Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Weelkes, Thomas

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WEELKES, THOMAS (fl. 1600), musician, was probably born between 1570 and 1580, as in 1597 he published a set of madrigals, which he calls in the dedication ‘the first-fruicts of my barren ground.’ He also alluded to his ‘unripened years’ in the dedication of his second publication in 1598. Soon afterwards he became organist of Winchester College, as appears from his publications in 1600. He then proceeded to New College, Oxford, but was not on the foundation (Reg. Univ. Oxon. ii. i. 31, 147). He supplicated for the degree of Mus. Bac. on 12 Feb. 1601–2, and was admitted on 13 July following. Wood (Fasti) erroneously calls him William Weelks. In the works published in 1608 he describes himself as organist of Chichester Cathedral and gentleman of the Chapel Royal; but his name does not occur in the ‘Cheque-book.’ He died before 1641, as an anthem of his was included in Barnard's ‘First Book of Selected Church Musick,’ from which composers then living were excluded. Another anthem in Barnard's manuscript collections at the Royal College of Music is dated 9 March 1617.

Weelkes's publications were:

  1. ‘Madrigals to 3, 4, 5, and 6 Voyces,’ 1597; this collection was edited in score by E. J. Hopkins for the Musical Antiquarian Society, 1845; Nos. 2–4 are set to the words ‘My flocks feed not,’ an incorrect version of which subsequently appeared in the ‘Passionate Pilgrim.’
  2. ‘Ballets and Madrigals to five voyces, with one to 6 voyces,’ 1598; reprinted in 1608.
  3. ‘Madrigals of 5 and 6 parts apt for the Viols and Voyces,’ 1600.
  4. ‘Madrigals of 6 parts, apt for the Viols and Voices,’ 1600.
  5. ‘Ayers or Phantasticke Spirites for three Voices,’ 1608.

Weelkes also contributed a madrigal to Morley's ‘Triumphs of Oriana,’ 1601; and two pieces to Leighton's ‘Teares or Lamentacions of a sorrowful Soule,’ 1614. Besides the anthem printed by Barnard in 1641, two others were published in the Musical Antiquarian Society's ‘Anthems by Composers of the Madrigalian Period’ and ‘Responses to the Commandments’ in ‘The Choir and Musical Record,’ July 1864. In the manuscript collections now at the Royal College of Music, whence Barnard selected his publications, there are eleven other anthems; and vocal and instrumental pieces are preserved in Cosyn's ‘Virginal Book’ at Buckingham Palace, in Additional MSS. 29289, 29366–8, 29372–7, and 29427 at the British Museum, and in MS. 1882 at the Royal College. A madrigal was published by Stanley Lucas from Additional MSS. 17786–91; and there are pavans for viols in Additional MSS. 17792–6.

Some of Weelkes's madrigals have been reprinted in popular collections during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Among his best works are: ‘As Vesta was from Latmos Hill descending’ (his contribution to the ‘Triumphs of Oriana’); ‘Lo country sports,’ 1597; ‘To shorten winter's sadness,’ ‘In pride of May,’ ‘Welcome, sweet pleasure,’ and ‘Lady, your eye,’ 1598; ‘Now let us make a merry greeting,’ 1600; ‘Strike it up, neighbour,’ ‘Now ev'ry tree,’ and ‘The Nightingale,’ 1608. Specimens may be seen in E. T. Warren's great collection of ‘Catches,’ &c. (1763), and ‘Vocal Harmony,’ ‘Apollonian Harmony’ (1780), Willoughby's ‘Social Harmony’ (1780), Bland's ‘Ladies' Collection’ (1785), R. Webb's ‘Collection of Madrigals’ (1808), Page's ‘Festive Harmony’ (1804), ‘The Harmonist’ (c. 1810), Gwilt's ‘Madrigals and Motets’ (1815), Samuel Webbe's ‘Convito Armonico’ and C. Knight's ‘Musical Library’ (1834), Hawes's ‘Collection of Madrigals’ (1835), ‘The British Harmonist’ (1848), Cramer's ‘Madrigals’ (1855), Oliphant's ‘Ten Favourite Madrigals’ and Turle and Taylor's ‘People's Singing Book’ (1844), Hullah's ‘Vocal Scores’ (1846), Joseph Warren's ‘Chorister's Handbook’ (1856), ‘The Choir and Musical Record’ for August 1863, ‘Arion’ (1894), and the cheap publications of Novello, Stanley Lucas, Cassell, and Curwen. Weelkes and Wilbye are usually mentioned together by critics and historians; but a ‘certain characteristic stiffness’ (GROVE) makes Weelkes decidedly inferior as a composer to his contemporary.

[Weelkes's works; Rimbault's Bibliotheca Madrigaliana, pp. 7, 12, 14, 26; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, ii. 191, iv. 313, 431; Cat. of Sacred Harmonic Society's Library, pp. 188, 224; Oliphant's La Musa Madrigalesca; Nagel's Geschichte der Musik in England, ii. 118, 143; Hawkins's Hist. of Music, c. 102; Burney's General Hist. of Music, iii. 124; Davey's Hist. of Engl. Music, pp. 172, 180, 219, 255, 493.]

H. D.