Memorial to the ‘Father of Musick’ Unveiled at Lincoln Cathedral

In June the Byrd 400 Festival was hosted at Lincoln Cathedral. The five-day festival comprised of concerts, lectures, services and recitals; all in celebration of the life and work of William Byrd who died 400 years ago.

Lincoln Cathedral Choir, Choir of Merton College Oxford, the Tallis Scholars and Arculo were among the performers bringing Byrd’s music to life, alongside a series of lectures from world-renowned Byrd Scholars.

The festival culminated with a service of evensong on Tuesday 4th July at which a permanent memorial to William Byrd was unveiled.

Reading “To the memory of William Byrd c1540-1623 who in this place steered the course of English Sacred Music”, the Westmoreland slate stone is sited in the heart of St Hugh’s Choir where Byrd would have spent much of his working life at the Cathedral as Master of the choristers, and where his music is still heard regularly as part of worship at the Cathedral.

The Revd Canon Nick Brown, Precentor at Lincoln Cathedral, who has oversight of music and liturgy at the Cathedral said that the memorial was a long overdue reminder of the wide-ranging influence Byrd’s work. “We’re delighted to be marking the life and work of William Byrd, here in the Cathedral. He was undoubtedly England’s most prolific and respected composer of the late Renaissance, and his influence on our choral heritage is comparable to Shakespeare’s influence on the literary world.

“Byrd was Master of the Choristers at the cathedral from 1563 to 1572, during which time he composed much music for the relatively newly translated services of the Church of England. His music was pioneering and to this day his sacred music is among that most commonly performed by parish and cathedral choirs – including our own, who you were able to hear throughout this festival.”

Byrd left Lincoln in 1572 to become a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and his reputation and fame continued to grow until his retirement to Essex where he died on 4th July 1623.  On the day of his death, an entry in the chequebook of the Chapel Royal described him as ‘Wm. Bird, a Father of Musick.’

Photo caption: ‘L-R The Revd Canon Nick Brown, precentor; Thomas Wilson, Lay Vicar; Aric Prentice, Director of Music; The Revd Canon Dr Simon Jones, Interim Dean of Lincoln’>