William Byrd: An Important English Composer for Four Centuries

It was not a conventional chapel, said Johnstone, but a semi-autonomous group of musicians in the service of the king. Chapel Royal also put Byrd in touch with his then organist, Thomas Tallis, who became his teacher and mentor and later collaborator.

After studying with Tallis, in 1563, Byrd left to take up the positions of organist and choirmaster at Lincoln Cathedral. The city of Lincoln “would be a happy and healthy place to be a Catholic at that time,” Johnstone said, given the relatively high concentration of Catholic residents. But the governing chapter of the cathedral disapproved of Byrd's organ playing and had his salary suspended in 1569.

“His gripe,” said Phillips, “was that he would play too much when he didn't want to, and he wouldn't play at all when he wanted to.” Others point to Byrd's protracted organ playing, which he describes as “popish”.

In 1572, Byrd returned as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, earning a generous salary that was to be his main source of income until his death.

Byrd was, for most of his working life, a Catholic living under the Protestant reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but his situation was more fluid and complicated than that. Unlike his Catholic contemporaries John Dowland, John Bull and Richard Dering, Byrd did not leave the country, choosing instead to stay and, in part, adhere to the new state-enforced Protestantism. And support for Byrd's burgeoning career came from England's surviving Catholic institutions and the queen herself.

The quote “I have no desire to create a window into the male soul” was regularly attributed to Elizabeth, during the early days of her reign. “It is clear,” says Johnstone, “that he allows Catholics among his people to continue to have this indemnity of conscience when it comes to essential religious matters of making your Communion,” the main difference between the two. religion at that time.