William Byrd: Renaissance master composer of church music

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William Byrd: Renaissance master composer of church music

Born around 1543, Byrd was a devout Roman Catholic who served as resident organist, choirmaster and composer at the Lincoln Cathedral from 1563 to 1572. His prolific musical output during his Lincoln years secured his place as one of the most celebrated Renaissance composers. 


Even when he left Lincoln in 1572 to take up the post of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, Byrd continued to write music for Anglican and Latin worship. His known works number about 470, including his version of Ave Verum Corpus (Hail, True Body) that he wrote in 1605 and the deeply moving musical setting of Psalm 51. His choral works never fail to feel me with a mixture of joy and reverence. His secular work ranks among the best of that period.


Byrd died on July 4, 1623 and his body was buried in the Churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul in Stondon Massey, Brentwood Borough, Essex, England. Happily, his music and legacy lives on. He is better known known and respected than the kings and queens and lord archbishops in whose service he toiled for minimal pay. 


Example1: Ave Verum Corpus sung by the Gesualdo Six at Ely Cathedral



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