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Tudor Minute July 4: RIP William Byrd

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for July 4.

On July 4, 1623, William Byrd died. William Byrd is affectionately called the Granddaddy of Elizabethan choral music, at least by me. He started his career working under Thomas Tallis, the granddaddy of early Tudor choral music. English sacred choral music is unique during this period because of the changes brought about during the Reformation.

While Henry VIII is famous for breaking away from the Pope and founding the Church of England, he kept most of the Catholic traditions, including choral music in Latin. But during the reign of his son Edward, who was a strong Protestant, the music was in English, and all the signs of Catholicism vanished from churches throughout England. Edward only reigned for half a decade, and was succeeded by his sister Mary, who was brought up Catholic, and brought England back into the fold of the Vatican, officially reuniting with Catholicism, and changing all the liturgy back to the traditional services. When she died, again after a short 5 year reign, her sister Elizabeth attempted to bridge the two traditions.

Composers who survived this period had to be incredibly versatile, writing music in English as well as Latin, and adapting to the new types of services, and the new liturgies. There was a great demand for new services, and new singers, and it’s one of the things that makes the music of this period so rich.