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Morley, Thomas

MORLEY, THOMAS (1557-1603), English musical composer, was born in 1557, as may be gathered from the date of his motet, " Domine non est," composed " aetatis suae 19 anno domini 1576," and preserved in Sadler's Part-Books (Bodleian Library). He was a pupil of William Byrd, but nothing is known as to his origin and very little as to the incidents of his career. In the account of the entertainments given at Elvetham by the earl of Hertford in 1591 in honour of Queen Elizabeth, it is stated that there was " a notable consort of six Musitions," whose music so pleased the queen " that in grace and favour thereof, she gave a newe name unto one of their Pavans, made long since by Master Thomas Morley, then Organist of Paules Church." This statement, however, lacks corroboration, and if Morley ever held the post he must have done so for a very short time. On the sth of July 1588 he was admitted Mus. Bac. at Oxford. Four years later (July 24, 1592) he entered the Chapel Royal, where he successively filled the offices of epistler and gospeller. From the dedication to his first book of canzonets it seems that in 1595 Morley was married. His wife's Christian name was Margaret, and before her marriage she apparently held some post in the household of Lady Periam, wife of the lord chief baron of the exchequer. On the nth of September 1598 Morley received a licence for twenty-one years to print ruled music-paper and song-books in English, Latin, French or Italian. His rights under this grant were assigned by him to various publishers. In Burgon's Life of Gresham it is stated (ii. 465) that the registers of St Helen's, Bishopsgate, show that Morley lived in that parish. This is inaccurate, and there is no proof that the family of the same name residing in St Helen's between 1594 and 1600 was related to the composer. In the preface to his Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597), Morley gives as one of his reasons for undertaking that work that he led a solitary life, " being compelled to keepe at home," presumably owing to ill health. On the 7th of October 1602 his place in the Chapel Royal was filled up, and on the 25th of October 1603 administration of his goods was granted to his widow. This document (Act Book, 1603, fol. 171) describes him as " late parishioner of St Botolph's near Billingsgate," but the registers of that parish contain no entries relating to him. Morley was incontestably one of the greatest of the secular Elizabethan composers. His madrigals, canzonets and ballets are as remarkable for their beauty as they are for their admirable .workmanship, and his Introduction to Practicall Musicke, in spite of its frequent obscurity, is an invaluable source of information as to the state of musical science in England at the end of the 16th century. His works are: (i) Canzonets to Three Voices (1593; 2nd ed., 1606; 3rd ed., 1631; Ger. trans. : Cassel, 1612, and Rostock, 1624); (2) Madrigals to Four Voices (1594; 2nd ed., 1600); (3) First Book of Ballets to Five Voices (1595; an Ital. ed. appeared in London in the same year; 2nd ed., 1600; Ger. ed., Nuremberg, 1609); (4) First Book of Canzonets to Two Voices (1595; 2nd ed., 1619); (5) Canzonets or Short Little Songs to Four Voices, selected out of Italian Authors (1597); (6) Canzonets to Five and Six Voices (1597); (7) A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597; 2nd ed., 1608; 3rd ed., 1771); (7) Madrigals to Five Voices, selected out of Italian Authors (1598); (8) The First Book of Consort Lessons, made by divers authors, etc. (1599; 2nd ed., 1611); (9) The First Book of Airs to Sing and Play to the Lute with Ike Base Viol (1600); (10) The Triumphs of Oriana to Five and Six Voices, composed by divers several authors (1601). Besides the above, services, anthems, motets and virginal pieces by Morley are to be found in various collections, both printed and manuscript. (W. B. S.*)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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