Singing with William Byrd

William Byrd

William Byrd

William Byrd (1543-1623), in the preface to his Psalmes, Sonnets and Songs of 1588, set out Eight Reasons why everyone should learn to sing.

1. It is a knowledge easily taught and quickly learned, where there is a good Master and an apt Scholar.

2. The exercise of singing is delightful to Nature and good to preserve the health of Man.

Byrd; Psalmes, Sonets and Songs: Though Amaryllis dance in green (Bless B Quintet)
3. It strengthens all parts of the breast, and opens the pipes.

4. It is a singular good remedy for stammering in the speech.

The Singing Lesson

The Singing Lesson

5. It is the best means to procure a perfect pronunciation, and to make a good Orator.

6. It is the only way to know where Nature has bestowed the benefit of a good voice; which gift is so rare as there is not one among a thousand that has it; and in many that excellent gift is lost because they want Art to express Nature.

7. There is not any Music of Instruments whatsoever comparable to that which is made of the voices of men, where the voices are good and the same well sorted and ordered.

Byrd: Lullaby my sweet little babe (Pro Cantione Antiqua; Philip Ledger, Conductor
8. The better the voice is, the meter it is to honor and serve God therewith; and the voice of man is chiefly to be employed to that end.

Byrd: Sing joyfully unto God our strength (Cambridge Singers; John Rutter, Conductor
Bryd is advocating singing to help all kinds of problems: improving your health, improving your breathing, getting rid of a stammer, perfecting your pronunciation, and in the end, to bring you closer to God. For the sixteenth century, these were all admirable aims!

Since singing is so good a thing,
I wish all men would learn to sing.

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