Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/588

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

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,[1] 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[2] 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

  1. See vol. iv. p. 53 a.
  2. See vol. iv. p. 310 a.