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June 28 Composer Birthday: King Henry the VIII!

June 28 Composer Birthday: King Henry the VIII! featured image

Henry the VIII kicking up his heels at a court party 



As it turns out, when he wasn’t marrying, beheading, divorcing, being widowed, beheading, and divorcing … Henry VIII was a pretty decent composer. Who knew? He cultivated the images as the ultimate Renaissance man, having once been a very fit jouster (which haunted him when he suffered injuries that plagued him later in life) and during his early reign, his court was a centre of scholarly and artistic innovation, and glamour. He scouted for choirboys, poaching some from a well-known choir, and introduced music into the court, beginning an ongoing tradition of court musicians. Henry was also an avid instrument collector, skilled on the lute, played the organ, and the virginal (a small version of the harpsichord which had no legs, and was placed on the table). He could read music upon sight quite well, and along with his musician’s gifts, was a talented author and poet. Rumours abound to this day that he composed “Greenleeves”, though historians say this is unlikely. He also funded theatre and minstrel troupes that toured the land to promote the new religion, the Church of England, which broke away from the Catholic Church so that Henry could divorce and re-marry in the hopes of a siring male heir. The Reformation was promoted through these theatre tours, and mocked Catholicism.

“Pastime With Good Company”, also known as “The King’s Ballad” is an English folk song composed by Henry early in the 1500’s, shortly after his coronation. It is the most famous of his works, and was a popular song in England and Europe during the Renaissance era. It was thought to be written for Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife, who, as time would tell, had a lucky escape by being divorced by Henry. She lived out the remainer of her life at Kimbolten Castle, and was adored by the English people; her death set off public mourning.

The New World Renaissance Band recorded “Pastime With Good Company” from their “Live the Legend” album.

Henry VIII was born June 28, 1491 in Greenwich, Kent,England, and died January 28, 1547 in London.

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