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William Byrd was an English born composer. He built himself a reputation of being one of the very best composers of his time. His exact date is not know but he is estimated to have been born in 1542 or 1543. This is the guessed date of his birth because in his will in 1622 he wrote that he was “in the 80th age of my life”. Although his assumed year of birth was around 1542 another document suggested that he was actually born around 1539 or 1549. He also had two brothers and four sisters. William Byrd did not only spend time in his life writing music. He was married and total had five kids. Two of them might have been step-kids but that is not known for sure. His spouse was named Juliana Birley. The two of them married in 1568 and were married for sixteen years, when Juliana died. William did not waste much time alone and married a second wife, named Ellen. Ellen was the women that had the two children that could have possibly been step kids to William. It is not know if William and Ellen had the two children or it Ellen had the children when she was with a different man. The five children that William had were Christopher, Elizabeth, Thomas, Mary, and Rachel. Mary and Rachel were the two that are questioned if they are step children or not. Christopher is the oldest kid, with Elizabeth being the second oldest. William was a strong Catholic and made his children be baptized in the Catholic very quickly after they were born. The beginning of William’s musical training is not very clear. There are many theories of what his early musical training was but it is certain that his first arrangement was composed by him and two other men, John Shepherd and William Mundy. The three of them arranged a song for four male voices that was wrote about a psalm. This song was composed to be sung during the week of Easter. There are also many more known pieces that Byrd wrote during his teenage years. The first known professional employment for music that Byrd had was in 1563 when he served as an organist and the head of choirs at Lincoln Cathedral. William was an active catholic and wrote the majority of his songs about religion. One piece that William Byrd composed was This Sweet and Merry Month of May. William Byrd composed this song in 1590 and the average length of the song is two minutes and thirty-two seconds. This song is a six voice song, meant to be sung with two sopranos, a alto, a first tenor, and two basses. The song starts off with the two sopranos singing together as a duet. Then the alto and the tenor join in with sopranos. The alto and the tenor are both meant to be an echo of what the sopranos just sang before them. After the alto and the tenor have both joined in the song, the two basses follow. The basses sing a part that had a lot of eighth notes in it and is meant to somewhat sound like birds singing. The words of the song are these, “This sweet and merry month of May, While nature wantons in her prime, And birds do sing, and beasts do play For pleasure of the joyful time, I choose the first for holiday, And greet Eliza with a rhyme: O beauteous Queen of second Troy, Take well in worth a simple toy.” Another song that William composed was Sing Joyfully unto God our Strength. This song was also a six voice song and was also composed around the time of 1590, just like the last song I talked about. This song that he composed ended up being one of the most famous compositions of the whole time Queen Elizabeth I was alive. This song was written based on four verses from the book of Psalms chapter 81. The song has many moments that are meant to resemble other instruments, such as the harp and trumpets. This song ends with lots of repetition to prove the point of the splendid praise due to the God of Jacob. This song is still very popular and over the last century has been but into over one hundred manuscripts.The last song I looked at that William Byrd composed was Walsingham. This was not a song for people to sing, but instead it was a keyboard tune the William composed. Although at first it was just a keyboard tune, William also wrote lyrics for the song that could be sung to the tune he also wrote. This was not the only version of the song the William composed, he actually composed twenty two variations of just this one song. This song as written in about 1570 and takes about nine to ten minutes to perform. The message of the song explains a story about a serious religious pilgrimage. Some people believe that Byrd was new in the area where he wrote this song that it was an attempt to somewhat win the people over, or impress them. William Byrd ended up dying in 1623, on July 4. He died in the city of Stondon Massey, Essex, England. Although he died almost four hundred years ago he is know as one of the very best composers of religious music and ended up writing over four hundred compositions, including all of the variations that he wrote.

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