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Thomas Tomkins (1572 - 1656)

The son of a musician employed at the Welsh Cathedral of St. Davids, Thomas Tomkins became master of the choristers and organist at Worcester Cathedral and later served as organist to the Chapel Royal. His career as a church musician was ended by the Civil War and the surrender of Worcester to the parliamentary army in 1646. His brothers Giles, Robert and Nathaniel were also important in the musical life of the country.

Church Music

Thomas Tomkins was primarily a composer of church music, with five service settings and a number of anthems that remain in many cases in English cathedral repertoire. These last include the moving lament for Absalom, When David heard.

Secular Vocal Music

Tomkins added to the repertoire of the English madrigal with works for three, four, five and six parts. The madrigals were published in London in 1622 and include a number of sacred songs with settings of pastoral verses.

Instrumental Music

Tomkins wrote music for instrumental consort, including fantasias and dances, in particular pavanes and galliards.

Keyboard Music

The compositions of Tomkins include a relatively small number of keyboard pieces, continuing the tradition, here as elsewhere, of the generation of William Byrd.


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