ALTHOUGH Richard Pygot does not loom very large as an actual composer, yet as a trainer of composers and choir-master under Henry VIII he deserves to be held in remembrance. For over thirty years he laboured in the cause of music, and as a favoured Court musician enjoyed unusual preferment. His name figures among the composers of the music printed in that unique work, Twenty Songs, IX of IIII parts and XI of III parts, published by Wynkyn de Worde on October 10, 1530, containing compositions by Cornish, Ashwell, Cowper, Fayrfax, Jones, Sturton, Taverner, Gwynneth, and Pygot--of which the only known copy is in the British Museum.
Richard Pygot was born circa 1485, and at an early age entered the service of Cardinal Wolsey as a chorister. As early as 1516 we find him as Master of the Children of Wolsey's Chapel, an institution analogous to the Chapel Royal, the singers of which rivalled, if not surpassed, those of Henry VIII's own establishment. On January 27, 1517, he received pardon for infringing the statute re crossbows and hand guns. The following extract from a letter by Dean Pace to Wolsey, on March 25, 1518, gives an interesting notice of Pygot's success as a choir-trainer--all the more valuable testimony inasmuch as Dean Pace was an excellent amateur musician who had studied for many years at Rome:
The King hath plainly shewn unto Cornish [William Cornish, Master of the Boys of the Chapel Royal) that your Grace's Chapel is better than his, and proved the same by this reason that if any manner of new song [melody] should be brought into both the said Chapels [the King's Chapel and Wolsey's Chapel] to be sung ex improviso [at sight] then the said song should be better and more surely handled by your Chapel than by his Grace's.