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William Byrd

1543-1623. British composer. One of the greatest of all British composers, he remained a staunch Catholic in the England of Elizabeth and James I. He composed in practically all the musical forms of the day, sacred and secular. In spite of his religious affiliation, he was active at court and composed important music for the new Anglican rite. Although the chronology is not wholly clear, he has a good claim to be considered the father of the Anglican anthem. His beautiful “Christ rising again,” for two sopranos, chorus, and instrumental accompaniment (1589)-although it may not have been intended for church performance-is a prototype of the verse anthem (i.e., with solo parts), which became and remained popular with Anglican composers. His magnificent “Great” Service is a landmark in Anglican music. It includes canticles for Morning Prayer, Evensong, and Holy Communion, set for the traditional English cathedral choir of decani and cantoris (the two groups of singers who face each other across the chancel). In addition to anthems and services, he wrote a very large quantity of excellent Latin music for the Catholic rite, including three complete Masses and two large volumes of Gradualia. A complete edition of his music in twenty volumes has been edited by Canon E.H. Fellowes, who also wrote a biography (1948).

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