Tudor Music

During the Tudor era which lasted from 1485 to 1603, different kinds of cultural activities actively flourished under the direct patronage of the Tudor monarchs.

The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII, was an active patron of libraries and arts. This tradition continued through the rest of the Tudor dynasty after him.

Music, in particular, was considered a vital part of the court of Tudor monarchs and a number of Tudor monarchs were musicians and composers themselves.

During the Tudor era, musicians came to be regarded as artists in their own might and were frequently patronised by wealthier members of the royalty, nobility and the merchant class.

Tudor Music Composers

Tudor Music Composers – During the Tudor era, English monarchs commissioned highly skilled musicians to compose music for various occasions.

Tudor Music Composers

During the Tudor era, English monarchs commissioned highly skilled musicians to compose music for various occasions.

Notable composers of the period include Robert Fayrfax who was hired directly by the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII. Fayrfax continued to compose music for Henry VIII after he became the next Tudor monarch.

Another notable composer who was also hired by Henry VII was William Cornysh who brought a different style of musical composition to the Tudor court.

Apart from producing music for the court and for notable occasions such as feasts and embassies, Tudor monarchs also hired musicians to teach music to their children.

Once their status was established as veritable artists, musicians in Tudor England were usually categorised on the basis of their skill in playing different instruments.

Typically, musicians who could play trumpets and other loud instruments were less valued than musicians who played softer instruments such as stringed instruments and keyboards.

Similarly, choir boys and singers were valued and paid on the basis of their singing prowess.

Important Facts about Tudor Music:

  • Tudor music was composed during the Tudor period from 1485 to 1603.
  • Tudor King Henry VIII could play a number of instruments and was a composer of music himself.
  • King Henry VIII owned hundreds of musical instruments of many diverse varieties, including 150 recorders.
  • King Henry had 60 musicians on his staff.
  • Nearly all Tudor monarchs had an education in music, patronised music and could play one or more instruments.
  • Good choir singers were highly prized for their talent in Tudor England.
  • Famous composers and musicians of Tudor era include Robert Fayrfax, William Cornysh, Dionysius Memmo and Philip Van Wilder among others.

Tudor Music and Henry VIII

Although nearly all Tudor monarchs had a taste for good music and not just patronised musicians but also composed music themselves, Henry VIII was most notably known for composing excellent music.

Henry was proficient in playing a large number of musical instruments including recorders, the flute, the keyboard, the harp and the organ. He was also known for composing many pieces of music and reportedly had a fairly good singing voice.

Apart from being able to play many instruments, Henry owned hundreds of musical instruments in his private collection including 150 recorders.

He also hired a large number of musicians to his royal staff who would adorn his court with music at all times. According to one estimate, he had nearly 60 musicians on the royal staff at the time of his death.

Sacred Music

Music remained a vital part of worship in Tudor England. Since chapel music mostly relied on vocal finesse, ecclesiastical authorities were frequently on the search for the best of men and young boys who could contribute an excellent voice to the church choir.

This sometimes led to an interesting but friendly rivalry between Tudor monarchs, who similarly sought good choir singers, and the leading cardinals.

Some of the musicians who originally began in the chapel during the Tudor period eventually found them in royal service once their talent caught the eyes of a Tudor monarch.

A notable example of this is Mark Smeaton who originally sang in a chapel and was subsequently hired by Henry VIII.

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