Thomas Morley

From Wind Repertory Project
Thomas Morley


Thomas Morley (c. 1557, Norwich, Eng. – early October 1602, London, Eng.) was an English composer, theorist, singer and organist of the Renaissance.

Morley was, the son of a brewer. Most likely he was a singer in the local cathedral from his boyhood, and he became master of choristers there in 1583. However, it is assumed that Morley moved from Norwich Cathedral sometime before 1574 to be a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral. He was working as a singer in London in the 1570s and appears to have studied with William Byrd at that time. In his 1597 publication A Plain and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, Morley mentions Byrd as his mentor. In 1588 he received his bachelor's degree from the University of Oxford, and shortly thereafter was employed as organist at St. Paul's in London

Living in London at the same time as Shakespeare, Morley was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England. He and Robert Johnson are the composers of the only surviving contemporary settings of verse by Shakespeare.

Morley was one of the foremost members of the English Madrigal School. Referring to the strong Italian influence on the English madrigal, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians states that Morley was "chiefly responsible for grafting the Italian shoot on to the native stock and initiating the curiously brief but brilliant flowering of the madrigal that constitutes one of the most colourful episodes in the history of English music."

Morley was active in church music as a singer, composer and organist at St Paul's Cathedral. He was also involved in music publishing. From 1598 up to his death he held a printing patent (a type of monopoly).

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