Wednesday, December 03, 2008

William Byrd: A High School Report


William Byrd was one of the most celebrated English composers of the Renaissance. He was born in 1540, underneath a milking cow. He had begun as a musician at an early age. He was so young, in fact, he whittled a flute in his mother’s womb out of one of his newly generated femurs. Later in life his leg would play beautiful music when he stood pantless in the yard on a windy day. He sang in the Chapel Royal during Mary Tudor’s reign which placed him in the best choir in England. He was the worst one in the choir, but it was still the best choir. It looked the same as the best singer on his resume’. He had trouble hitting the middle E #. Because of colon polyps in his throat, his voice would skip right over it. William was 18 when Mary Tudor died and her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth, succeeded her. Elizabeth was only her half-sister because the other half of her was her cousin Murray’s half-uncle. It was a strange family. In his middle 20’s Byrd became an organist and a choir master of Lincoln Cathedral, and lived at 6 Minister Yard in the Cathedral house. This is significant because most Lincoln Cathedral organist lived in the boat house, but he was probably given better quarters due to his role in the choir. He was the first to incorporate show tunes into the mass. The Clergy apparently had to reprimand him for playing excessive length services, although he did continue to write music specifically to be played at Lincoln even after his move to London. They never played that music, but he wrote it for them, anyway. William Byrd married Juliana in 1568, and had at least 7 kids. He lost count after a while because he wasn’t really trying to have kids – he was just trying to have sex, but the damn kids kept coming out. After being named a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1572, he moved back to England. Prior to that he was considered a churlish brute of the Chapel Royal and didn’t feel he could show his face in England. He worked there as a singer, composer and organist for more than 2 decades. As an inside joke, he always set a bouquet of tulips on his organ, just to lighten his mood. He wrote a large amount of Anglican Church music for the Chapel Royal, and they were toe-tappers, to be sure. In 1593 William moved with his family to the small village of Stondon Massey in Essex and spent the remaining 30 years of his life there. From a very young age, Byrd was fascinated by stone hills. Moving to Stondon Massey completed him as a person. On July 4th, 1623 he died and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Stondon Churchyard. He didn’t want anybody looking at him when he was dead. How embarrassing. William Byrd’s life is interesting because of his association with the Roman Catholic Church and his work in the court of the Anglican Queen Elizabeth I. Yes, that was VERY interesting. Unbelievably interesting. So interesting, in fact, that when somebody speaks of his life at a cocktail party, I always say, “My, how interesting.” William Byrd was a great composer, a talented man and should be remembered for a long time. But he won’t be, unless people are forced to keep writing stupid reports about him.

6 comments:

keysunset said...

To be informed and entertained! That's what I love about this place.

Just wait til I drop that tidbit about whittling his femur into a flute at the next party I attend!

del said...

Did you make Rubon learn to play the femur flute? It sounds pretty cool and he could do duets with key.

hr said...

OK, since nobody else has brought it up, I'll ask. How did he get colon polyps in his throat?

Or maybe we don't want to know.

HR said...

Nice try with the comments, but what I really was going to ask was what he used to whittle his femur while in the womb.

Moist Rub said...

With a Swiss Army Knife from a weird night of passion gone awry.

Anonymous said...

William Byrd should be remembered for all of the sacred music he wrote. I think you are making fun of him and his religion. For that I desecrate you to hell. You are evil. Go to hell! God have wrath on you!