In 1923 the three-hundredth anniversary of the death of William Byrd was celebrated. This greatly stimulated interest in his work, and much of his music was heard during that year which had lain in complete oblivion for nearly three centuries.
Since then the study and practice of sixteenth-century music, both sacred and secular, has been so far-reaching that, by common consent, Byrd has come to be regarded as being in the front rank of the world's composers; and it is difficult to realize that in 1923 many people, even in musical circles, were asking the bald question, 'Who was Byrd?'
There was little to which the inquirer might turn for enlightenment in 1923, although the valuable work of Barclay Squire and Godfrey Arkwright must not be forgotten. What was known of Byrd's personal history at that time was mainly the result of the researches of Squire and E. H. L. Reeve. Squire's work is recorded in his articles in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians and in the Dictionary of National Biography; and Byrd's association with Stondon was dealt with by Canon Reeve in his History of the Parish of Stondon Massey. Arkwright's researches are recorded in the Preface to vols. vi-ix of his Old English Edition, in which he published Byrd's Songs of sundrie natures.
In addition to these sources of information mention may be made of the chapter on Byrd in the present author's English Madrigal Composers, the Prefaces to vol. ii of the Carnegie edition of Tudor Church Music and vols. xiv-xvi of The English Madrigal School, all of which were published before 1923.
The general demand at that date for some kind of book about Byrd was met by the present author, whose William Byrd: A Short Account of his Life and Work was published a few days before the actual anniversary of the composer's death. In the Preface the author made it clear that this was no more than a brief summary, put together as a . . .