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William Byrd

William Byrd (/bɜːrd/; birth date variously given as c.1539/40 or 1543 – 4 July 1623) was an English composer of the Renaissance. Widely considered to be one of the greatest composers of the Renaissance and one of the greatest British composers, he had a huge influence on composers both from his native England and those on the continent [1][2]. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard (the so-called Virginalist school), and consort music. Although he produced sacred music for Anglican services, sometime during the 1570s he became a Roman Catholic and wrote Catholic sacred music later in his life.

Birth and origins

Thanks largely to the research of John Harley, knowledge of Byrd's biography has expanded in recent years. Thomas Byrd, the grandson of Richard Byrd of Ingatestone, Essex, probably moved to London in the 15th century. Thereafter succeeding generations of the family are described as gentlemen. William Byrd was born in London,[3] the son of another Thomas Byrd about whom nothing further is known, and his wife, Margery. The specific year of Byrd's birth is uncertain. In his will, dated 15 November 1622, he describes himself as "in the 80th year of [his] age", suggesting a birthdate of 1542 or 1543.[4] However a document dated 2 October 1598 written in his own hand states that he is "58 yeares or ther abouts", indicating an earlier birthdate of 1539 or 1540.[5] Byrd had two brothers, Symond and John, who became London merchants, and four sisters, Alice, Barbara, Mary, and Martha.[6]

/bɜːrd/; birth date variously given as c.1539/40 or 1543 – 4 July 1623) was an English composer of the Renaissance. Widely considered to be one of the greatest composers of the Renaissance and one of the greatest British composers, he had a huge influence on composers both from his native England and those on the continent [1][2]. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard (the so-called Virginalist school), and consort music. Although he produced sacred music for Anglican services, sometime during the 1570s he became a Roman Catholic and wrote Catholic sacred music later in his life.