Music in History

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16th century: Music in England

Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)
He was a prominent composer concerning sacred music. We do not know much about his life. It is known that he worked as an organist of Dover Priory. Later on he is found to London (Waltham Abbey, 1538). In 1543 he was sent to Court as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal.  During his career,  religious dogmas were  constantly alternated from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism and vice versa. However Tallis managed to avoid religious controversies raging around him. He composed music for them both. Apart from that, he was the teacher of William Byrd and other musicians of the Royal Chapel.
Henry VIII
, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth I  were among his audience. Queen Elizabeth granted him  and  his student, William Byrd,  the privilege of printing  and publishing their  music. That was one of the first arrangements of that type in the country. Tallis  also had the right to compose and print his music in any language.
He died at his home at the age of 80 years. Thomas Tallis is considered one of the greatest english composers.

                            Thomas Tallis - The lamentations of Jeremiah

William Byrd (1539-1623)

He wrote music on many of the religious and secular  forms of his time.  He composed  over 470 works and  he enjoyed the estimation of his contemporaries. He may had worked with Shakespeare.
Musically,  we find him  for first time  in 1563, when he was organist and music director at Lincoln Cathedra
l. His life there was not carefree. After criticism and accusations of a number of issues, his salary was significantly reduced. He got married in 1568 and  he had seven children.

In 1572 he joined the royal chapel, where he collaborated with Thomas Tallis and he had the monopoly of printing and publishing music with his teacher.

In 1580's  Byrd is
found to have been  implicated in controversies between Catholics and Protestants. He tended more towards Roman Catholicism, which was prohibited in England during the that time. He had been accused  many times  for rejecting  the official dogma, as he used  not to  attend the Sunday liturgy  and he enjoyed to be with  "suspicious" people (that is people who might be  Catholics).  As a result of those  categories  he was  temporarily removed from his position in the Royal Chapel. In the meanwhile, he composed some of his most beautiful works, such as motets "Vigilate", "nescitis enim" and "O quam gloriosum".

During next decade  he was back in his official work. In 1589 and 1591 he published  the work "Cantiones sacrae
". Actually That work consisted of  musical anthologies containing a  number of English songs and motets, including the famous "Haec dies".
In the  meanwhile he printed   two  books with English songs  (Psalms, Sonnets and Songs of Sadness and Pietie -1588 and Songs of Sundrie Natures-1589), which contained several songs, all  accompanied by violas da gamba (consort songs
In 1594 he composed some of the greatest polyphonic works ( that is Catholic compositions) and at age 70 published his last work
. Despite the penalties and a turbulent life that he had, he was rather rich when he died.

1.Richard Taruskin: The Oxford history of music, v1
2.Harvard dictionary of music, chorale, second edition, eighth printing
3.Catholic church music by Richad Terry, London Greening & CO., LTD 1907

                                   William Byrd - Ave Verum Corpus

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