Biography Thomas Morley

Thomas Morley

photo of Thomas Morley
  • Time Period1557 - 1602
  • Place
  • CountryEngland

Poet Biography

Morley contributed significantly to the development of the English madrigal, imitated from Italian models. He was probably a pupil of William Byrd, to whom he dedicated his popular book A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, published in 1597. Morley was employed at St. Paul's in London and became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1592, publishing his first set of part-songs in 1593. He was later concerned in printing and publishing music, for which he was granted a share in the monopoly in 1598.

Church Music:
Morley wrote music for the liturgy of the Church of England, service settings, psalm settings and a number of Latin motets, under the influence of Byrd and a possible indication of his own religious sympathies at the time. Of particular interest is the setting of the De profundis, Out of the deep, in a second setting as a verse anthem, a peculiarly English form derived from the consort song of the period, involving the contrast of solo voices with the choir, with instrumental accompaniment from the organ or other groups of instruments.

It is as a composer of madrigals that Morley is widely known. The Canzonets or Little Short Songs to Three Voyces, published in 1593 were followed by a collection of four-part Madrigals in 1594 and a series of other publications during the decade, some of them adaptations and arrangements of Italian madrigals. In 1601 Morley published the collaborative Triumphs of Oriana, a tribute to Queen Elizabeth for which he collected madrigals by 23 composers as an offering to the aging Arcadian Queen of the Shepherds. Well known madrigals by Morley include Aprill is in my mistris face, My bonny lasse shee smyleth, Now is the month of maying, O sleep, fond fancy, Sing wee and chaunt it, Sweet nymphe, come to thy lover and Though Philomela lost hir love. Solo songs by Morley include It was a lover and his lasse, a song that appears in Shakespeare's pastoral comedy As You Like It.