5 Apr 2015

The Sweetness of Byrd Songs

From Composer of the Week, 9:00 am on 5 April 2015


William Byrd

William Byrd Photo: Public Domain


Peter Watts traces the life of William Byrd (1539-1623) during turbulent times of the renaissance period, and explores the function and art of his forte: writing music with words.

Byrd acknowledged the centrality of the voice in the preface of “Psalms, Sonets and Songs of Sadness and Pietie” (1588).

Reasons briefly set down by the author to persuade everyone to learn to sing:

"First it is a knowledge quickly taught and easily learned when there is a good Master and an apt Scollar.

It doth strengthen all parts of the body and doth open the pipes.

It is a singular good remedie for stuttering and stammering in the speech.

It is the best means to procure a perfect pronunciation and to make  a good orator.

It is the only way to know where Nature hath bestowed the benefits of a good voyce, which gift is so rare as there is not one among a thousand that hath it; and in many that excellent gift is lost because they want (need) art to express Nature.

There is not any Musick of Arts whatever comparable to that which is made of the voyces of men, where the voyces are good, and the same well sorted and ordered.

The better the voyce is the meeter it is to honour and serve God there-with;  and the voyce of man is chiefly to be employed to that end.

Omnis  Spiritus Laudet Dominum.

(Let everything that has breath praise the Lord)

Since singing is so good a thing
 I wish all men would learn to sing."​