• Tim Braithwaite

William Byrd’s Reasons ‘to Perswade Every one to Learne to Sing’ (1588)

‘Reasons briefly set down by the author, to persuade everyone to learn to sing

  1. First, 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.

  3. It doth strengthen all parts of the breast, and doth open the pipes.

  4. It is a singularly good remedy for stuttering and stammering in the speech.

  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.

  8. The better the voice is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God therewith: and the voice of man is chiefly to be employed to that end.


Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum.

[Let every spirit praise the Lord]


Since singing is so good a thing,

I wish all men would learn to sing'

 

‘Reasons briefly set downe by th’auctor, to perswade every one to learne to sing.

  1. First it is a Knowledge easely taught, and quickly learned where there is a good Master, and an apt Scoller.

  2. The exercise of singing is delightfull to Nature & good to preserve the health of Man.

  3. It doth strengthen all the parts of the brest, & doth open the pipes.

  4. It is a singular good remedie for a stuttering & stammering in the speech.

  5. It is the best meanes to procure a perfect pronunciation & to make a good Orator.

  6. It is the onely way to know where Nature hath bestowed the benefit of a good voyce: which gift is so rare, as there is not one among a thousand, that hath it: and in many, that excellent gift is lost, because they want Art to expresse Nature.

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

  8. The better the voyce is, the meeter it is to honour and serve God there with: and the voyce of man is chiefly to be imployed to that ende.

Omnis spiritus laudet Dominum


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


 

*Notes*


William Byrd, Psalmes, Sonets and Songs (London: Thomas Este, 1588).


The image below is a fantastically characterful painting known as the ‘Head of an Old Man Singing’, painted by Jacob Jordaens between 1620-1678. The painting is a representation of the old Dutch proverb ‘Soo de Oude Songe, Soo Pypen de Jonge’ - ‘As the old Sing, So the Young Twitter.’


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