Biography of Tye Christopher:
Christopher Tye was born in abour 1505, or perhaps a little earlier if he is to be identified with the boy named 'Tye' who was a chorister of King's College Cambridge, from 1508 until 1512. He applied, successfully, for conferment of the degree of Mus.B. of Cambridge Universiry in 1536, and during some months of 1537 he sang as a lay clerk of King's College. Between 1541 and 1543 he became Master of the Choristers and Organist of Ely Cathedral, and is not known to have enjoyed any other appointment until his ordination late in life and his departure from Ely for a rich Fenland rectory in 1561. However, there are clear signs that for some time before and during the brief reign (1547-53) of Edward VI, he enjoyed some association with the court and with the Chapel Royal. He died in 1571 or 1572. Tye's career thus spanned the English Reformation, and he composed for both the ancient Latin rite and its vernacular successor. Under the traditional Latin rite, the principal purpose of polyphonic music in church was to dignify and enhance the major services on Feast-days, and to distinguish every day the worship of the Virgin Mary at Lady Mass and the evening intercessory votive antiphon. The character and sound of the polyphony of the pre-Reformation period (up to 1549, and 1553-53) was largely determined by the interplay of two factors - the stipulations of the liturgy concerning overall form and structure, and the strength of the performing resources available to the composer at the institution at which he happened to be working. At Ely, Tye's resources were not insubstantial; his choir there consisted of sixteen to eighteen men and eight boys. Meanwhile, the largest of the English pre-Reformarion choirs gave the composers the opportunity to score not only for small and select groups, but also for massive forces. The Chapel Royal, with its thirty-two men and ten or twelve boys, supplied Tye with a rich, dense body of adult voices that in the scoring of the period was commonly divided into five parts: bass, low-range tenor (tending to baritone), two full-range tenors and alto. Superimposed upon this was the boys' treble part, taking their voices as high as g"; in compositions scored for high voices alone, the boys could also take an alto part.