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Aston, Hugh (d. 1558), composer and choirmaster, is of obscure origins. He became one of the foremost church musicians of his generation, the peer of John Taverner, and yet biographers have sometimes confused him with namesakes. He is not Hugh Aston, canon of ...

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Cooke, Henry (d. 1672), singer, composer, and choirmaster, was 'bred up' in the Chapel Royal according to Anthony Wood, but Joseph Bridge's suggestion that his father was John Cooke of the chapel, formerly a vicar-choral at Lichfield, is speculative. Cooke joined the royalist army in the civil wars; it is uncertain whether he was the ...

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Davy [Davys], Richard (d. 1521?), church musician, is of unknown origins, but rose to be one of the leading composers of his generation. All that is certain about his career is that he was instructor of the choristers at Magdalen College, Oxford, from Michaelmas 1490 until Christmas 1491; he could have held the post as early as Michaelmas 1488 and as late as Christmas 1493. It is probable, however, that he stayed no longer than the many other instructors employed by the college during the 1480s and 1490s; the position was poorly paid, and its occupants tended to move to more lucrative employment. A ...

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Fayrfax [Fairfax], Robert (1464–1521), composer and church musician, was born on 23 April 1464 at Deeping Gate, Northamptonshire, the sixth of at least twelve children of William Fayrfax (d. 1498) and his second wife, Anne, daughter of Robert Tanfeld. The Fayrfaxes were typical minor gentry of the period, intermarrying with other armigerous families and creating ties of respect and obligation with their neighbours. The list of godparents and sponsors chosen by ...

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Giles, Nathaniel (c. 1558–1634), choirmaster and composer, was born in or near Worcester, the son of William Giles, of a well-known local family—that he was the son of Thomas Giles has been disproved. Giles became a clerk of Magdalen College, Oxford, for the year 1577—the claim that he was a chorister of ...

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Horwood, William (c. 1430–1484), church musician and composer, is of unknown parentage and upbringing. During 1458–9 he was admitted to the Confraternity of St Nicholas, a guild of the clerks and professional musicians working in the parish and collegiate churches of the London...

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Jackson, William (1815–1866), composer and choral conductor, born at Masham, Yorkshire, on 9 January 1815, was the son of John Jackson, a miller, of Tanfield. As a child, encouraged by his parents, he taught himself to play the fife and the flute. Having been sent to boarding-school in ...

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Ouseley, Sir Frederick Arthur Gore, second baronet (1825–1889), church musician, was born on 12 August 1825 in Grosvenor Square, London, the fourth and youngest surviving child of Sir Gore Ouseley, first baronet (1770–1844), orientalist and diplomatist, and his wife, Harriet Georgina, daughter of ...

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Sir Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley, second baronet (1825–1889) by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), 1860 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Porter, Walter (c. 1587–1659), composer and church musician, was, according to Anthony Wood, the son of Henry Porter, who graduated BMus from Christ Church, Oxford, in 1600. The year of his birth is uncertain, for although he signed a petition to the governors of ...

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Pygott, Richard (d. 1549), composer and church musician, is of unknown parentage and background. He spent more than thirty years in two of the foremost choral foundations of early Tudor England, first as master of Cardinal Wolsey's household chapel choir and later as a gentleman of ...

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Webbe, Samuel, the elder (1740–1816), church musician and composer, was born in London on 7 October 1740, the son of well-to-do parents. Before he was a year old his father took up a government appointment in Minorca, but he died before his wife and family could join him there. Thereafter the family's financial situation was straitened, and ...

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Samuel Webbe the elder (1740–1816) by William Skelton, pubd 1820 (after William Behnes) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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White, Robert (c. 1530x32–1574), church musician and composer, was the son of Robert White (d. in or after 1574). By 1572 Robert White the elder was styled gentleman and had inherited or acquired the estate of Swallowfield, near Mannings Heath, Sussex. Nevertheless, he and his family appear to have been established in the ...

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Whytbroke, William (c. 1500–1569), church musician and composer, is of unknown parentage and upbringing. In 1525, at Lichfield Cathedral where he was a vicar-choral, he took all three major orders up to the priesthood. During 1529–30 he occurs as a priest-chaplain of the choir of ...