John Wilbye

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John Wilbye (pronounce: “WIL-bee”), (born Diss, Norfolk, baptised 7 March 1574; died Colchester, between September and November 1638), was an English composer who was famous for his madrigals.

Wilbye was the son of a tanner. He was supported financially by a rich family called Kytson. The Kytsons were very musical and had lots of musical instruments and sheet music in their house. It is thought that he went with Elizabeth Cornwallis to Hengrave Hall near Bury St. Edmunds in around 1594 when she married Sir Thomas Kytson the Younger. When Elizabeth died, Wilbye moved to Colchester where he lived with Elizabeth’s youngest daughter with whom he had a long friendship. When Wilbye died he was quite rich.

His music[change | change source]

A book of madrigals by him appeared in 1598 and a second in 1608. It is often called the finest book of English madrigals. There were a total of 64 madrigals in these two books.

Wilbye was influenced by Morley’s madrigals, and also learned directly from the madrigals of Italian composers such as Alfonso Ferrabosco. He wrote many madrigals which have become extremely popular, including Weep, weep o mine eyes and Draw on, sweet night. He was very good at making his music match the meaning of the words. He often used a mixture of major and minor modes.

References[change | change source]