde I amme ernestly required to be a suiter to your l[ordship] for this berer, Mr. berde, that your l[ordshi]p wyll have hime in remēbrance wh your fauer towardes hime seinge he cane not inioye that wyche was his firste sutte [suit] and granted vnto hime. I ame the more importenat to your l[ordship] for that he is my frend and cheffly that he is scollemaster to my daughter in his artte. The mane is honeste and one whome I knowe your l[ordship] may comānde.' The letter is dated Feb. 28, 1579, and endorsed 'Bird of ye Chappell,' but what the suit is to which it refers is not known. About 1579 Byrd wrote a three-part song for Thomas Legge's Latin play 'Richardus III.' This was apparently his only composition for the stage. On the death of Tallis in 1585 the benefit of the monopoly in music-printing became the sole property of Byrd, who during the next few years was unusually active in composition. In 1588 he published 'Psalmes, Sonets, and Songs of Sadnes and Pietie, made into Musicke of fiue parts: whereof, some of them going abroade among diuers, in vntrue coppies, are heere truely corrected, and th' other being Songs very rare and newly composed, are heere published, for the recreation of all such as delight in Musicke.' This work was published by Thomas Easte, 'the assigne of W. Byrd,' in 1588. In Rimbault's untrustworthy Bibliotheca Madrigaliana an undated edition is mentioned, which may be the same as one mentioned in the Stationers' Register as being in print on Nov. 6, 1687. The 'Songs of Sadnes' are dedicated to Sir Christopher Hatton: prefixed are the following quaint 'Reasons briefely set downe by th' auctor, to perswade euery one to learne to sing':—
First, it is a knowledge easely taught, and quickly learned, where there is a good Master, and an apt Scoller.
2. The exercise of singing is delightfull to Nature, and good to preaerue the health of Man.
3. It doth strengthen all parts of the brest, and doth open the pipes.
4. It is a singular good remedie for a stutting and stamering in the speech.
5. It is the best meanes to procure a perfect pronunciation, and to make a good Orator.
6. It is the onely way to know where Nature hath bestowed the benefit of a good voyce; which guift is so rare, as there is not one among a thousand, that hath it: and in many, that excellent guift is lost, because they want Art to expresse Nature.
7. There is not any Musicke of Instruments whatsoeuer, comparable to that which is made of the voyces of Men, where the voices are good, and the same well sorted and ordered.
8. The better the voyce is, the meeter it is to honour and serue God there-with: and the voyce of man is chiefely to be imployed to that ende.
Since singing is so good a thing,
I wish all men would learne to singe.
At the end of 1588 Byrd contributed two madrigals to the first book of Nicholas Yonge's 'Musica Transalpina,' and in the following year published two more works. The first of these, 'Songs of Sundrie Natures, some of grauitie, and others of mirth, fit for all companies and voyces,' was dedicated to Sir Henry Cary, Lord Hunsdon, and was published by Thomas Easte; a second edition was issued by Easte's widow, Lucretia, in 1610. The second, 'Liber Primus Sacrarum Cantionum quinque vocum,' was dedicated to the Earl of Worcester. It was published by Easte on Oct. 25. In 1590 Byrd contributed two settings of 'This sweet and merry month of May' to Thomas Watson's 'First Sett of Italian Madrigalls Englished,' and on Nov. 4, 1591, he published the 'Liber Secundus Sacrarum Cantionum,' dedicated to Lord Lumley. During this period of his life Byrd wrote a very large amount of music for the virginals, many manuscript collections of which are still extant. One of the most important of these is the volume transcribed for the use of Lady Nevill by John Baldwin of Windsor, which consists entirely of Byrd's compositions. This manuscript was finished in 1591, and furnishes evidence of the repute which the composer enjoyed at this time, Baldwin quaintly writing against Byrd's name at the end of the 17th piece, 'Mr. W. Birde. Homo memorabilis.' The great esteem in which he was held as a musician must have been the reason why he continued, though a Catholic, to hold his appointment in the Chapel Royal, where for some time he had acted as organist. Probably prior to the year 1598 he had obtained from the crown a lease for three lives of Stondon Place, an estate in Essex, which had been sequestrated from one William Shelley, who was committed to the Fleet for taking part in an alleged Popish plot. Shelley died about 1601, and in 1604 his heir paid a large sum of money for the restoration of his lands, whereupon his widow attempted to regain possession of Stondon, which formed part of her jointure. But Byrd was still under the protection of the Court, and James I. ordered Mrs. Shelley to allow him to enjoy quiet possession of the property. In spite of this, on Oct. 27, 1608, Mrs. Shelley presented a petition to the Earl of Salisbury, praying for the restoration of Stondon, and setting forth eight grievances against the composer. From these it seems that Byrd went to law in order to compel her to ratify the crown lease, but being unsuccessful he combined with the individuals who held her other jointure lands to enter into litigation with her, and when all these disputes had been settled, and finally 'one Petiver' submitted, 'the said Bird did give him vile and bitter words,' and when told that he had no right to the property, declared 'that yf he could not hould it by right, he would holde it by might'; that he had cut down much timber, and for six years had paid no rent. Probably Mrs. Shelley died soon after this, for both Byrd's son and grandson retained possession of the estate. This glimpse of the composer's private life does not present him in a very amiable character, but the most curious part of the matter is that while he was actually in the possession, under a crown lease, of lands confiscated from a Catholic recusant, and also held an appointment in the Protestant Chapel Royal, both he and his family were undoubtedly Catholics, and as such were not only regularly presented in the Archidiaconal Court of Essex from 1605 to 1612, and probably later, but since the year 1598 had been excommunicated by the same ecclesiastical body. A modus vivendi under these circumstances must have been rather difficult, and Byrd can only have remained secure from more serious consequences by the protection of powerful friends. To this he evidently alludes in the dedication to the Earl of Northampton of the first book of his 'Gradualia,' in which he says, 'Te habui … in amictis familiæ meæ rebus benignissimum patronum.' In 1600 some of Byrd's virginal music was published in 'Parthenia.'
Morley, in his 'Introduction' (ed. 1597, p. 115), mentions how Byrd, 'never without reverence to be named of the musicians,' and Alfonso Ferabosco the elder, had a friendly contention, each setting a plainsong forty different ways. It was no doubt this work which was published on Oct. 15, 1603, by Easte, under the following title: 'Medulla Musicke. Sucked out of the sappe of Two [of] the most famous Musitians that euer were in this land, namely Master Wylliam Byrd … and Master Alfonso Ferabosco … either of whom having made 4Otie aeverall waies (without contention), shewing most rare and intricate skill in 2 partes in one vpon the playne songe "Miserere." The which at the request of a friend is most plainly sett in severall distinct partes to be sunge (with moore ease and vnderstanding of the lesse skilfull), by Master Thomas Robinson, etc.' Unfortunately no copy of this work is known to be extant, and the existence of it was only revealed by the publication of the entry in the Stationers' Registers. In 1607 appeared the first and second books of the 'Gradualia,' a complete collection of motets for the ecclesiastical year of the Catholic Church, including (in the first book) a setting for three voices of the words allotted to the crowd in the Passion according to St. John. The first book is dedicated to the Earl of Northampton; the second to Lord Petre. A second edition of both books appeared in 1610. In 1611 was issued 'Psalmes, Songs, and Sonnets: some solemne, others joyfull, framed to the life of the Words: Fit for Voyces or Viols, etc.' This was dedicated to the Earl of Cumberland, and contains a quaint address 'to all true louers of Musicke,' in which, after commending 'these my last labours,' he proceeds: 'Onely this I desire; that you will be but as carefull to heare them well expressed, as I haue beene both in the Composing and correcting of them. Otherwise the best Song that euer was made will seeme harsh and vnpleasant, for that the well expressing of them, either by Voyces, or Instruments, is the life of our labours, which is seldome or neuer well performed at the first singing or playing. Besides a song that is well and artificially made cannot be well perceiued nor vnderstood at the first hearing, but the oftner you shall heare it, the better cause of liking you will discouer: and commonly that Song is best esteemed with which our eares are best acquainted.' In 1614 Byrd contributed four anthems to Sir William Leighton's 'Teares or Lamentacions of a Sorrowfull Soule.' These were his last published composition. He died, probably at Stondon, on July 4, 1623, his death being recorded in the Chapel Royal Cheque Book as that of a 'Father of Musicke,' a title which refers both to his great age and to the veneration with which he was regarded by his contemporaries. In addition to the works of Byrd's which have been already mentioned, he wrote three masses for 3, 4, and 5 voices respectively. These were all printed, but copies of the first and second have disappeared, and only a single copy of the third is known to exist. Printed copies of the two first can be traced down to the sale of Bartleman's Library in 1822, since when they have vanished, though the mass for three voices is fortunately preserved in MS. copies in Immyns's handwriting recently found in the British Museum and Fitzwilliam Libraries. It has always been assumed that Byrd's masses must have been written during the reign of Queen Mary, when he was a boy, but the fact that he remained all his life a Catholic and continued to compose music for the Catholic ritual renders the assumption extremely improbable, especially since the two extant masses themselves show no trace of boyish immaturity, but rather belong to the composer's best works. They were probably printed (without title-pages) in 1588: the type of the mass for five voices being that which Easte used when he began to print music as Byrd's assignee in this year. The initial-letters are the same as those used in Yonge's Musica Transalpina (1588). Byrd's arms (Visitation of Essex, Harl. Soc. vol. xiii.) were 'three stags' heads cabossed, a canton ermine.' He had live children:—(1) Christopher, who married Catherine, daughter of Thomas Moore, of Bamborough, Yorkshire, and had a son named Thomas, who was living at Stondon Place in 1634; (2) Thomas, a musician, who acted as deputy to John Bull at Gresham College—in 1634 he was living in Drury Lane; (3) Elizabeth, who married first, John Jackson, and second,—Burdett; (4) Rachel, who married Edward Biggs; and (5) Mary, who married Thomas Falconbridge.
Many MS. compositions by Byrd are still extant. The British Museum contains the largest number, including some autographs, but others are preserved in the collections of Her Majesty the Queen, the Marquess of Abergavenny, Christchurch (Oxford), Peterhouse (Cambridge), and the Bodleian, Lambeth Palace and Fitzwilliam Museum Libraries.In conclusion, it may be mentioned that the statement that Byrd and members of his family lived 'at the end of the 16th century' in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopgate, is inaccurate. The Byrds who lived there belonged to another family, and were probably not even relatives of the composer's.
[ W. B. S. ]
- Since the article on Byrd was written in Volume I. of the Dictionary, so much fresh information about him has come to light that it has been thought best to write a fresh account of his life. Most of the documents upon which the above article is based were printed by the writer in the 'Musical Review,' for 1881, Nos. 19–21.
- See vol. iv. p. 53 a.
- See vol. iv. p. 310 a.
- British Museum. K. 2, A. 9.
- Add MS. 29, 382–5.