Tye, Christopher (DNB00)
|←Twysden, Thomas||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 57
TYE, CHRISTOPHER (1497?–1572), musician, was almost certainly a native of the eastern counties, where the name was common. Fuller, not knowing his birthplace, counts him among the ‘Worthies of Westminster;’ Anthony Wood's statement, ‘He seems to be a western man born,’ is quite unfounded. There can be little doubt that the Tye who was fifth choirboy at King's College, Cambridge, in the third quarter of 1511, and second choirboy in August 1512, was Christopher Tye. The commons books for the preceding ten years are lost; but it may be presumed Tye had been some time before 1511 in the choir, and was born about 1497.
The name Tye next appears in the commons books for Michaelmas to Christmas 1527, when he was one of the singing-men; the full name, ‘Christopher Tye, clericus,’ is first met with in the Mundum books for Lady-day to Michaelmas, 1537. A ‘Richard Tye, clericus,’ who died in 1545, was also in the choir of King's College, and some of the earlier records may refer to him. In later life Christopher Tye appears in close connection with Dr. Richard Cox (1500–1581) [q. v.], who entered King's College in 1519.
In 1536 the Cambridge grace book recorded that Christopher Tye, having studied the art of music ten years, with much practice in composing and in teaching boys, was granted the degree of Mus. Bac., on condition of his composing a mass to be sung soon after Commencement, or on the day when the king's visit was celebrated, or at least that some specimen of his skill should be displayed at the Commencement. How much longer Tye remained at King's College is uncertain, as the Mundum books for 1538–42 are missing; but he probably left in 1541 or 1542. At Michaelmas 1543 Tye received 10l. for a year's salary as master of the choirboys at Ely. In 1545 Tye proceeded to the degree of Mus. Doc.; he was required to compose a mass to be sung at the Commencement, and was to be presented ‘habitu non regentis.’ He was permitted to wear the robes of a doctor of medicine, as there were no distinctive robes for musical graduates until a recent period. In 1547 Cox became chancellor of the university of Oxford, and in 1548 Tye was incorporated there as Mus. Doc. He was apparently still at Ely, as the treasurer's rolls record the payment of his salary in Michaelmas 1547; but the rolls for the next twelve years are lost. Tye is not heard of again until 1553, when he published his ‘Actes of the Apostles,’ calling himself gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and dedicating the work to Edward VI in terms which suggest that he was, or had been, under Cox, the young king's teacher. This supposition is strengthened by a passage in Samuel Rowley's chronicle-play, ‘When you see me, you know me,’ 1605, in which Tye is introduced, and addressed by Edward as ‘Our music's lecturer.’ The title of gentleman of the Chapel Royal does not necessarily imply that Tye must have left Ely. Hawkins and others have supposed that he also taught Edward's sisters, which is possible in the case of Elizabeth, but hardly as regards Mary, who was much older, and had played to the French ambassadors in 1527.
Tye is not heard of in Mary's reign, nor does his name occur in any published list of the Chapel Royal, nor in the cheque-book, which begins in 1561. On 23 May 1559 the dean and chapter of Ely executed a deed by which Tye was granted 10l. annually as master of the boys and organist. Since Tye had previously received the same salary, it is possible that he had left his post and was formally reappointed. But he received only half a year's salary at Michaelmas 1561; and in 1562 Robert White (d. 1574) [q. v.] succeeded him as ‘informator choristarum.’ Tye had already taken deacon's orders in July 1560, and in November following Dr. Cox, now bishop of Ely, ordained him priest. In the register he is called canon of the cathedral. He must have been previously made incumbent of Doddington (Donyngton)-cum-March, as he compounded for the first-fruits on 25 Sept.; a return sent by Cox in the same year reports that Dr. Tye lived at Doddington with his family, was not yet capable of preaching (‘non tamen habilis ad prædicandum’), nor specially licensed thereto. The living at a later period became the richest in England, and was divided into seven. The bishop took a singular bond from Tye, who engaged not to lease any part of the benefice without the bishop's consent, ‘but from year to year;’ and since this bond was executed at the request of Tye's wife, it indicates either that he was incompetent in business matters, or that he was under the influence of his son Peter, a disreputable man, who had by fraud obtained ordination and was rector of Trinity Church, Ely. These matters were among the grounds of accusation against Dr. Cox after Tye's death (Strype, Annals, vol. ii. App.). In 1564 Tye appears as rector of Newton-cum-Capella, and of Wilbraham Parva; he had paid firstfruits for the former on 13 May, but not for the latter, which was ordered to be sequestrated. The matter was in some way arranged, and the money was paid on 19 Oct. He resigned this living in 1567, and Newton in 1570. On 26 June 1570 the living of Doddington-cum-March was ordered to be sequestrated, as Tye had not paid certain dues. On 26 Aug. 1571 Lesley, bishop of Ross, then in the custody of Cox at Doddington, noted in his diary (Bannatyne Miscellany, 1855) that he had written some verses, and given them to Dr. Tye ‘for ane argument, to mak the same in Inglis.’ Tye died in the following year, as the bishop's register records the institution, on 15 March 1572–3, of Hugo Bellet to the living of Doddington-cum-March, vacant ‘per mortem naturalem venerabilis viri Christoferi Tye musices doctoris ultimi incumbentis.’ His will has not yet been discovered.
We have no certain information of Tye's children, except Peter, who married in 1564 at Trinity Church, Ely, where seven of his children were baptised. But it is extremely probable that Mary Tye, who married Robert Rowley at Trinity Church in 1560, and her sister Ellen, who married the composer Robert White, were his daughters, with two others whose existence we learn from Ellen White's will, in which their mother, Katherine Tye, is also named. An Agnes Tye was married in 1575 at Wilbraham Parva.
It is highly probable that Samuel Rowley the dramatist was a near connection, perhaps a son, of Mary Rowley. In one scene of ‘When you see me, you know me,’ he introduces Dr. Tye to perform vocal and instrumental music before Prince Edward, who thanks him and adds:
I oft have heard my Father merrily speake
In your hye praise, and thus his Highnesse sayth
England one God, one truth, one Doctor hath
For Musicks Art, and that is Doctor Tye,
Admir'd for skill in Musickes harmonie.
Tye then presents his ‘Actes of the Apostles’ to the prince, who promises they shall be sung in the Chapel Royal. In Morley's ‘Introduction to Practicall Musicke,’ 1597, Tye is repeatedly quoted as a leading authority. Meres mentions him in ‘Palladis Tamia’ among England's ‘excellent Musitians;’ and there is an allusion to him in Nashe's ‘Have with you to Saffron Walden,’ 1596.
The only work (with one doubtful exception) which Tye published, was a doggerel versification of the first fourteen chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, with music to the first two stanzas of each chapter, ‘to synge and also to play upon the Lute, very necessary for studentes after theyr studye to fyle theyr wyttes, and also for all Christians that cannot synge, to reade the good and Godlye storyes of the lyves of Christ hys Apostles,’ 1553. There are copies at the British Museum and Lambeth Palace. The compositions are not syllabic tunes, all but one having at least a point of imitation. Considered as part-songs they are beyond praise. A psalter by Seagar was published in the same year with two tunes exactly similar in style; and the popular madrigal, ‘In going to my naked bed,’ usually ascribed to Richard Edwards, has a strong family likeness to them. Tye's third and eighth tunes were soon shortened and simplified into the usual four-lined ‘common metre’ psalm-tune, and attained universal popularity; they appear in Thomas East's ‘Whole Book of Psalmes,’ 1592, Allison's ‘Psalter,’ 1599, and Ravenscroft's ‘Psalter,’ 1621, under the names of ‘Windsor or Eaton,’ and ‘Winchester.’ The former, known in Scotland as ‘Dundee,’ is immortalised in Burns's ‘Cotter's Saturday Night.’ It was called ‘Dundee Tune’ in Andro Hart's ‘Psalter,’ 1615. ‘Winchester’ is now sung to the Christmas carol, ‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night.’ In both tunes the second line varies from Tye's music. In Cree and Wardell's ‘Church Psalm Tunes,’ 1851, an attempt was made to similarly arrange Tye's fifth tune, under the title of ‘St. Cuthbert's,’ and there is another in the ‘Yattendon Hymnal.’ The fourth was published in its original form, with slightly altered harmonies, as a Latin motet, ‘Laudate nomen Domini,’ in Webb's collection of madrigals and motets, 1808. This arrangement was reprinted in ‘Zeitschrift für Deutschlands Musikvereine und Dilettanten,’ Carlsruhe, 1842, and by Burns (with Tye's harmonies) in 1852; also by Novello, as ‘O come ye servants of the Lord,’ and by Curwen as ‘Come let us join our cheerful songs,’ and in a Welsh translation. No. 1 is in Burns's ‘Anthems and Services,’ as ‘Come, Holy Ghost;’ No. 2 in Turle and Taylor's ‘People's Singing Book’ and Warren's ‘Chorister's Handbook;’ No. 7, with Welsh words, in ‘Anthemydd y Tonic Sol-ffa,’ and in ‘Y Cerddor;’ No. 8, in its complete form, in the ‘Parish Choir,’ vol. iii.; No. 9, in the ‘Chorister's Handbook;’ No. 14, with the original words, in Hawkins's ‘History’ and Gwilt's collection of madrigals; and all the first nine in ‘Quarterly Musical Review’ for October 1827. Complete reprints, with new words, were issued by Oliphant in 1837, by Burns in ‘Sacred Music by Old Composers,’ and by E. D. Cree. The use of two numbers of Oliphant's arrangement in Hullah's ‘Part Music’ made them for a time widely popular. Burney's statement that Tye's settings consist of ‘fugues and canons of the most artificial and complicated kind’ shows that he had not seen them, and judged the work from the specimen printed by Hawkins, which happens to be the most scientific, being a masterly double canon.
In 1569 appeared ‘A Notable Historye of Nastagio and Traversari,’ a rhymed version of a story from Boccaccio, by C. T., which is generally supposed to indicate Christopher Tye. J. P. Collier attributed the work to George Turberville [q. v.], but the latter's version is extant, and is quite different and much superior.
Six anthems by Tye—‘I will exalt Thee,’ ‘Sing unto the Lord,’ ‘I lift my heart,’ and the Deus Misereatur in three sections—were printed in Barnard's ‘Selected Church Musick,’ 1641. The first two are scored in Boyce's ‘Cathedral Music.’ Page's ‘Harmonia Sacra’ contains ‘From the depths,’ which was reprinted by the Motet Society. Rimbault, in ‘Cathedral Music,’ printed an evening service from the Ely MSS.; no morning service by Tye is known.
Burney scored and published the Gloria of Tye's ‘Euge bone’ mass; Hullah reprinted it in his ‘Vocal Scores,’ and performed it at St. Martin's Hall. The entire mass was published by Mr. G. E. P. Arkwright in 1894.
Unpublished works by Tye are in manuscript at Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, at Oxford in the Bodleian Library, the Music School, and Christ Church, at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and the libraries of Ely and other cathedrals. They include a mass on the song ‘Western Wind, why dost thou blow?’ with the masses by John Shepherd (fl. 1550) and John Taverner (fl. 1530) on the same theme, in British Museum Addit. MSS. 17802–5; another mass at Peterhouse; a Passion according to John, specimens of which were printed in the ‘Overture,’ May 1893, and about seventy other works, almost all sacred.
Tye's finest work is to be found in his ‘Actes of the Apostles’ and his anthems; in ‘I will exalt Thee’ and ‘Sing unto the Lord’ he produced compositions which remain as beautiful as when they were written. He succeeded in avoiding the harshnesses, especially the unpleasant false relations which mar very many of the best works in the polyphonic style. His mass, ‘Euge bone,’ though distinguished rather by scientific skill than expressive beauty (Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch, Ratisbon, 1897), is a fine example of contrapuntal writing. Both protestant and catholic reformers had insisted on greater attention being paid by the composers of sacred music to distinctness of the words than had hitherto been the case; and the avoidance of needless complication which ensued was exactly what was required to perfect the polyphonic style. The music of Taverner, Tye's senior by a very few years, is scarcely known even to antiquaries; but the anthems of Tye have always remained in use, and hymn-tunes founded on his ‘Actes of the Apostles’ are known throughout England and Scotland. Burney accurately wrote of Tye, ‘Perhaps as good a poet as Sternhold, and as great a musician as Europe could then boast.’ No personal memorial of Tye remains, except his autograph signature to some articles presented by Cox to the clergy of Ely. It is facsimiled in Arkwright's edition of the Mass ‘Euge bone.’[The biographical notice prefixed to G. E. P. Arkwright's edition of the mass ‘Euge bone’ contains all the known facts concerning Tye and his family, with full extracts from documents and a list of compositions complete except five pieces in Baldwin's MS. at Buckingham Palace. See also Wood's Fasti Oxonienses, col. 799; Warton's Hist. of English Poetry, sect. 47, 60; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabrigienses, i. 309, 559; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, c. 95; Burney's Hist. ii. 564–6, 589, iii. 10–13; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, i. 70, iii. 272, iv. 196, 474, 805; Nagel's Geschichte der Musik in England, ii. 61; Davey's Hist. of English Music, pp. 140, 144.]