- Byrd, William (b ?Lincoln, 1543 - d Stondon Massey, 4 July, 1623)
- Byrd was brought up in London as a pupil of Thomas Tallis. In 1563 he became Organist and Master of the Choristers at Lincoln Cathedral, and married there in 1568. Although he remained at Lincoln until c1572, he was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal from 1570, and its organist form 1575 (at first with Tallis).
In London he rapidly established himself as a composer gaining influential friends and patrons, and earning favour with Queen Elizabeth who granted him and Tallis a patent in 1575 for the printing and marketing of part music and manuscript paper.
Following his wife's death in 1580 he remarried. He and his family were often cited as Catholic recusants, but he continued to compose openly for the Catholic church. In 1593 Byrd moved to Essex where he spent the rest of his life and was frequently involved in property litigation. His reputation was very high: he was described as 'Father of British Music', Morley and Tomkins were among his pupils.
Much of his varied output was published during his lifetime. His sacred music ranges widely in style and mood, from the florid and penitential motets of the Cantiones sacrae to the concise and devotional motets of the Gradualia (motet sections intended to form an impressive scheme of complete Mass Propers). His secular songs predate the true madrigal as they use intricate flowing counterpoint derived from an earlier English style (cf Tallis and Taverner), and range from solemn lamentations to exuberant jests. His instrumental music is especially important as the many consort songs greatly influenced the later lute ayre, which his virginal pieces and unparalleled in richness of invention and contrapuntal brilliance. In all the genres in which he wrote, Byrd was both traditionalist, and innovator, channelling continental ideas into a native English tradition, and his expressive range was unusually wide for his day. He wrote for both Catholic and Anglican churches with equal genius.