Learn More about Byrd and his Music

Want to find about more about this fascinating composer and his music? Here are a few of our recommendations for things to read or where to go to view some of Byrd's music in some wonderful original manuscripts and prints from the the comfort of your armchair. 

1. Books to Read

Written by one of the experts on William Byrd, Kerry McCarthy's Byrd (2013) is a very readable introduction to William Byrd and his music.  If you've ever wondered how Byrd learnt his music, what he had in his personal library, or how he balanced his public  royal career with his clandestine Catholic activities this is the book to read. En-route you'll also be introduced to some of Byrd's most famous pieces of music.

To understand more about Byrd's networks and connections, John  Harley's The World of William Byrd (2010) offer a fascinating insight into his family, friends, patrons, colleagues and business associates. For example, did you know that his brother John was a merchant whose vessels sailed to Africa and America, or that his son Thomas Byrd went to train as a Jesuit priest in Valladolid, but was expelled?

2. Podcasts

Byrd was BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week back in 2014, and the programme is still available to listen to.

To Preserve the Health of Man was a speculative historical drama based on Byrd's life and music, also braodcast on BBC Radio 3.

3. Byrd Sources online

Ever wondered what Byrd's original manuscripts and prints looked like? Many of these are freely available to view online!

The beautifully copied My Ladye Nevells book of keyboard music (copied by another member for the Chapel Royal, John Baldwin) has been digitised by the British Library so you can virtually turn the pages.

Parthenia (1615) was the first printed collection of keyboard music and contains pieces by Byrd (as well as John Bull and Orlando Gibbons)

Byrd's first collection of printed music was the 1575 Cantiones Sacrae which he published with his teacher Thomas Tallis and dedicated to Elizabeth I.

Lots of the manuscripts in which Wiliam Byrd's vocal music was copied can be found on the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM). Register for free to access the images, and have a look at sources such as Robert Dow's partbooks (beautifully copied !), John Baldwin's partbooks (he was one of Byrd's colleagues in the Chapel Royal, and John Sadler's partbooks (badly damaged by acidic ink used in their original copying, but recently digitally reconstructed).