MoboReader > Young Adult > Twelve Good Musicians

   Chapter 3 THOMAS MORLEY.

Twelve Good Musicians By Frederick Bridge Characters: 9874

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:05


The next of our twelve musicians in chronological order of birth is Thomas Morley, born in 1557, when Byrd was a young man, though his course was run long before that veteran had finished with the affairs of this world. He was a pupil of Byrd, and was probably a chorister of St Paul's Cathedral. In 1588 he graduated B.Mus. at Oxford, and some three years later was appointed Organist of St Paul's. This position he did, however, not hold long, as in 1592, he was appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. In 1598 he was granted the licence, which had previously been held by Tallis and Byrd, for the exclusive right of printing and selling Books of Music and Ruled Paper, and many of the musical works which were published at that time were issued by Este, Peter Short, William Barley, and others, as the assigns of Thomas Morley. In 1602 he resigned his positions at the Chapel Royal, probably from ill-health, as one gathers from the Introduction to his Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practical Music that he was rather a confirmed invalid. Some have taken the year of his resignation as that of his death, but there is nothing to support this, and though Hawkins and Burney are at one in placing his death in 1604, the correct date is 1603.

Details of Morley's life are scanty, by his works we must know him. His compositions are both vocal and instrumental, sacred and secular; and, in addition to his work in the various branches of composition, much of his fame rests upon his authorship of the first really satisfactory treatise on music, The Plaine and Easie Introduction already referred to.

This work is full of interest, and has been a book of reference and of valuable information to musicians for the past three centuries. Written in the form of a dialogue between Master and Pupil, it contains many quaint discourses, and it is in the early chapters of this work that the story is told of the unfortunate gentleman who could not read music at sight when asked to do so by his hostess, with the humiliating result that the company wondered "where he had been brought up."

Morley's book was translated into German by I. C. Frost, Organist of St Martin's, Halberstadt. It is interesting to observe that more than one of his works was translated into German (e.g., the Canzonets or Little Short Songs to Three Voyces, published here first in 1593, was translated into German and issued at Cassel in 1612 and at Rostock in 1624; and the Ballets for Five Voyces of 1595 was issued at Nuremberg in 1609).

This is a striking testimony to his merits, but the most celebrated of his publications was the great edition of Madrigals called The Triumphs of Oriana. This is said to have been compiled as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth, whose title of "Gloriana" is well known. In this portly volume he includes no fewer than twenty-six Madrigals, contributed by many of the most famous living English composers. The work helped to make the practice of Madrigal-singing very popular in England, and to this day its influence is great and few programmes of Madrigal-music are ever issued without some specimen taken from this splendid collection.

And it is to Morley we owe a delightful contemporary setting of words by Shakespeare-the beautiful Lyric "It was a lover and his lass" from As You Like It. This is one of the very few things which we possess-with the words by Shakespeare and the music by a contemporary musician. Unfortunately, the charming song has been often sadly mutilated by editors, sometimes by the introduction of unwarranted "accidentals" and also by actual curtailment. I have, however, had the opportunity of referring to one of the few copies in existence of the original publication (formerly in the Halliwell-Phillip's collection), and have so been enabled to issue it in its correct form. Various attempts have been made to arrange it as a duet, on the ground that it was sung in the play by "two pages." The dialogue which precedes the song is very amusing and rather suggests that Shakespeare had some little experience of the peculiar weaknesses of singers, both amateur and professional. The following is the little episode in question:

Enter Two Pages.

1st Page: Well met, honest gentleman.

Touchstone: By my troth, well met. Come sit, sit and a song.

2nd Page: We are for you: sit i' the middle.

1st Page: Shall we clap into't roundly, without

hawking or spitting or saying we are

hoarse; which are the only prologues

to a bad voice?

2nd Page: I'faith, i'faith; and both in a tune,

like two gipsies on a horse.

As You Like It, Act V., scene 3.

The words "two gipsies on a horse" have been taken to suggest that as the two gipsies must have ridden one behind the other, the two pages should sing, not in unison, but one after the other. Hence the effort to arrange the music in Canon, as it is termed. But there is no warrant for this; ne

ither will the song admit of it.[1]

With respect to his Instrumental writing, in addition to many examples for the Virginals, he wrote for combined instruments, as will be seen later. Much of his Virginal-music is contained in the Fitzwilliam Collection, and in Will Forster's Virginal Book in Buckingham Palace. For combined instruments may be mentioned the seven Fantasias, and there is also a collection called First Book of Consort Lessons for Six Instruments, Lute, Pandora, Cittern, Bass Viol, Flute and Treble Viol. Writing on this collection Dr Burney does not take a very high estimate of its musical value: "they seem to have been intended for Civic Feasts" (he says), "and Master Morley, supposing perhaps that the harmony which was to be heard through the clattering of knives, forks, spoons, and plates, with the jingling of glasses and clamorous conversation of a City feast, need not be very accurate or refined, was not very nice in setting parts to these tunes, which are so far from correct that almost any one of the City Waits would have vamped as good an accompaniment on the spot."

I question if Dr Burney is justified in this scathing criticism. I do not suppose he ever heard them performed, for the good reason that there is no complete set of parts to be found, and there is no record of any such being in existence in his time. A few years ago I did my best to get these little "Band tunes" performed, but at first only the Viol and Flute parts could be found. Later on I was fortunate enough to discover a Cittern part in the Bodleian Library, and, later still, a part for the Pandora has been found in the Christ Church Library. We still want the parts for Lute and Bass Viol, but with these four we get a very good representation of the original, and at the Exhibition initiated by the Worshipful Company of Musicians we had one of these little tunes played by the six instruments, under the direction of the Rev. W. Galpin. We had to supply parts for Lute and Bass Viol, but as we had the original Harmony supplied by the Flute (i.e. a small Recorder), which was an inner part, and by the Cittern and Pandora-both of which played Chords-we could not go far wrong. The effect was both interesting and charming, and altogether discounted Burney's unreliable criticism. It would be a great delight to all lovers of this early music if the two missing parts could be found, but I fear we shall hunt in vain.

His Sacred works include two Services and an Anthem, which was published in Barnard's collection, and a setting of the Burial Service, which appears in Boyce's collection. There are also examples, in MS. amongst the Harleian MSS., in the Christ Church Library at Oxford, and the Fitzwilliam and Peterhouse Libraries at Cambridge. A curious thing, rather, in connection with his Sacred works is, that, unlike his secular compositions, none was published during his lifetime.

His style was not so broad as that of Tallis or so noble as that of Byrd, but he had a great influence upon the art. His own compositions include examples of his talent in many directions. As a theoretical writer he is really distinguished above his contemporaries, and contributed to the stores of Sacred, Secular, and Instrumental music, besides writing for the stage.

Morley's early death was a real loss to English music, and he was mourned by all his contemporaries. One of the most touching testimonies is a beautiful Lament for Six Voices by Thomas Weelkes, himself a distinguished composer, whom we shall consider later. The words are as follows:

A remembrance of my friend Mr. Thomas Morley.

Death hath deprived me of my dearest friend,

My dearest friend is dead and laid in grave,

In grave he rests until the world shall end,

The world shall end, as end must all things have.

All things must have an end that nature wrought

That nature wrought must unto dust be brought.

Another poetical testimony to Morley was written in his life-time, and may be given here. It is supposed to be by Michael Drayton:

Such was old Orpheus' cunning,

That senseless things drew near him;

And herds of beasts to hear him.

The stock, the stone, the ox, the ass came running.

Morley! but this enchanting

To thee, to be the music god, is wanting;

And yet thou needst not fear him.

Draw thou the shepherds still, and bonny lasses,

And envy him not stocks, stones, oxen, asses.

[1] Mr Arkwright gives us an interesting bit of information in connection with Morley and Shakespeare. "Morley lived in St Peter's, Bishopsgate, between 1596 and 1601, and his name appears in two Rolls of Assessments for Subsidies. In the earlier of these documents is the name of William Shakespeare, his goods being valued at the same amount as Morley's. He and Shakespeare both appealed against the assessment, and it may be supposed some amount of personal intercourse existed between them."

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top