Thomas Morley: 25 Facts and Speculations on the Elizabethan Musician


1. Thomas Morley was born in Norwich in either 1557 or 1558.

2. His father was a brewer, though the names of his parents are unknown.

3. It is assumed that as a child Thomas was a member of the Norwich Cathedral choir.

4. In 1574 he moved to London, becoming a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral.

5. While in London he is thought to have worked as a singer and been a student of well-respected Roman Catholic musician William Byrd, who was his mentor.

6. Thomas converted to Roman Catholicism at a fairly young age, probably as a result of Byrd’s influence.

7. Thomas Morley was appointed to a number of church musical roles, returning to Norwich Cathedral in 1583 where he led the choristers, as Master of the Children, for four years. This must have been a part-time role as he also attended Oxford University, gaining his BA in 1588.

8. He started publishing his music in the late 1580s.

9. Thomas Morley is known to have had a young son who died in 1589.

10. By this year he had returned to London, having been appointed organist at St Giles in Cripplegate.

11. Two years later Thomas was employed in a musical capacity at St Paul’s Cathedral.

12. By 1591 Thomas appears to have recanted his Catholicism and, as a result, avoided persecution.

13. It is believed that during the same year he was working within the English espionage circle spying on Roman Catholics in the Netherlands.

14. While there is no evidence, it seems likely he and Christopher Marlowe knew each other.

15. However, Morley’s main love was music and by the early 1590s he was writing madrigals, merging the Italian style of these with English traditional songs.

16. Morley was a very accomplished musician and composer of many church pieces and instrumentals, as well as more than 50 songs, many of which are still known today.

17. Among the vast repertoire for which Thomas Morley is famous are madrigals such as: “Arise, Get up my Deere”, “Flora wilt Thou Torment Mee”, “Now is the Month of Maying” and “April is in my Mistress’ Face”, a ballet similar to a madrigal – his shortest and most famous.

18. His madrigals were popular, memorable and easy to sing and would probably be described today as having “catchy tunes”.

19. At one time Thomas Morley lived in the same London parish as William Shakespeare but whether they were acquainted is not certain, though it seems likely.

20. Thomas Morley set to music Shakespeare’s “It was a Lover and his Lass” from “As You Like It”, though it is not known if this musical version was ever part of the play.

21. Morley was one of the most celebrated musicians and composers of his age and wrote the book “Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke” which was published in 1597 and is still regarded today as a source of useful information on the music of his era.

22. While little is known of Thomas Morley’s private life, it seems certain that he was married to Susan and the couple had three children who were born between 1596 and 1600.

23. Thomas Morley died in London in early October 1602.

24. He was buried in the churchyard of St Botolph’s Church, Billingsgate.

25. Sadly, the church and his grave were both destroyed in the 1666 Great Fire of London.


The title page of Thomas Morley’s book
“A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke”

The above details are correct to the best of my knowledge but please let me know if you notice any inaccuracies. I am indebted to a variety of online sources for the information I have gathered for the above list.
Twitter: @ChasquiPenguin

The Greatest Red Nose Day sketches Part 2

We’re taking a look back down Comic Relief Memory Lane with some iconic Red Nose Day moments from the past thirty years of Red Nose Day:

Part 1 is here:

Harry Potter and The Chamberpot of Azerbaijan – Red Nose Day 2003

At this time there were plenty of Harry Potter parodies around, (including a fantastic One by Alistair McGowan as a Louis Theroux version of Harry Potter-complete with Neil and Christine Hamilton as the Dursleys ). However, this French and Saunders parody is probably the best and most well remembered.

Highlights include a savage parody of Ron Weasley (who can only communicate in screams and random noises), a killer Alan Rickman parody (sinister looks, god I’m gorgeous!). My personal favourite scene was where all the actors sit around moaning about how they’re not in the film much…including the montage where it’s revealed that all Professor McGonagall ever really said in the films was ‘What’s the matter Harry?’ and ‘Sherbet Lemon’ .

The deadpan movie trailer-style narration, enhanced some of the best lines: ‘Coming up next…drama, intrigue, another wide shot of the great hall.’.

Flashdance Red Nose Day 2009

Now something of a legend, Robert Webb’s Flashdance for Red Nose Day’s Comedy Dance competition shocked and impressed the nation in equal measure! Readers of the acclaimed, How Not To Be A Boy (Robert Webb’s autobiography) will know what an important event this was to him. Ten years on, and it’s still brilliant!

Let’s Dance has created a lot of comic relief iconic moments, such as Tim Vine’s memorable ‘Justin Timberlake’ and Noel Fielding’s unforgettable ‘Wuthering Heights‘ .

Tim Vine Justin Timberlake

Noel Fielding Kate Bush

Blackadder Cavalier Years Red Nose Day 1988

Hurtling back in time to a forgotten classic-this was made for the first ever Red Nose Day! Blackadder and Baldrick are re-imagined in The Cavalier years! It’s probably a little Blackadder extra most people have forgotten was for Comic Relief!

Spirit In The Sky – Gareth Gates Featuring The Kumars -2003

There’s a long running comic relief tradition of musicians teaming up with comedians for novelty Red Nose Day singles. Such as, The Young Ones teaming up with Cliff Richard for ‘Living Doll‘. Here, back in 2003, The Kumars at No42 teamed up with Gareth Gates in perhaps the world’s most unlikely pairing! Along with the inspired choice of song-an Indian-style twist on ‘Spirit in the Sky’. It somehow worked, and even went all the way to number 1.

Ricky Gervais – One Love Kenya Red Nose Day 2007

What started out as what we all genuinely believed to be another harrowing film made by a celebrity, which (as we all know) are a prominent feature of Red Nose Day, quickly changed into a brilliant parody sketch. Ricky Gervais was (as usual) really pushing boundaries here in a sketch some might consider a bit outrageous, but love, or hate Gervais, the absolute nerve of this sketch is undeniably hilarious! Particularly when Jamie Oliver and Bob Geldof come along – after all, he’s got a new single to promote ‘I still don’t like mondays!’.

Uptown Downstairs Abbey Red Nose Day 2011

This time, French and Saunders took on Downtown Abbey, with an all star cast. Harry Enfield as the Earl of Grantham, Kim Cattrall as the countess of Grantham, with Tim Vine stepping into Dan Stevens’s shoes as Matthew. Simon Callow also absolutely nails an impression of Julian Fellows. The late, great, Victoria Wood also stars and even Olivia Coleman’s in it. Jennifer Saunders also does a cracking impression of the dowager too! It’s not to be missed!

Islands in the Stream – Nessa and Brynn – Red Nose Day 2009

In 2009, Gavin and Stacey’s, Nessa and Brynn, with a little help from Tom Jones, no less, got to number one with this cover of ‘Islands in the stream’.

In another Gavin and Stacey themed sketch, James Corden probably broke the Red Nose Day record for the most celebrities crammed into one sketch in 2011:

The New Statesman for Comic Relief – Red Nose Day 1988

In another sketch from the first ever Red Nose Day, we see the great Rik Mayall’s Alan B’Stard in a mini episode of The New Statesman. Here he conspires with Margaret Thatcher to close down the BBC. Look out for Chris Barrie’s voice over cameo at the end. If only we had such near the knuckle satire these days.

Vic and Bob – 75 pints one song – Red Nose Day 1995

In what many remember as one of Vic & Bob’s most iconic moments, they mess about attempting to sing ‘Without You’ while drinking 75 pints-they didn’t get very far…

Did you enjoy these sketches? Then please donate to comic relief! It’s why all these iconic moments were created:

Part 1:

This article also appears on Super Ink Arts