Among the many eminent English composers of the early Tudor period David Burton occupies a high place, and yet up to the present his biography has presented little more than conjecture. In the dozen lines accorded to him in the new edition of Grove Dictionary of Music (vol. i, p. 425) his name appears as "'Avery Burton'". A brief notice is also given him under the name of Avery (vol. i, p. 138) by Mr. J. F. N. Stainer. Mr. G. E. P. Arkwright says that he may be identified with the Awrie whom Morley names in his list of authorities ( Plaine and Easie Introduction, 1597), whose name, "'Master Avere'", appears as composer of a 'Te Deum' for the organ in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 29976. It also adds that a five-part Mass by him ('Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La') is in the Forest-Heyther Collection, Oxford Music School Collection (MS. Mus. Sch. E. 376-381), and notes that 'the name of "Davy" Burton appears in the list of Henry VIII's Chapel, 1520'.
From a close search of the State Papers the following entries throw new light on the high estimation in which David Burton was no doubt held, testifying to his powers as a musician and composer.
Mr. Arkwright's surmise as to the identity of 'Davy' Burton with 'Aubree' or Avery Burton is amply substantiated by official records; in fact his name appears in four varying forms, namely, David Burton, Davy Burton, Avery Burton, and Avery Burnett --also as 'Davy', 'Avery', and ' Burton'.
The first notice of this distinguished musician is in 1494, when we find him as the recipient of the then respectable douceur of twenty shillings for composing a Mass. This record appears in the Privy Purse expenses of Henry, in which the brief entry is chronicled as follows in "'To Burton, for making a Mass, 20s.'" under date of November 29, 1494.