Secular music of William Byrd

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Brian Guay Music History I Research Paper William Byrd was considered a great English composer of his time, one of the greatest. He wrote for several different genres including sacred music, and he also wrote secular vocal and instrumental music. Byrd lived during the Late Renaissance, a time of reformation and change. However, as people were breaking away from the Catholic Church, William Byrd remained Catholic. The church began to use English in services rather than Latin, however Queen Elizabeth allowed Latin to be used in some sacred music (Burkholder, Grout, Palisca, 222). Polyphony was also still used. One composer in the early sixteenth century was John Taverner. He was the first organist of Christ Church in Oxford. Unlike Byrd, he was known only a composer of church music, composing ‘masses and motets with long melismas, full textures, and cantus-firmus structures.’ (222) Coming after Taverner was the English composer Thomas Tallis, who was said to have taught Byrd. He was also a composer of sacred music, with masses, hymns, and other service music. Composers who had come before Tallis had composed polyphonic works, and Tallis expanded on their ideas. For example, his motet Spem in alium, is for as many as 40 solo voices (Holst, 18). He would eventually work with Byrd at the Chapel Royal under Queen Elizabeth, both sharing the post of organist. (Holst, 24). Byrd must have been influenced by his predecessors, but it is not completely clear through his music. Of course, Byrd learned from Tallis since he was his pupil. He learned different hymns, learned to write rounds and canons, which may have been taught to him by Tallis. Taverner also may have influenced Byrd, particularly in his masses. For example, in the “Meane” mass by Taverner, there are short sections separated by a cadence. In Byrd’s
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