William Byrd

By Natalie Anderson

Birthplace and Home Town

William Byrd was born in Lincolnshire, England sometime around 1543 (exact date and year is not known).

His Home

He spent most of his life in London. He didn’t travel much and spent some years in Lincolnshire, especially when he got a job at the local cathedral, but after he was replaced at his job in Lincoln Cathedral, he moved to London with his mentor, Thomas Tallis.


William Byrd was taught by his mentor and future professional associate, Tallis. Together, they would later gain a virtual monopoly on the printing of music, which would become solely Byrd's after Tallis' death.


There is not much to be said about Byrd's financial lifestyle, although he was able to afford two children, which would indicate that he was not very poor. He is not known to travel abroad, and his style retained a few parochial features.


William Byrd was a composer. He wrote many great works, especially in religious songs. He wrote many kinds of music including ecclesiastical works, instrumental music, madrigals, and solo songs. Some of his works include Psalmes, Songs, and Sonnets, My Ladye Nevells Booke, and Songs of Sundrie Natures.


It is unknown whether or not William Byrd had any patrons, and if he did, their names.


Humanism is linked to him because of his use of human voices in his work. Classicism is linked to him because he uses lots of detail in his music.

Songs of Sundrie Natures

One of William Byrd's works was a collection of songs called Songs of Sundrie Natures. It was composed in 1589. This piece is available on YouTube(but sadly not on iTunes).
William Byrd (1543-1623) - Songs of Sundrie Natures - Hilliard

Significance of Songs of Sundrie Natures

Songs of Sundrie Natures was created during an unusually fruitful time during which Byrd created one full-length compilation per year for four years. It is dedicated to the musician and published author, Emilia Bassano. It is also notable for that fact that it is more simple than Byrd’s other works, and does not contain as much noise.

Description of Piece

Most of the songs are religious, containing many “Amen”s and “Jesu”s. There are also love songs, however, including one about a man who was in love with a woman for three days, but in another three, the love was lost and she left him for another man. The songs are mostly vocals, with a bit of what sounds like violin in the background, so it is fairly easy to hear the lyrics, even though it is in Old English.


Humanism is closely linked to this piece because the instruments are more downplayed so that the voices are more pronounced, making humans the center of the piece, and showing off the “perfect” human voices.

What I Find Interesting About This Piece

I find this piece interesting because the vocals contain interesting harmonies that dominate the piece while the instruments are more of an accent. I also love the sound of violins, and though it may not be violins that I hear, they sound a lot alike. The songs also have varying themes, which makes it interesting to hear the story each song tells.

Works Cited

McCarthy, Kerry. "Songs of Sundrie Natures (1589)." Notes 62.4 (2006): 1049+. Biography in Context. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

"William Byrd." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography in Context.

Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

William Byrd (1543-1623) - Songs of Sundrie Natures - Hilliard. Youtube.com. YouTube, 10 Apr.

2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.